Part One – how long did it take you to learn that concerto?
After my most recent concerto concert on October 11, 2017, a bright-eyed student asked me how long it took me to learn the challenging and beautiful Apollo X concerto for bassoon, strings and percussion, written for me by Paul Frehner.
I was delighted that he had a question, so I blinked and replied, but really, I had answers for so many more questions. Really specific answers to specific (and unasked) questions. But how to answer this one innocent question… how long to learn a unique concerto?
I wanted to take the microphone, call for silence and announce that multiple lifetimes go into learning any concerto, that life interjects so many unknowns there is not ever a straight, tidy continuum, and that we are never learning only one concerto, except maybe in school. Even on this concert, we also gave the Canadian premieres of Patricia Morehead’s poly-modal, ornate Come Dance With Me The Dance Of Life, Bernard Garfield’s beloved Soliloquy arranged for strings and Mathieu Lussier’s painfully lovely Song of Love and Sorrow.
This month, I had 9 other concerts and 13 rehearsals (two of which I missed due to FOOD POISONING)and I prepared 50+ other pieces of music, the shortest of which was one minute (Flight of the Bumblebee) and the longest of which was about an hour (Das Lied von der Erde). So not much time for last-minute preparation.
In my world, planning is always key yet plans usually change. If the composer delivers a concerto the day before I record it (as in Sicilian Proverbs on our Canadian Concerto Project Vol I CD), then I learn it in one day and record it the next… if I get it one week before the premiere, as in the second movement of Silver Angel, but I know in advance that this concerto is going to go to high F# on the top of the treble clef staff, then I practice my scales to the stratosphere and then I learn the concerto in one week when the music is actually in my hand. If my Dad has multiple strokes two days before I premiere a concerto, as in the case of my first performance of Apollo X in 2016, then I wonder, have I “learned” this well enough not to be shaken? And when I played the Mozart concerto multiple times as a student and young professional, and changed the cadenzas every time, how long did that concerto take me to learn? Even when the concertos are “learned”, sometimes an opportunity arises to play something that you haven’t rehearsed for a couple of years. And in any event, the goal is to perform… learning is implicit and ongoing as skills and perception increase. So it takes not only time, but a lifetime of experience to learn any concerto or great work of music.
I would love to be surprised by other questions from students and interested audience members, but maybe they are too polite to ask. I have to hustle to pack up the merch, music, bassoon and hall after a show, but we can always talk while I work. Here are just a few examples in no particular order of importance. Of course I won’t have or give answers to all of them yet I still hope that these questions and more will get answered. And anyone who loves classical music might want to think about the practical elements that go into making it happen.
How much does it cost to self-present a concerto concert?
How long does it take to commission a new concerto?
How do you pay for a commission a new concerto?
How do you approach a composer to ask for a piece?
Do composers ever approach you?
Do composers ever just write a piece and give it to you?
How do I get the music for this concerto that you just played? Would it make sense to ask the composer who is also at the concert and who just conducted his own piece? Could you introduce me? Could I get his autograph?
How do you know how much to pay composers and musicians?
How do you raise the money? Do ticket sales cover your costs? How much does it cost you to give out free tickets?
Do you make your own programs and posters? How much does it cost?
How do you sell your tickets online?
How do you manage credit card payments?
Do you have grants or sponsors or neither?
How much do you get paid when you play concerti with orchestras? How much does a flute soloist get paid? Or a violin soloist? Why are they different? Why are there no bassoon soloists on mainstage concerts?
How many concerti exist for bassoon?
How many complete concerti did Vivaldi alone write? How many unfinished concerti did Vivaldi start?
How many concerti have been written for you? (see list below)
Where will you be playing your next concerto?
Have you recorded these concerti? (see list below)
Who is writing your next concerto?
How do you write contracts?
Can (did) you learn any of this in school?
How do you book rehearsals for large groups with of people who are working in different orchestras?
Where do you rehearse?
How many reeds do you make?
How much does it cost to rent space?
How do you find time to study scores when you are traveling so much?
What are your methods for memorization?
What other concerti do you play?
Why do you do this when you could make more money sitting in a symphony or opera orchestra or teaching in a U. S. university? Why are there no bassoon professorships in Canada?
