Life Life Life

Life is hurtling by — played a coupla times with the Toronto Symphony (massive Mahler 8 etc) and had the joy of being on the same stage as hundreds of great musicians including my young son and my ex (contra).

Went to New York and brought home my newest baroque bassoon, a lovely, tenor-voiced Scherer by the extremely gifted Leslie Ross.   In addition to my gorgeous new horn, Leslie gave me a disc of her recent compositions and performances with computer interactive bassoon… she is a superior being.

Guy and I are powering up for our next recital at the incredible, hothouse venue, Oregon Bach Festival.  I am so excited I could lie on the floor and do the chicken dance but don’t know how.  I mean, this festival hosts great musicians from across the world and is the dream cross-over environment (cross-over, to me, means baroque music played on modern instruments).  We also get to present our kids show, Buzz and Crow (here is a link to photos from our last show)

Concerts and projects are filling in for next season… so excited to be playing concerti with my long-ago hometown orchestra, the Prince George Symphony with their exciting new chef d’orchestre, Kevin Zakresky.   This is my first time back in all these years!!  Playing Hummel and Vivaldi C minor and officially releasing the new Vivaldi disc.  In other concerto news, GF and I will be playing with the Okanagan Symphony in 2023/14 season and I will be doing one of my Vivaldi concerti on baroque bassoon (will announce in fall).

This July, I will be recording a concerto by Mathieu Lussier along with 2 solo works for trumpet (or corno) and bassoon with g27 and Eric Paetkau leading the orchestra.  Guy will be recording his Lussier concerto and is working on his strato-high range.  We will record the last work for that disc later with Alain Trudel (composer/conductor) but it is absolute secretarial hell to find two days that work for the conductor, composer, orchestra, engineer & soloists.  We need a manager.  We have a manager, but we need a manager who helps us with this endless scheduling.  Or not.  I dunno.  Anyway, this disc is all-Canadian music with roots in sultry music of the middle east, Sicily and other far-flung sonic locales, hence our latest album title Exotica.

And I have joined forces with Kristin Wolfe Jensen to update the Royal Conservatory Syllabus for bassoon… we are adding all the missing grades, starting from preparatory level to ARCT (Associate of the Royal Conservatory Toronto… at least, we think that is what the acronym stands for).  Kristin is bringing so much to the project in terms of advance preparation and connections that I grin with utter, unalloyed relief.  I have ideas but she has structure + ideas.

Norbert Palej has invited me, Guy and Beverly Johnson to perform a new work written by him (for us) at the U of T Cage Festival on October 25.

I will be playing again with Violons du Roy in the new season (missed playing with them soooo much this year) and playing/recording with Aradia again.   Guy and I will be criss-crossing the country, first to play at Prairie Debut in October then going to the east coast for concerts in March with fall/winter shows in Ontario… a quieter year for the duo except for all the recording.  I am still working out my Vivaldi tour, putting together different musicians to make a moveable band that might be a bit different from the usual… I so hope that I can pull this dream together.

OK, gotta hit the road now, get home in time to practise.  Driving a lot to look in on my brave old Dad these days.

i love my job

I love my job. I am a bassoonist and I am constantly thinking of ways to bring solo repertoire to life in recitals and in concerto concerts and recordings.

And sometimes I get to revisit my old life, from the beginning of my career, when I got to play in orchestras and immerse myself in the greater glory.

Tonight was wonderful.

I played second bassoon to Samuel Banks. He is normally the second bassoonist of the TSO and moves up from time to time. He is the soul of calmness and has a lovely lyric tone that is true and responsive. He cultivates an atmosphere of calm in the section which allows room to grow.  Wonderful.

The conductor was Sir Andrew Davis, who is absolutely dedicated to collegiality while demonstrating incredibly high standards of music-making.  I am a little out of touch with reading the gestures of conductors of massive orchestras, but the Toronto Symphony knows and loves him so well that they follow easily and I catch on through osmosis.

And the soloist tonight was Evgeny Kissen. I have never heard him before (preoccupied as I am with my own concerti and reeds, don’t laugh) so this experience was a full-force, had-no-idea of the glory that awaited me.  He was onstage before the first rehearsal of the Grieg, practising full out. Musicians mostly listened, some of us played quietly, and none of it bothered him. Both rehearsals were full performances, especially the dress rehearsal this morning when he played all the great cadenzas.  After the rehearsal, when I packed up, I went back to the stage, just to consider playing a bit more, but Evgeny was settling down to an afternoon of practising, so I bowed and left.  Tonight, the performance was as grand as the rehearsals, except that 2,000 people got to feel the electrical charge of this incredibly connected performer.  And I am pretty certain that he will be practising all day tomorrow.

