After making their New York Philharmonic debut next week (in the Mendelssohn Concerto in E for two pianos), duo pianists Wilfred Delphin and Edwin Romain will be off again on their annual truck tour of the Southeast, from Virginia to Louisiana. They load two Baldwin pianos on a truck each year and drive around giving recitals, master classes and educational programs. The tour is a hit (it will run six weeks this season compared with three last year), but sometimes they wonder how much success they can stand.
"The real problem," says Romain, "is holding a steering wheel for six hours with the pair of hands that you will use later that evening to play Mozart. Someone ought to invent trucks with power steering for those who don't have chauffeurs." "One result of last season's tour was some pretty hefty callusses on our hands," adds Delphin without missing a beat. "We trade off quite a lot when we drive so that our hands don't get too abused."
It's not easy on the pianos, either; they have to be reassembled and retuned at each stop. And moving them on and off the truck can be a problem. "The pianos often have to be unloaded by volunteer groups," says Delphin. "On one date, it was the volunteer fire department. Unfortunately, there was a three-alarm fire just before we arrived, so we had to wait until it was put out."
The duo pianists (who made a strong impression here last year when they played at the Kennedy Center's Black Music Festival and a few weeks later at the White House) fly to most of their engagements, which included a tour of India this year and will range from a recital in Carnegie Hall to a concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra under Neville Marriner this season.