Do performers need to learn anything special about performing? Or do they just walk on stage and play?
Is a hand-picked group different from an established orchestra?
Where did you get your dress/boots/hair/attitude?
How do you look after a family while being a musician?
How do you learn to play in the extreme high range of the bassoon?
Who was the first woman bassoon soloist? Who was the first black woman bassoon soloist? And the second?
How do you get people to come to concerts?
Who takes care of the logistics of copying music, correcting parts and getting it to the players?
Who takes care of stage management, lighting and recording?
Who books your CD tours to take this music to the people?
Do you have to pay people to do those things? Or do you do it yourself?
Do you have any support from your university?
Do you have a website? YouTube channel? Soundcloud?
How do you play when you are sick?
Is it true that you can be a great soloist, chamber musician, teacher and orchestral player? Or can you only be one of these things?
Is this a lonely life? Does it take more time than a regular job?
Who else is performing bassoon concerti in Canada? In the US? In the world?
Are there other Canadian bassoonists who have done something like this? What are their names? Which concerti did they commission? Where can I get parts and scores for these concerti?
How would I learn to do all this?
Do you need interns to help with rehearsals and concerts?
The goal is to ask a million questions and do a million things and to be curious.
So, in answer to the question, how long did it take me to learn Apollo X…somewhere between a year and a lifetime.
Concerti and works for solo bassoon and orchestra written for Nadina Mackie Jackson
First performance dates and venues
1. SONG OF LOVE AND SORROW (2017) by Mathieu Lussier, for solo bassoon and ?strings, premiere October 11, 2017 at Heliconian Hall
2. squeezed from wood (2016) by Lucas Oickle for solo bassoon and full orchestra
commissioned by Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra
August 27, 2016, St John’s Anglican, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia with Nova Scotia ?Youth Orchestra led by Dinuk Wijeratne
August 28, 2016, deCoste Centre, Pictou, Nova Scotia with Nova Scotia Youth ?Orchestra led by Dinuk Wijeratne
August 28, 2016, Halifax, St Matthews United Church, Nova Scotia with Nova Scotia ?Youth Orchestra led by Dinuk Wijeratne
3. SILVER ANGEL (2015) by Constantine Caravassilis for solo bassoon and string orchestra, commissioned by Ontario Arts Council and Thirteen Strings (Ottawa) June 12, 2015, St Andrews, led by Kevin Mallon
October 24, 2016, Heliconian Hall, Toronto, led by Constantine Caravassilis
4. APOLLO X (2013)by Paul Frehner, for solo bassoon, string orchestra and percussion, commissioned by Ontario Arts Council & Orchestra London
November 21, 2013, Hyatt Hotel Ballroom, fundraiser gala, first movement only, Orchestra London led by Alain Trudel
February 5, 2016, Centre for Social Innovation, world premiere, group of twenty-seven chamber orchestra led by Eric Paetkau;
October 11, 2017 with NMJ and Out of This World, Heliconian Hall, Toronto
5. SICILIAN PROVERBS (2013)by Michael Occhipinti for trumpet, bassoon & string orchestra ?with percussion and electric guitar, commissioned by Nadina Mackie Jackson
April 25, 2014 , Bloor Street United Church– group of twenty-seven chamber orchestra led by Eric Paetkau
6. THIRTEEN SECONDS by Michael Occhipinti – for trumpet, bassoon & string orchestra with percussion and electric guitar – gift of composer April 25, 2014, Bloor Street United ?Church – group of twenty-seven chamber orchestra led by Eric Paetkau
7. NIGHTFALL, Op. 27(2009) by Mathieu Lussier for trumpet, bassoon, harp and wind ensemble, commissioned by the American Wind Symphony
?November 23, 2009, Maureen Forrester Recital Hall, WLU Wind Ensemble led by ?Michael Purves-Smith
8. FORT COLIGNY (2014)by Mathieu Lussier for trumpet, bassoon & orchestra
February 16, 2014, Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts– Orchestra Toronto led by Kevin Mallon
