Tour Journal – March 7 & 8, 2014 (Calgary & Lacombe, Alberta)


My tour blog is going to emerge slowly as I pull it from my hand-written journal… we were on the road from Feb 23 – April 23 with a couple of breaks and because I was the driver, reed-maker, make-up and fancy stupidly-complicated-gown-wearer my time was completely taken up.  I was also meeting friends new and old and soaking up every second of this great experience.
 
Guy Few and I are one of the lucky classical groups touring for Prairie Debut this season… 14 concerts across the Priairies with a schedule that started with isolated concerts, including one in Lacombe, Alberta on March — this tour also includes 7 other concerts as part of other tours… for me, this is exactly the life I’ve always wanted.    
 
Prairie Debut Concert #2 – LACOMBE, Alberta
March 7, 2014
I flew a day ahead of schedule to Calgary and stayed at the Arts Hotel in order to go to the Hungarian concert of the Calgary Phil for a rare opportunity to hear Weber’s Andante & Rondo played by the principal bassoonist Christopher Sales.  It was worth the trip just to hear another professional bassoonist play this work!  Christopher played with great care and lyricism… even the blistering sextuplets at the end were done with a considerate smoothness and refinement that was distinctive.  It is always inspiring to hear a fine player’s interpretation and since I am playing this piece 16 times this by mid April in recital with Guy, it is doubly relevant.  
 
And I got to hear my old schoolmate and Calgary Phil bassoonist Michael Hope giving the charming preconcert talk in the lobby and welcome the audience from the stage.  Also a singer, Michael still sounds and looks almost as youthful as when we were in school together at the Curtis Institute 1979-81. 
 
Though I enjoyed Christopher’s solo, orchestra sounded a little opaque and didn’t really hold my attention in the other works, but maybe I was just jet-lagged.  I went back to my hotel and had room service dinner, one of the true rewards of being a touring musician.
 
March 8, 2014
Next day, I made reeds and then had brunch at the fantastic FARM restaurant on 17th (goat/fruit/granola and FARM salad & chocolate, goat cheese truffle, oink) and then went up to Mount Royal University to get in three hours of practicing before returning to FARM again for supper (wild boar belly with incredible things, small and perfect, oinkoinkoink).  Then I drove to the car rental place and exchanged my dirty car with the malfunctioning power supply for a new, clean one and left it in place while I went to wait for Guy’s late flight to arrive.
 
We were checked into the hotel by 1 a.m. and up early for breakfast, hitting the road by 10 and leaving behind our huge hotel on the outskirts of Calgary… designed with playful, nature-referenced opulent finishes (gold-painted burled stumps as seats, carpets patterned as flagstones)…. Built right next to a wrecking yard, somehow managing to be both budget-conscious and high-endy at the same time .  Slept like a log despite having the glued-on securing latch dangling uselessly on the door.
 
We arrived early in Lacombe and reconnoitered the territory, determining that the Canadian University College was on top of a hill.  Sunday in this densely chapelled town meant that most things were closed, but we soon spotted a Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai restaurant called Lucky Palace and made a beeline for it.
A metal-works shed shared the same back parking lot and there was a beautiful rusting modernist folk sculpture of a rearing horse that really fascinated Guy.
 
We had an excellent lunch… I had seafood chow mein (prawns, scallops, octopus & crab along with onions, celery, carrots, broccoli and carrots)!  GF had chicken meatball soup.  We got takeout for dinner and headed back to the university where  we were greeted by our  host, Cristian Neascu (violin, conductor) and his colleague Wendy Markosky (organist).  They showed us the music school and the lovely old hall where we would be playing.  Guy taught two trumpet lessons while I scouted the hotel and worked on reeds before heading back for our soundcheck at 4:30.  We played through our programnme and found the hall to be lively and bright…Cristian said that they have been fund-raising to build a new hall that will be big enough to host larger ensembles but we enjoyed this gracious small recital hall.  The Yamaha was bright and free-speaking.
 
