Live Concerts, Concerto Recording, Airplanes

The good stuff!

It’s both familiar and exciting to return to travelling and performing, connecting with audiences and colleagues, plus the never-ending surprises of dealing with travel and unexpected circumstances in the post-pandemic return to the concert stage. And the extended debut of Blue Bell, my beautiful new custom-made Bell bassoon.

World Premiere Concert and Recording — paid for by someone who is not me!

Very happy to return to the US with the world premiere and recording of Augusta Read Thomas’ magnificent and challenging concerto CARNIVAL with the Fredonia Wind Ensemble (conductor Dr. Paula Holcomb). This mind-bendingly virtuosic-in-new-ways work was commissioned for me by SUNY Fredonia and funded by SUNY Fredonia with support from a Sorel Medallion in Recording grant and the Carnahan Jackson Fund for the Humanities, both through the Fredonia College Foundation, as well as a Sigma Alpha Iota Project Grant. We also had student bassoonist, Wolfgang Scheitinger, present a segment of the concerto to honour the connection to the University. Wolf stepped up from the contra chair, played the excerpt from the concerto, and then returned to his chair…. amazing. Wonderful composer, dedicated and virtuosic conductor, energized and laser-focused student musicians, supportive community, transformative concert. The day following the world premiere, we went into the recording studio for six hours, led by engineer Bernd Gottinger and recorded the concerto for a collection of new concerti for soloists and wind ensemble commissioned for SUNY Fredonia. And I got covid 😂 (ultimate booster). I’m fine.

World premiere of CARNIVAL for solo bassoon and wind ensemble by Augusta Read Thomas, soloist Nadina Mackie Jackson, director Dr Paula Holcomb

Photo from the world premiere of CARNIVAL, Nadina, Augusta Read Thomas (aka Gusty), Dr. Paula Holcomb… I dare say the first time in the history of the classical world that three women (soloist, composer, and director) take the stage for bows after a world premiere of a bassoon concerto with wind ensemble. (screenshot capture by Cassandra Bendickson)

Beloved Lussier Concerto – repeat performances of new concerti are RARE and wonderful

Also gave three performances of ODDBIRD CONCERTO by Mathieu Lussier, twice with the very well-prepared Peterborough Symphony Orchestra (conductor Michael Newnham) and again with my hometown band, the Prince George Symphony Orchestra (conductor Michael Hall). Fabulous review here (actually, it is a letter to the editor from an audience member, even more fabulous).

I left Prince George with souvenir Boulet cowboy boots (I am a diva after all), one of which had to be expertly stretched by Steve and Sons (local boot whisperer) and a walkie-talkie programmed with northern channels for my next trip back to the out-of-cell-range mountain roads of my birthplace. When I tried to drive back to the ranch on Maurice River Forestry Road, my fragile little Honda first got a flat tire, then the next day had a problem with the gas… I will rent a Hummer next time.

And I enjoyed the paycheques, press conferences, interviews and even a TV spot where I played snippets of 8 concerti in 3 minutes in support of the Prince George concerts, all fun.

Hillbilly Golden Boulet boots

Hillbilly Golden Boulet boots

Stuff they don’t tell you much about in music school…

Less fun were the epic airport lineups while carrying a loaded bassoon case, and wearing an unnecessary leather jacket (my own fault, I know), delayed flights, delayed luggage, catching covid in NY (we already talked about that), being told that payment would arrive in the indefinite future (I stood in the university office and was paid within the hour, why don’t people read their own university-issued contracts???), rental car mix-ups, a gas station that contaminated its regular gas tanks with diesel and stranded me in a town with no rental cars (I got a nice compensation cheque for that mishap tho it meant I couldn’t visit my home province as planned), and an awkward hosting situation with a newly-acquired boyfriend of a normally wonderful host that was resolved and will never ever happen again to another visiting musician.

