I have an interest in travel. It almost goes without saying that as a touring engineer you need to be interested in foreign travel, in seeing new places, meeting new people.
A chance conversation with a colleague in Georgia (country, not state) led to such a trip. I knew Vardges from SSR in Manchester. I had done a masterclass there and we had stayed in touch. When he saw I would be in Georgia he asked if he could come and help on the day and watch the show.
My geographical knowledge is good but was mainly gleaned at school. In those days Georgia was just part of the large pink mass in my atlas marked USSR. The world has changed, unfortunately my knowledge of the former USSR had not been updated. I knew he was Armenian so it couldn’t be far! We had a great time in Georgia. Afterwards Vardges said his boss was interested in me coming to his home town to do some masterclasses, would I be interested? Of course! So when the mail arrived a few days later we started pencilling in dates. A few months later I was on a flight to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia!
Arriving late after a long days travel I was met by Vardges at the airport. We had agreed an 11am start the next day so it was straight to bed. The masterclasses were organised by Gohar Dubost who runs a Communications and Events company in Armenia, DG Contact. She was keen to promote professionalism and increase the knowledge of the pool of freelance engineers in Yerevan. With little support but huge enthusiasm she had organised a venue, equipment and a class of enthusiastic engineers. The classes were held in a lovely venue space in the Architects Union building.
Three days is not long to condense thirty years and more of learning but I certainly tried. It is, I feel, important in these situations to cover as much practical learning as possible. There is so much you can learn from books and the internet but there is nothing like practical experience. The three days therefore focussed on building up to a show on the afternoon of the third day. Preparation, planning, advancing the show took up half the first day. Discussion of working with bands and microphone choice completed the day.
The second day was more system orientated, looking at the venue and how best to approach it. Problem solving and fault finding rounded up day two. By day three things were getting serious, I still had so much to cover! We managed it though and spent the afternoon sound-checking with a very patient group of excellent musicians!
I loved it! I found the students engaged, intelligent and eager to learn. That English was for most their third language was incredible and puts most Brits to shame. Yerevan is such a positive city. Meeting people there was really interesting. There seems to be a thriving scene and I managed to catch the debut show of a great new band on one of the nights. The food is great and the wine amazing. I am still working through the beer choices to find something that satisfies a die hard Bitter drinker but I’m sure I will when I return.
Many thanks to Gohar and her team for their amazing work, to Vardges for suggesting it and the students for making it so worthwhile! A special thanks to the musicians who patiently waited for me to stop and explain every aspect of sound-checking, and to the management of the Architects Union for letting us use their splendid building.
I now know where Armenia is, I know a little of it’s arts and culture, it’s food and wine, and that I hope to return soon!