9. man will only grieve if he believes the sun stands still (from Bassoon Concerto No. 2)(2010) by Glenn Buhr (also exists in a version for corno da caccia & bassoon)
November 9, 2012, Grace Church on the Hil – group of twenty-seven led by Eric Paetkau
10. CONCERTO by Adam Scime (2010)for amplified bassoon, electronics and chamber ensemble, January 24, 2011, Walter Hall, University of Toronto New Music Ensemble, led by Constantine Caravassilis
11. ODDBIRD CONCERTO(2011) by Mathieu Lussier for bassoon, string orchestra and percussion November 15, 2013, Trinity St-Paul, Toronto, group of twenty-seven chamber orchestra led by Eric Paetkau
12. CARNETS DE VOYAGES (2007)by Alain Trudel, double concerto for trumpet and bassoon with string orchestra and percussion, commissioned by CBC February 8, 2008, Glenn Gould Studio, CBC, Toronto Chamber Orchestra led by Alain Trudel
13. LE DERNIER CHANT D’OPHELIE(2008) by Mathieu Lussier for bassoon & string orchestra
February 2008, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto Chamber Orchestra, led by Alain Trudel (repeatperformances May 21, 2016,Toronto, May 23, 2016, Drayton, June 4, 5 and 6, 2016 inEugene, Oregon and September 25, 2016, Toronto)
14. SPRING LULLABY(2007) by Mathieu Lussier for bassoon and string orchestra
2010, Ayr, Ontario, Grand River Baroque Festival Orchestra led by Eric Paetkau
(also exists in a version for corno da caccia & bassoon)
15. BASSANGO by Mathieu Lussier for bassoon & string orchestra
February 2, 2014, Brampton, Rose Orchestra led by David Warrak
Amati Saskatoon at Convocation Hall;
August 27, 2014 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in Marsh Auditorium of the University of Southern Mississippi
August 30, 2014 in Harris Hall at the University of Memphis (Bassoonapalooza); University of Toronto, September, 2016
August, 2009, Just Plain Folks music awards, Wildhorse Saloon, Nashville
16. BACCHANALE by Mathieu Lussier for trumpet and bassoon with string orchestra
June 16, 2007, Ayr, Ontario, Grand River Baroque Festival
2007, Fredonia, New York, State University of New York at Fredonia 2007
2012 Saskatoon, Amati Strings
17. DOUBLE CONCERTO by Mathieu Lussier for trumpet and bassoon with string orchestra
June 16, 2007, 2010 Grand River Baroque Festival
2014, Okanagan Symphony Orchestra led by Rosemary Thomson
April 4, 2014, Kelowna Community Theatre, Kelowna, B.C.
April 5, 2014, Cleland Community Theatre, Penticton, B. C.
April 6, 2016, Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre, Vernon, B. C.
Nadina Mackie Jackson – Complete Discography 2017
SCARLATTI k545, k213,
k501, adapted for solo bassoon.
CANADIAN CONCERTO PROJECT VOL I
Lussier Oddbird, Le Dernier
Chant d’Ophélie; Occhipinti
Sicilian Proverbs, Thirteen Seconds;
Buhr man will only grieve
if he believes the sun stands
still. msr Classics 1480 (2012;
Juno nomination 2014)
VIVALDI CONCERTI VOL I rv479,
480, 483, 484, 491, 495, 498, 499.
msr Classics 1451 (2011)
ROMANZA Hummel Concerto;
Weber Andante & Rondo;
msr Classics 1232 (2008)
BACCHANALE Hindemith & Lussier
Double Concerti; Bassango &
msr Classics 1201 (2007)
AFTER HOURS Shostakovitch,
St Saëns, Rimsky-Korsakov,
Piazzolla. Independent (2010)
24 SOLOS (1740), Jean-Daniel
Braun Independent (2010)
Notes From Abroad Bitsch Concertino,
Schreck Sonata; Lussier,
Schurmer. Independent (2004)
EVER AFTER, Prokofiev Sonata
opus 94; Scarlatti Sonatas, Bach;
Lussier Caprices. Independent(2003)
TELEMANN FANTASIAS, Complete
Flute Fantasias. Oddbird
THREE with Leslie Newman
and Guy Few, Piazolla, Kuhlau,
Couperin. Independent (2015)
CAMERA Music of David
Occhipinti. lmc Media (2012)
Business of Angels
AUX ARMES CITOYENES! – Classical
Wind Sextets. atma Classique
MUSICA FRANCA: Michel Corrette
Complete Délices de la Solitude;
Le Phénix; Organ Concerto no.1 in
G Major. msr Classics 1171 (2005)
MUSICA FRANCA: Joseph Bodin de
Boismortier msr Classics 1170
CALIBAN DOES CHRSITMAS Caliban Does Christmas. atma
Feast. bis Northern Lights (2003)
BASSOONATICS cbc Records (1997)
baroque and classical
Haydn Symphonies 62, 107 &
108, Toronto Chamber Orchestra.