I survived all of these little mishaps and it is a reminder of what travelling musicians sometimes endure when going on the road to connect with the world and make a living. My long-ago professional training certainly never addressed the real things that can happen on the road and despite my decades of experience, it still happens. But for real, always demand a hotel when you are the featured artist for an orchestra! Can’t believe I didn’t remember that. And if someone is mean or bizarre, sexist or downright vulgar with you, or doesn’t pay you on time, kick them in the shins and report it immediately to management. Sheesh.

underestimate me that will be fun

underestimate me. that will be fun.

Playing Music Is Easy

Tonight was our first concert with Jonathan Cohen, playing Handel, Bach, Mozart & Haydn with Violons du Roy.
 
It is now late I am too tired to write a lot, but I have to say something about this experience.
 
It is always a revelation of some kind to play with Violons du Roy.  They are so serious, so loving, so fun.  Since Bernard has been ill and now recovering, there have been many guest conductors and I have met a few when I come as guest principal bassoonist.
 
I love playing with VdeR, but whenever I return to any orchestra after an extended run of solo playing (just finished a Maritime tour with my chamber group THREE), I always worry about the transition from speaking in a solo voice to singing in the chorus. 
 
And sometimes, as my friend Valdy, says, playing classical orchestral music makes me feel like I’m being shot at. 
 
But not this week.
 
Tonight, as we all left the stage, I was surrounded by musicians talking, laughing, walking with buoyant steps.  More than one musician said they would like to play the concert again, i.e. tonight!  And then our excellent second horn, Louis-Pierre Bergeron, said something like, “ wow, it’s easy to play music!” and we laughed, because, despite the very high standards and the striving, it WAS easy tonight. 
 
Jonathan Cohen sat at the keyboard, supplying continuo and gesturing fluidly and alertly and transmitting, listening, floating and guiding the musicians in a way that I am at a loss to describe yet which each and every musician recognizes as the real thing, immediate, and absolutely natural.  The kind of natural that is born of an alert mind and exquisite craft, honing of skills and thoughts.
I could say more but I really have to go to sleep as we are going to play the same concert in Montreal tomorrow at the Salle Bourgie (October 16, 2015).  If you can come, you will be very happy that you did.  I know that I am.
 

Who Do You Think You Are? (Programming and Presenting Classical Concerts in Many Settings) – small thoughts

For classical musicians (and everyone else), this is a question that comes up, but never in those exact words.
For example, when someone asks you to present a concert for them, they both want to know the answer to this question and then, either support or challenge your response.
The important thing is to have a response.  And to like your own response at a fundamental level.  If people are then willing to pay you for your response, even better!  But the order of thought is really bloody important.

Normally, when presenting my response to that existential question (what are you going to play aka who do you think you are?), I am dressed to the hilt and paid a lot of money.   And on very rare occasions, I am asked to give a command performance for someone I respect with all my heart.  Both types of concert and experience are essential in creating the best answer.
Last night, I played a house concert in the home of composer Michael Colgrass and his fiery, activist wife, Ulla surrounded by a fiercely supportive audience.  I invited Dr Cecilia Lee to join me and she instantly said yes even though she has an insanely busy existence (in addition to playing for an endless stream of university students, she insists on attending many concerts to feed her imagination and then stays up ’til dawn helping friends move and then goes running 4 miles…).
Michael and Ulla’s house concerts are legendary and always involve a large group of richly interesting people who have responded with lightning quickness to the Colgrass invitation to gather in their living room, followed by eating Ulla’s delicious meatballs, salads, cheeses and array of things added by talented guests.  The old Steinway is always tuned, the living room rings despite the capacity crowd, and Sonny the cat stretches his long blond frame across the doorway, ever hopeful that a shrimp or meatball will drop his way, completely unfazed by the din of lively conversation amongst 34 people.
Michael introduces us, skipping over the usual blahblahblah of our dazzling accomplishments, and focusing on the things that make us human, e.g. my boast that I have commissioned and recorded more new works for bassoon and orchestra than any other Canadian bassoonist (pretty sure it’s true) and Cecilia’s delightful tag in her bio (all true for sure) “In addition to performing, Dr. Lee is an active recording engineer/producer, working with the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and various freelance projects in the city.  Her hobbies include mid-distance running, surprise-last minute trips to faraway lands and curious wandering in the city, looking for images, mishaps and interesting arts events.”
Michael also takes a minute to reveal truths that the quiet crowd soaks in… here is my clumsy remembrance of one —- he said that that music is often defined as an aural experience, yet it is a profoundly physical one and that there is a tremendous benefit to being close to the vibrations of live musicians.  When he made that analogy that the pleasure drawn from this experience is the healthful version of  the junky’s rush, the crowd laughed, yet he was serenely serious.  He went on to say that he advises orchestras to maintain a “Citizen’s Chair” so that a member of the audience can sit on stage to feel that indescribable rush of combined vibrations from all the different live instruments.   He said more, but really, you have to come to one of the concerts to gain the full benefit of his particular luminous insight.

