Travel Diary – Iceland, pre-trip

I had first heard of Reykjavik as a 12-year-old chess enthusiast. As the host of the Fischer-Spassky Chess tournament, with its Cold War reverberations, it seemed impossibly remote. Since then, I’ve only been aware of the occasional musical connections to Iceland: two rather different performers, Ashkenazy and Björk, come to mind.

So an opportunity to visit Reykjavik and perform with the Iceland Symphony is irresistible. I love the unfamiliar. The repertoire is Brahms 1st Piano Concerto. But my first question after agreeing to the concert was, “How do I get there?”

If you’ve seen the recent George Clooney film Up in the Air, you will understand me when I say that my favorite currency is Frequent Flyer miles. I have millions of them. Since I live in Houston, Continental has naturally become my preferred domestic, and occasionally international, airline. However, it turns out that Reykjavik is a rare international destination not served by Continental. I try United, with the same results. Delta? Northwest? US Air? No luck. Maybe there’s a Star Alliance airline that will work? Air Canada? Lufthansa? Singapore Airlines? (OK, I admit that flying Houston to Reykjavik via Singapore would be crazy even by my standards.)

It turns out that you have three choices of airlines to take you to Reykjavik: Icelandair, Icelandair, and Icelandair. Yes, they do have a Frequent Flyer program, but it isn’t paired with anybody else’s. What use is that? But with essentially no choice in the matter, I am boarding Icelandair Flight 614 from New York to Reykjavik.

In the meantime, most of Europe has discovered that Iceland has some serious mojo in the form of a volcano named something like Eyjamultisyllabikull. The Reykjavik airport was closed while I was performing at Lincoln Center earlier in the week. It has apparently reopened. But if I get there, will I ever return?

Of much greater concern, I can’t believe that I’m flying all this way and not earning meaningful Frequent Flyer miles. I’m resigned to resenting every inch of our airborne progress. I’m also a bit surprised that it’s only a 757. Isn’t this an overseas flight?


"Fantasy is not just a technical showcase, but a big, clear picture window of a musician with a rich soul and great artistic depth. It is also a fantastic example of programming that entertains as well as edifies.”
-Musical Toronto

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