naxos 8572130 (2008)
Pichel Symphonies, Zakin 8, 11, 14
& 16, Toronto Chamber Orchestra.
naxos 8557761 (2005)
Handel Israel In Egypt, Aradia
Ensemble. naxos 8570966-6
Handel Water Music and Music
for the Royal Fireworks, Aradia
Ensemble. naxos (2006)
Handel Music for the Royal Fireworks
and Concerti a due chori,
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
sony (1997; Juno Award 1998)
orchestre symphonique de
montréal with charles dutoit
thanks to OSM website
Bartók Concerto for Orchestra,
Music for Strings, Percussion
and Celesta. Decca 421-443-2
(recorded 1987; released 1988;
Juno Award 1989)
Berlioz Harold in Italy, Overture
‘Rob Roy’, Overture ‘The Corsair’,
Pinchas Zukerman. Decca 421-193-
2; re-edition #455361 (recorded
1987; released 1988)
Berlioz Roméo et Juliette,
opus 17, Symphonie funèbre
et triomphale, mso Choir. 2-Decca 417-302-2/
(excerpts) 425-001-2 (recorded
1985; released 1986)
Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique,
opus 14. Decca 414-203-2
(recorded 1984; released 1985.
Grand Prix du Président de la
République-France, 1986; Prix de
l’Académie du disque du Japon,
Berlioz Le Carnaval Romain.
Decca 028945248028 (recorded
1984, released 1997)
Bizet L’Arlésienne Suites 1 and
2 (arr Guiraud); Carmen Suites
1 and 2. Decca 417-839-2 (recorded
1986 & 1987; released 1988)
Chopin Piano Concertos 1 and
2. Jorge Bolet. Decca 425-859-2
(recorded 1989; released 1990)
Debussy Images, Nocturnes.
Decca 425-502-2 (recorded 1988;
released 1990; Juno Award 1990)
Debussy La Mer, Jeux, Le Martyr
de St-Sébastien, Prélude à l’aprèsmidi
d’un faune. Decca 430-240-2
(recorded 1989; released 1990;
Grand Prix de l’Académie du
disque du Japon, 1991)
Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande,
Didier Henry, Colette Alliot-Lugaz.
2-Decca 430-502-2 (recorded 1990;
released 1991; Prix Félix adisq,
1991; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik,
1991; Juno Award
1992; Grammy nomination 1992)
Elgar Enigma Variations, Falstaff.
Decca 430-241-2 (recorded 1989;
released 1991; Prix Félix adisq,
1991; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik,
1991; Juno Award
1992; Grammy nomination 1992)
Falla The Three Cornered Hat
(complete ballet), El Amor brujo.
