A harp for the EUROPA
Music is always a challenge, especially for professionals. They strive for perfection, wherever they appear - whether in a large concert hall, in a recording studio, or at sea, such as on board the EUROPA. The ship has developed into a floating concert hall that is popular with artists: up-and-coming stars compete for prizes and recording contracts in the Stella Maris singing competition initiated by the leading tenor Michael Schade. And at the Ocean Sun Festival, great artists from the world of classical music gather together over the course of two weeks to make music in line-ups of a kind where they are never, or very rarely, to be heard. For all that, however, there has been one challenge that until now was believed to be impossible to overcome: hearing a harp on board.
For some years now, the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises creative team has been trying to acquire the star harpist Xavier de Maestre for Ocean Sun. But how? Unlike some philharmonic halls, the EUROPA possesses no such instrument. In addition, it is not very easy to transport a harp. It is too big to fit into the cargo hold of a normal plane. The costs of transportation in a plane designed to carry cargo alone, by contrast, are too high. And so it was highly fortuitous that in 2015 the Ocean Sun cruise began in Kiel and ended in Hamburg.
One of the challenges when organising a musical event is the instruments - another is the musicians. Sought-after artists have a huge number of commitments. Their schedules are planned years in advance with a tight agenda of seasons, festivals and individual engagements. And in contrast to individual concerts, musicians and singers can't just come on board the ship for one or two appearances before flying home again. The musicians also take part in life on board. Which means they are not only required to be fabulous artists, but also to have the sort of personality that enables them to fit in on board a ship - charming and outgoing.
This has been a great success to date. The Ocean Sun Festival, for instance, is a chamber music highlight: a string quartet, a conductor, great soloists, instrumentalists and singers. Most recently, for instance, Echo winner Xavier de Maestre with his harp, tenor and Operalia winner Joel Pietro, baritone Edwin Crossley Mercer, conductor Ariel Zuckermann, pianist Alexander Korantia, and internationally sought-after string ensemble the Minguet Quartet. These stars love to come on board.
In the music scene, it has become common knowledge that much work has also been done on what is probably the biggest shortcoming of a ship - the acoustics. The thick carpets and upholstered furniture swallow up the sound, the stage is somewhat too low and the air positively chilly. To overcome these challenges, investment has gone into an excellent microphone system. Electroacoustic measures mean that sound on the EUROPA resonates far and wide. The musicians say: "The sound is dry, but good." Combine that with the beautiful cruise destinations and the outcome is that Hapag-Lloyd Cruises receives more inquiries than there is room on board for artists to travel.
The stars for the next Ocean Sun Festival are already booked. The cruise starts at the beginning of September in Lisbon and ends in Nice. The EUROPA team on board and ashore are looking forward to the challenges they face. And to the guests, who are offered moments of great art. Sit back. Listen. And enjoy the experience of something unique.