Of course, his tone is great, and his phrasing is powerful, but there is also such a deep rhythmic connection.  He is powerful without banging, the phrases are both surprising and inevitable, the tender slow sections still pulsed with a rhythm that sustained life without imposing anything frenetic. The encore (some glorious thing that I don’t know) was transporting and I thought the audience was not going to let him leave.

Yeah, he is in a league of his own but he makes me want to practise too.

Different Hats

My life is different every day and that makes it a work of concentration to keep track of reed making and preparation for many different projects and concerts.

Tomorrow, I get to play second bassoon in the Toronto Symphony with Sam Banks playing principal… the programme is pure fun, all-American pops, which should take some of the stress off of playing second bassoon.  Really, it is the hardest thing for me, the soft, sensitive playing in the worst register of the bassoon.  I always have to remember the bigger picture and not get tied in knots, so I enjoy the challenge.
I will get up early to get my kid ready for school and make a second bassoon reed.

Today was rehearsals for my recital with Guy Few on Friday night at the Gravenhurst Opera House for the Muskoka Concert Association.  Guy and I are absolutely loving the lyrical new works that we have added to our programme (a short piece by Savario Mercadante and a lovely little work by the cornet player Julien Porret) along with the Tansman Sonatine (first time for this duo) and the Beethoven Magic Flute variations.  I will make a recital reed on Thursday afternoon for the Friday show.  We will drive to the town early, have a sound check, play the show and return home since I have a rehearsal with the TSO the next morning.

I love it when there is a lot of variety in my musical life… my favourite things are concerti and recitals, but playing with orchestras gives me a wonderful chance to reconnect with old friends and the pleasures of a big group of people making music.

Housework and bill-paying will have to be attended to at some point…

Coming Up For Air

So much has happened in the past month, yet I have been oddly reluctant to put it all into words.
In the month since I last wrote, I have dealt with grief in my own way (spring cleaning, tree planting, hanging out with my wonderful Dad, kayak buying) and now feel ready to return to the world.

I am looking ahead to a very attractive month of musical activities.  B minor Mass this weekend with the Guelph Chamber Choir... probably my last concert on my Wolf baroque bassoon as I am getting a new A = 415 Scherer by Leslie Ross, ready in the middle of May.  The Wolf is a beautiful, practically-plays-itself instrument that I have used for many recordings and concerts and I will be selling it in June.

On Monday, April 30, we are playing new works in a concert called Camera by the lovely jazz guitarist David Occhipinti for chamber group of clarinet, bassoon, string quartet, bass, percussion and soprano.  Our concert will be the premieres for all of these works, followed by a recording the next day at Glenn Gould Studio at the CBC for release later in 2012.

This spring, I will have the pleasure of playing a few weeks with my comrades in the bassoon section of the TSO, always fun and challenging at the same time.

Guy and I have a recital on May 4 at the Gravenhurst Opera House for the Muskoka Concert Association, performing a new version of our Travel Book recital with lots of stories from our lives as touring soloists.

Then I fly to Berkeley to finalize the editing of my new Vivaldi Concerto CD with David Bowles of Swineshead Productions… still trying to decide if I will release 7 or 8 concerti… the C Minor gave me more trouble than I had planned yet there are some really delicious moments too.

From Berkeley, I go to L. A. to meet up with some musical friends and my web designer, the inimitable Shauna Kaendo.

From there I check in with New York and pick up the new Scherer from Leslie Ross… I always leave Leslie’s company very inspired and this time I will also have a piece of her art in the form of a new baroque bassoon!

I fly back to Toronto and jump straight into another week with the Toronto Symphony.

From there, Guy and I will be recording our Canadian Concerto album this summer and playing our children’s show Buzz and Crow along with a recital at the Oregon Bach Festival.

I hope to see you along the way at one of these events!

First Edits of Vivaldi Concerti


Today, as I drive around in my truck buying the ingredients for the feasts I am preparing for my elderly parents in their northern house, I am listening to the first edits of the Vivaldi Concerti that I recorded last summer.

Exciting and painful!  The concerti are so hard.  The players are so great.  The first edit fills me with the conflicting desire to have a nap or to practise with renewed enthusiasm.

Maybe I’ll just stare into the middle distance.

(photos by Larry Kryski – taken at the end of two days of recording in the Glenn Gould Studio of CBC Toronto)