Then Cecilia and I played our response… a small program of ice and fire.

Thank you, Ulla and Michael, for giving us this gift of life and music combined.  Thank you for wanting to know who I think I am and reflecting my response back to me.  And Cecilia’s.   And honestly, thank you for buying my CD.

Colgrass Christmas on Valentine’s Day
2015
Cecilia Lee, piano
Nadina Mackie Jackson, bassoon
Edvard Grieg
Sonata in F Major, Opus 8
allegro con brio
bassoon & piano
Claude Debussy:
des pas sur le neige
clair de lune
solo piano
Henri Dutilleux
Sarabande et Cortège
bassoon & piano
Joan Tower
“or like a…an engine” (1994)
solo piano
Arnold Schoenberg op. 16
no. 1
no. 2
no. 3
no. 4
no. 5
no. 6
solo piano
Domenico Scarlatti
3 Sonatas
Allegretto K 506
Andante, K 213
Prestissimo K 545
solo bassoon
Arvo Pärt:
für alina
solo piano
Sergei Prokofiev
Sonata in D Major, Op 94
moderato
scherzo
andante
allegro con brio
bassoon & piano

 

Michael Colgrass Introducing Dr Cecilia Lee
photo by Laura

 

Nadina playing with Cecilia for incredibly attentive audience in the art-filled living room of Michael and Ulla Colgrass
photo by Laura
One of my favourite photos ever of the brilliant Cecilia… note the statue in centre-photo
photo by Scott R.

 

November 15, 2013 – World Premiere of Mathieu Lussier’s Oddbird Concerto

There is so much to say about this chamber orchestra, but for now, here is a tiny sample of the world premiere of the Oddbird Concerto… it is on our Canadian Concerto Project (with Guy Few and group of twenty seven led by Eric Paetkau) and the same disc that was nominated for Classical Album of Year for Junos 2014 and named Canadian Album of the Year by Mark Turner, host of Classical Connection on CFCR 90.5 FM in Saskatoon.

Great Ideas for Orchestras: chamber music concerts

Last night, I played a recital with the violist David Rose on the chamber series that has been launched by our chamber orchestra, group of twenty-seven.  I would love to have all of my friends come to these concerts with me… this is the most vibrant orchestra that I know and I love them.
 
The concept of a chamber music series attached to an orchestral season springs from the percolating mind of our creative, energetic and buff conductor, Eric Paetkau (all conductors should work out and eat right, just saying).  This is our first season of more concerts, namely 4 orchestra concerts and 12 (count ‘em) chamber music concerts that feature the astonishingly good musicians within the orchestra.
 
 

Today I want to talk about the idea of chamber music within the orchestral context….

 

First of all, it is essential!   
 
Eric has a vision that is both detailed and allows the musicians to stretch out with their own particular style.  group of twenty-seven is actually drawn from a rotating pool 50 players based mostly in Toronto who have distinctive style, spirit and virtuosity.    Eric is very committed to collaborating with independent-minded musicians, disciplined, all-star players with minds of their own.  The results are vibrant yet cohesive in the extreme. 
 
With group of twenty-seven, this is the first time in my experience that an orchestral artistic director has opened the door and made it a reality by booking a scheduled chamber series as part of the orchestra’s season.
 