Decca 71060/Decca 410-008-2/
Three Cornered Hat selections,
Ovation 417-748-2 (recorded 1981;
released 1983; Prix Georges-Auric
de l’Académie du disque français,
1984; High Fidelity International
Record Critics’ Award, 1984)
Fauré Requiem, Pavane, Pelléas
et Mélisande. Kiri Te Kanawa,
Sherrill Milnes, mso Choir. Decca
421-440-2 (recorded 1987; released
Fête à la Française: Bizet, Dukas,
Satie, et al. Decca 421-527-2
(recorded 1987; released 1989)
Franck Symphony – d’Indy Symphonie
sur un chant montagnard
français, Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
Decca 430-278-2 (recorded 1989;
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Guy
Cowley; An American in Paris,
James Thomson; Cuban Overture;
A Symphonic Portait of Porgy and
Bess. Louis, Lortie. Decca 425-
111-2 (recorded 1988; released
1989; Prix Félix adisq, 1990)
Holst The Planets, Women of
the mso Choir. Decca 417-553-2
(recorded 1986; released 1987;
Juno Award 1987, Grand Prix du
Disque, Canada, 1988; Edison
Award, Amsterdam, 1988; Mumm
Champagne Classical Music
Award, 1988; Grammy Nomination,
1988; Grammy nomination
Lalo Symphonie Espagnole;
Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto no.3,
Joshua Bell violin. Decca 425-501-2
(recorded 1988; released 1989)
Mendelssohn A Midsummer
Night’s Dream, opus 61; The
Hebrides; The Fair Melusine;
Ruy Blas. Decca 417-541-2
(recorded 1986; released 1987)
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibitio;
Night on the Bare Mountain;
Russian Easter Festival Overture.
Decca 417-299-2 (recorded 1985;
released 1988; Grammy Nomination
Noël Noël. Leontyne Price,
Tudor Singers of Montreal.
Decca 410-198-1 (recorded 1983;
released 1983; Grammy nomination,
Offenbach Gaîté parisienne;
Gounod Faust (ballet). Decca
411-708-2 (recorded; released
Prokofiev Roméo and Juliet
excerpts. Decca 430-279-2
(recorded 1989; released 1991)
Prokofiev Symphony no. 1
‘Classical’; Symphony no. 5.
Decca 421-813-2 (recorded
1988; released 1989)
Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky,
Lieutenant Kije, Jard Van Nes.
Decca 430506 (recorded 1990;
Ravel Boléro; Alborada del
gracioso; Rapsodie espagnole;
La Valse. lon 71059/Decca
10-Decca 430-239-2/(Boléro, La
Valse) Decca 414-406-2 (recorded
1981; released 1982; Prix Félix
adisq, 1983; Disque d’Or, Canada,
1983; Disque de Platine, Canada,
Ravel Ma Mère l’Oye complete
ballet, Pavane pour une infante
défunte; Le Tombeau de Couperin;
Valses nobles et sentimentales.
Decca 410-254-2/4-Jubilee 421-
458-2/(Pavane) Decca 414-406-2
(recorded 1982; released 1983)
Ravel Orchestral Works.
4-Jubilee 421-458-2 (1988)
Ravel Piano Concertos; et al.
Pascal Rogé. Decca 410-230-2
(recorded 1982; released 1984;
Prix concerto français de
l’Académie du disque français,
1984; Prix Edisson, Amsterdam,
Respighi Pines of Rome, Feste
Romane, Fountians of Rome.
Decca 71091/Decca 410-145-2
(recorded, 1982; released 1983)
suite; Capriccio espagnol.
Richard Roberts. Decca 410-253-2
(recorded 1983; released 1984)
Saint-Saëns Symphony no.3,
Peter Hurford. Decca 71090/Decca
410-201-2 (recorded 1982; released
1983; Prix de la musique française
de l’Académie du disque français,
Stravinsky The Firebird; Scherzo
fantastique; Feu d’artifice. Decca
414-409-2 (recorded 1984; released
Stravinsky Pétrouchka, Le Chant
du Rossignol, Quatre études, Art
Maiste. Decca 417-619-2 (recorded
1986; released 1987; Laser d’or
de l’Académie du disque français,
1988; Grand Prix du disque,
Suppé Overtures. Decca 414-408-2
(recorded 1984; released 1986;
Prix Félix adisq, 1986)
Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture,
Capriccio italien, The Nutracker
Suite, Marche slave. Decca 71058/
Decca 417-300-2 (recorded 1985;
released 1986; Prix Félix adisq,
from 5:00 to 6:30 and the show started at 7:00. We covered all the pieces in a 90-minute sound check. My merch volunteers, Reshawn Walcott and James St Fleur, arrived straight from school while we were rehearsing and setting up the CD table; my ticket person Kristin Day arrived just before the show started… all of this part is very important and it helps so much to have people who know how to run the business end of the event. This is an area where I could use much more help in the days leading up to the shows and is an aspect that needs to be rehearsed to run smoothly.