Telemann Flute Fantasias played on the Bassoon

portrait by Georg Lichtensteger

Portrait of Georg Philipp Telemann by Georg Lichtensteger

I will be playing the Twelve Fantasias by Georg Philipp Telemann on Saturday, October 14 at 2 pm in the Rydal Bank Church (1630 Hwy 638,  ca. 10 km north of Bruce Mines).  I have been working on this music for most of my professional career. My admiration for Telemann is based on the concise beauty of these small masterpieces, plus his workman-like initiative in self-publishing them in 1732-33. This concert benefits the Rydal Bank Historical Society and the historical church that they bought in 1989 and have maintained ever since.

My first solo album was of the Telemann Fantasias (originally for solo flute) was recorded in 2001. This recording is still available on streaming platforms. I was inspired upon hearing a recording of these works the great oboist, Heinz Holliger and began learning this music when I was in my 20’s while playing with the Montreal Symphony. Definitely not music that I was exposed to in school, thank goodness. You can be sure that I will keep practising this music!

Here is our programme.

Telemann Flute Fantasia

Ophelia Gets Mad in Toronto

Yesterday afternoon, I presented the first version of my new show, Ophelia Gets Mad.  It is part of the Ophelia Project, which is a concert of great bassoon music interspersed with a reworking of the story of the youngest character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

While not a scholar, I have always enjoyed reading plays. But not Hamlet. Four hours of generally tedious mellifluous self-centred tirades from many characters but mostly Hamlet. Though the language is spectacular, and I learn a new word every time that I plow into it, I find it to be an utterly tedious and depressing play and I would never have read it unless I wanted to understand the context of Ophelia’s short life.

The triggers for action in the play seem to stem from such sordid and improbable causes, and the only wholesome characters in the play appear to be Ophelia and Hamlet’s beloved friend, Horatio. Maybe I need to work Horatio into a future version of the story, but for the moment, I am not worried about him as he is one of the rare survivors in this medieval snuff play.

Anyway, I conceived this notion of doing an Ophelia-centred concert years ago, and in the meantime, many other people have done exactly the same thing better in movies, books and probably more. So while my idea is hardly original, this presentation is unique.

Despite my antipathy towards Hamlet, I think the play is a necessary evil because, despite the outlandish series of events, there is so much metaphorical truth in the exposé of human selfishness.

In this show, we review the general trajectory of Ophelia’s story, and at pivotal junctures, have her turn away from the abuse, confusion and violence. Instead of sinking into despair as Hamlet rants and insults her, she shakes it off and walks away. Goes out for a coffee or a flagon of mead or a jog around the park. Instead of drowning in a pond of sorrow, pushed by some unseen hand, she is either pulled from the water by the only other truly good person in the play, or she snaps awake when she hits the cold waves and struggles her way to a long and full life.

While both Hamlet and Ophelia end up as orphans who die too young, somehow it is Ophelia who ignites my empathy. I really want to see what she could have done with her life.
I have a great group of string players, building up from incredible bassist and guitarist, Joe Phillips, to Symphony Nova Scotia’s principal cellist, Rachel Desoer, to magical violist Charlotte Paradis and two wildly talented violinists, Rebekah Wolkstein and Drew Jurecka.
I gave the group my final script the day before the show, and they launched right in. While we all have to get used to delivering a story while playing a concert, we got through it and the audience understood our message. Instead of being a generic #metoo bleat, I want it to be a message to encourage all of us to allow people, particularly idealistic young women,  a chance to live a full life and fulfill their promise. And it is amazing how deftly the music illustrated the ideas.
And I definitely wanted to challenge the concept of Ophelia’s madness. SO much more satisfying to imagine her GETTING mad instead of going mad. I don’t put too many words in her mouth… I want to show that people can muster the necessary rage to change even while being very very quiet.
Come to our show in Halifax. It is so very rare to hear me perform, and this is because of the expense. Until I can fundraise for bigger tours, I have to wait until popular demand encourages more big presenters to hire me. I am super grateful to my Toronto fan base for buying tickets to yesterday’s concert. The show cost me over $4000 so that was your Christmas present, like, forever.
For those who didn’t make it, we are presenting a slightly evolved version called Ophelia Rises in the  beautiful Lilian Piercey Hall in Halifax on March 8 at 2 pm for Cecilia Concerts. See you there. 
Ophelia Gets Mad
Vivaldi G Minor RV 495 – Presto
Garfield Soliloquy
Vivaldi G Minor RV 495 – Allegro
Vivaldi F Major RV 491 – Allegro Molto
Vivaldi F Major RV 491 – Allegro
Vivaldi C Minor RV 480 – Andante
Jurecka On The Roof (vln & bn)
Scarlatti/Sweeney C Major  K501 exposition (bn alone)
R-Korsakov Flight of the Bumble Bee
Lussier Song of Love & Sorrow
Vivaldi G MinorRV 495 – Largo Spirituoso
Lussier Le Dernier Chant d’Ophélie
Marc Mellits Dark Matter (bn with electronics)
Vivaldi C MinorRV 480 – Allegro
Brahms Five Ophelia Songs – bn & quartet
Joni Mitchell/arr. Fraser Jackson Both Sides Now
Zamba para Olividar – Daniel Toro (voice, guitar, vln)
Vivaldi E flat Major – Presto
Rebekah Wolkstein – violin
Drew Jurecka – violin
Charlotte Paradis – viola
Rachel Desoer – cello
Joe Phillips – bass and guitar
Nadina Mackie Jackson – bassoon


VERY excited to have done my first music video. Well, at 7:37 it is still the length of a mini-documentary but pretty good for classical music!