Eric has curated the series, choosing the artists, fitting them into the schedule and working together to create short programmes (one hour) that are performed without intermission in a comfortable setting.  Part of the vision is having a host who illuminates the music and draws out the musicians.  For our first concerts, the popular CBC host Tom Allen was the host, and for my recital last night with David Rose, Eric himself was the host. 
 
Which is what I really want to talk about.
 
And he is encouraging the musicians by committing his time and reputation to creating chamber concerts that truly shine the spotlight on them… this is not a conductor who stands back and waits to see if people are worthy of his time and interest!
 
I have to admit that I have been too busy woodshedding my concerti and recitals to attend any of the other chamber concerts, but after last night, I am going to make every effort to get to the other chamber concerts in the series… something this valuable needs a lot of support to survive.
 
The concert last night with David Rose…
 
For such a short concert (one hour of music), there is so much to say!!!
 
And what is it with musicians from Saskatchewan!?  Now based in Fredonia at SUNYFredonia, David is originally from Regina and is one of the most refined, thoughtful, responsive, and utterly beautiful performers I have ever played with.  It was a complete joy to rehearse with him and to also hear his solos in the concerts.  His style is so different from mine… he takes all the space that is available in the music, yet his pulse is vivid, alert, and vibrant.  He is relaxed yet never ever sleepy… it is a new kind of alertness that I will now try to own in my playing.  There is a frank grace, and natural candour that I really have never seen before, and a generosity of spirit that is startling.   And I have never ever played a recital with only a single viola!  A revelation.
 
When I arrived at the hall, the chairs had been all turned to face the massive fireplace and our artistic administrator, Emma Walker, has placed a log in the fire, ready to light just before the audience arrived.
 
Eric sat on a couch near where we played and commented on the music, then invited me and David Rose to join him on the sofa to talk about ourselves and our music.  He also invited composer Ann Park Rose to speak about her music, which she did so simply, eloquently and directly.  And he brought artist/mezzo-soprano  Paula Aciniega, to the fore to talk about the painting that she did based on the new work on our program, Three Short Stories by Gernot Wolfgang for viola and bassoon.  This is the third large work that she has created this season, and she will go on to finish 9 more for each of the remaining concerts.
 
 There was food at the back of the hall, a gift from our sponsors Cheese Magic and Wanda’s Pie in the Sky… mulled cider and wine perfumed the air.
 
 
The small audience was talking cheerfully and there were at least 6 children under the age of 9, all comfortable with their parents or drawing on the vacant stage.
 
I had a young friend in the audience, a high school bassoonist who was writing a report on the life of a professional musician (well, me).  Anyway, after the concert, she told Eric that she so enjoyed the atmosphere where the music was serious but the communication was casual. 
 
I have pasted our programme below… I think I should end this post now as it is already too long and I HAVE TO PRACTISE!!
 
 
David Rose and Nadina Mackie Jackson
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Heliconian Club
Sonata III  Opus IV (dedicated to Felice Baciocchi)           Niccolò Paganini       
viola and bassoon
i.                Allegro con Zelo
ii.              Allegretto con Moto
 
Caprices *                                                                               Mathieu Lussier (b. 1973)  solo bassoon  
i.                Rapsodie (1999)
ii.        Tarantelle (2001)        
iii.        Fantaisie (2001)    
 
 
Mook-Nyum by Ann Park-Rose (b. 1979)*                                               
solo viola
 
Sonata V Opus VI(dedicated to Madame T)                      Niccolò Paganini                                          
i.                Adagio con grazia e trasporto         
ii.              Andantino scherzando
 
Intermission
 
Suite No. 2 in D minor                                                           J. S. Bach                   
solo viola
i.                Prelude
ii.              Allemande
iii.             Courante
iv.             Sarabande
v.              Menuet
vi.             Gigue
 
 Three Short Stories (2001)                                                 Gernot Wolfgang                             
viola and bassoon
i.                Uncle Bebop
ii.              Rays of Light
iii.             Latin Dance
 
*Canadian