DARK MATTER the one and only Marc Mellits for electric bassoon with effects pedals commissioned by 12 bass clef players.

Recorded and filmed by my incredible friend Rob DiVito Society of Sound.

Rob also set up the beautiful lights and remembered when to turn the hazer on and off.

That was FUN and I will do more of these.

Auctioning Beautiful Historical Bassoons

Last minutes of online, one-of-a-kind auction…. 

Auctioning Beautiful Historical Bassoons – Ross/Scherer Baroque Bassoon A=415, (made in 2012) – Glier in Klingenthal,Sachsen (original ca. early 1800’s?) – Anonymous German (or Viennese) Bassoon (maybe 1840, Dresden or Leipzig according to Robin Howell)
My auction of my original art, instruments and antiques ends tonight at 7:30 pm, eastern standard time.
I’ve been cheerfully blogging about my art.
But it’s harder to write about the bassoons.  So I am just going to ramble and post this blurt in the last hours of the auction.  If you are the least bit interested in them, you might enjoy reading this.
It’s  my ardent wish is that a real performer gets these precious instruments, either a seasoned player or an eager young student or professional who loves, as I did, the idea of touching the past through these instruments.
They are all real bassoons, meant to perform… the Ross Scherer is one of the best baroque bassoons on the market with a particularly warm and deep tone, was made in 2012, has a new Kim Walker gig bag. It has character and is a bit more of a handful than the Wolf HKICW that all the kids are playing (I had one of those and it was so easy to play, but a little bland) but worth the effort.  This bassoon is worth $5000US and it looks like it’s going to sell for much less on the auction… any price that is close to this or equal is worth every penny. 
The old bassoons are another story…full of history that an expert could guess and that the rest of us can only imagine. I do not possess any academic expertise in their origins, just enjoyed speculating with the experts who restored them.
They each were played for a lifetime by their original owners, and maybe others in the ca. two hundred years that they have been around, the wood burnished and the finger holes curved inwards with the wear of decades of performing.  But they are not worn out, and bassoon-maker Leslie Ross took a a couple of months to both restore them and to measure them in great detail, producing drawings that will allow her (I think) to make bassoons that are similar. 
The Anonymous bassoon, with the capital “F” carefully carved into the inner curve of the wings reminds me of a Heckel… it feels like it was really played and it springs to life more quickly than the older (I think) Glier.  I experimented with different Leslie Ross bocals (the original bocal got misplaced when I loaned this bassoon to a dear colleague in Europe who died in a tragic paragliding accident). I also have the original simple wooden box that this bassoon came in and am keeping it.  The delicate ivory bell ring has been carefully repaired more than once, and present, one small chunk has dropped out again and is carefully wrapped and in the case… a fine bassoon repair person will use the right materials (not modern glue) to repair. The bell itself has a slight curve. Robin Howell spent many hours restoring this bassoon and removed/filled some keys that he thought were not original, then in 2011, I had Leslie Ross give it a linseed oil bath and restore all the keywork and more.  Pitch is lower than A=440 and higher than A=430…. It really depends on bocal/reed choice so I think you could probably get it to produce either.  Not sure because I never got to play it in orchestra, only duets.  This bassoon has a hard sided old gig bag that is pretty good.
The Glier in Klingenthal, Sachsen was found in an antique shop in Toronto by my former stage partner, Guy Few… we were looking for furniture in one of the big stores that reclaims parts of old buildings (Smash) when Guy spotted this bassoon.
The owners had dragged it around for 12 years, fully assembled, minus bocal, before someone told them what it was.  I was so overjoyed to see this venerable, delicate beautiful bassoon.  It was very grimy, but we could see and feel the natural rings of the maple… all this became much more visible after Leslie Ross restored and totally cleaned the bassoon. Once she finished the work, we could also see the maker’s stamp clearly on each joint. Very exciting. It has an extendable wing, I assume to allow for different pitches, and the high a and c keys also extend… it is mindblowing to me.  The low C hole is delicately outlined with ivory…. the bass joint is extra long and the bell is very short… Leslie gave me all the string and bits that she removed and replaced and I’ve got these relics in a box that I can send too. This bassoon needs much more playing to fully reveal it’s potential.
I don’t have a hard case for this bassoon because of it’s non-standard dimensions, but I have invented a gig bag out of a case cover. And there are Leslie Ross bocals with this bassoon.

The bonnets that protect the low D keys on each of the original bassoons are also very lovely (see below)
These instruments deserve to be owned  and played by someone who is a position to show them to the world, share them with other players and students… someone with a good university job, or simply the means to take care of them.  I got them started with thousands of dollars of restoration.
Write to me if you have any questions.  Make a bid on history.

Ross/Scherer Baroque Bassoon, A=415
Anonymous 19th Century Bassoon, A= 430 +
Glier in Klingethal, Sachsen, A= 430+


Glier in Klingenthal, Sachsen
Glier (Low D bonnet)


Anonymous “F” bassoon…
ivory bell ring needs another repair,
 note the natural maple rings and
the curve of this old old bell

Auction Art

Just in case you wondered, I am a bassoonist who has always made art. I have had 7 dedicated solo art shows in my career and over 60 people own my art (in the beginning, I didn’t keep track, so more than 60). If you want to check the market values, go to my website (shop section).

Moving Sale Auction ends tomorrow…7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 6 . An easy way to avoid the crush of bids at the end of the day is to post your max bid now. The system will only go up by $2.50 at a time, so even if your maximum bid is $100,000,000, the system adds your bid only when someone else makes a bid on your chosen items, so if the last other person high bids $20, you get it for $22.50  Quite clever, old chap.

On with the stories.  All of these are “parallel works”, i.e. pieces that I made while working on larger works or preparing concerti….

I’ll start with the silliest piece.

Lot 132
THREE FINEAPPLES (2018) – 8.5” x 17” sharpie marker on foam sheets

I bought a stack of 8.5” x 11” multicoloured sheets of quarter inch foam at a local Staples store, and made art objects from them, working on a few things with and for neigbour children, and making two art pieces of which this is one. I sold one work in this series, Three Fine Mice, to a collector in Montreal , the clarinetist, Jean-François Normand.

The mounting system is low-tech, comprising of 6 clear (or red, as in pic) push pins and is interactive, meaning there are three separate pieces and you can choose the order of the images, reverse one or two of them to create a band of colour bar or display them vertically.

I called this work silly but it WAS A LOT OF FUN TO MAKE. I use very sharp utility knives to cut the shapes and you will note that the negative shape is larger than the actual fineapple, allowing for the contrasting colours to show.  And because I trust it’s strength, I used archival bookmaker’s glue to secure the images, though I remain unsure of the archival nature of the candy-coloured foam sheets.

This relatively robust work fits into a normal mailing envelope and is the absolute cheapest to ship.

Three Fineapples, 8.5″ x 17″
fuzzy photo by Nadina

LOT 131
GOLDBIRD (1999) 8.5” x 11” – india ink on paper, saturated with beeswax and touched with gold leaf, secured with 4 golden threads to a piece of black paper, recycled from previous service as a backmount for a paragraph I wrote about the Mark Morris Dance Company.

I did many very intricate works that were based on antique middle eastern rugs and I would soak these ink drawings in beeswax and secure them to heavy painted paper… all of these works sold and one became an album cover for Pentaedre’s album, Airs Anciens.

All that remains in my personal collection are a few simple studies and this bird.  Though he is light-weight and small, the saturation with beeswax seems to have made him very strong and he has travelled with me since 1999. And though he is called Goldbird, it really is his environment that is golden.

GOLDBIRD, 8.5″ x 11″, ink on paper with beeswax and gold leaf
photo by Dawn McLeod

Lot 139
ORANGE TABBY UNDER STARRY SKY (2014) 14.25” x 28.25” – watercolour on handmade paper from Quebec

Painted on unusually shaped and beautifully textured handmade paper from Quebec, this is a simple watercolour sketch of a very relaxed and slumbering orange tabby.  And one day, I had a brush loaded with mica-infused acrylic paint, and I added it to the background of the cat, making the deep smoky purple sky shimmer behind the indifferent feline; the frame (not visible in photo) cleverly enhances the shimmering effect but you have to see it in person to appreciate.

ORANGE TABBY UNDER STARRY SKY (2014) 14.25” x 28.25” – watercolour on handmade paper from Quebec
photo by Dawn McLeod

Lot 138
DUCK STORM (2009) 48” x 48” – oil on canvas
This is one of my anatomically incorrect domestic fowl with a lovely subtle texture both to the bird, his sorrowful small eye and the rippling background.



DUCK STORM (2009) 48” x 48” – oil on canvas
photo by Dawn McLeod

Lot 136
BRUSH FIRE (2009) 48” x 60” – acrylic on canvas

This big, vibrant acrylic painting has many textures and surfaces and is presently pulled off the stretcher so you would have to provide your own stretcher  (I used it’s stretcher to paint AIR MARE). It also looks fantastic just stapled to the wall.

BRUSH FIRE (2009) 48” x 60” – acrylic on canvas
photo byDawn McLeod