At 5:30, we bolted back to the hotel to check Guy in, eat a bit and I got my makeup done, packed up dress and we shot back to the hall at 6:30.  I got the CD’s out and gave them to the ushers to organize (thanks, Cassandra!) and Larry set up the microphones for us use for speaking during the concert.  I put out my music and got myself wrestled into my slightly complex black corseted 18th Century de-constructed gown with Guy’s help… also sporting my new blue leather laces in my very old and wonderful high boots for the first time.
 
We were introduced by our Wendy and she thanked all of the sponsors that made this concert possible…. We always get anxious about remembering to thank everyone and she took the burden away.  We did remember to thank Wendy and Cristian… should have thanked the Canadian University College for having us and also our sound man, Larry… it is a real skill remember to thank appropriately and one that I am still working on.
 
My previously-chosen reed sounded bright and a bit high to the piano at the dress… #57 felt too easy in the dry climate and I needed something with a bit more resistance, so I switched to #53, but it soon played out and I had a fleeting return of the fantasy wish to have a reed-wrangler backstage who would have all my reeds soaked and ready for quick changes, rushing to bring me the right reed, soaked and ready, when I flashed the signal.  Barring that, I kept playing as I did not have water on stage and all the other reeds had dried out.  It is a constant juggling match when touring, to realize which venues are low humidity and dry, realizing which venues have pianos that might be slightly lower that A440… being ready for everything.
 

Guy had realized before the concert that his corno da caccia has received collateral travel damage with the support ring pressing into the neck of the instrument and denting it quite a bit, probably from being bumped when under the airplane seat.  The tuning was still good, but the finger ring was too small for his big hands and he had to jam his finger in to support the horn… he said it hurt!

Guy and I walked on stage… as always, the silver shining brass instruments were in place, piano lid open, he was holding his piccolo trumpet and I had my bassoon.

We introduced ourselves and launched the mood of the concert…Before we played a note, a hand shot up in the audience and a man asked me to say something about the bassoon! So I did.  It was, after all, a university setting and knowledge is something to be candid about.  Not that I know so much about the history of the bassoon but I know a huge amount about the voice of my bassoon.

 
Boismortier 2 flute concerto in A+ Opus 38 (picc trumpet & bassoon)
Vivaldi RV 484 in e minor (bassoon & piano)
Pagainini Sonatas (corno & bassoon)
Weber andante & rondo
 

Intermission

People talked to us — one lady kindly told me I had a loose string but it was just the long cord from my harness… I thanked her sincerely and she said that she had been traumatized by a previous artist (a singer) having a wardrobe malfunction on stage, and Guy told her about the time my blue feathered skirt fell off in during a concert in Brandon Manitoba while playing flight of the Bumble Bee.  We met the parents of Leslie Newman!  And a beautiful baby named Antoinette who fascinated Guy… and by a benevolent twist of fate, her Dad won the CD raffle!
 
The second half was Tansman, Oblivion, Man will only grieve, trumpet in the night and then we finished with St-Saens and our encore, the Shostakovich Fast Dance.  People enjoy that.
 
After the show, we talked with many people.  We were thanked for our energy and passion.  Packed up and Cristian helped us carry everything back to the car under the starry sky .
 
Up early to make reeds, jump around to my exercise video, pack, drive to Calgary airport where we drank coffee and I got my boots polished by a beautiful man named Chai who turned out to be a dancer.  He said that he and his wife danced everywhere and in every style… he said it was a wonderful thing to be married to his best friend and he thanked us for our easy emotion and response.  He did such a beautiful job on bringing my boots to life!
 

 

Tour Journal Coming Soon!!!!

I kept a hand-written journal during our wonderful very long spring tour… no time for writing blog with all the cross-province driving, multiple altitudinal reed-making, consecutive concert-giving, people-meeting and general living-life-to-the-fullest in terms of soaking in the western Canadian tour experience … I totally loved every second of it.

I have a day off next week and will spend it with a bottomless latte and will write!

 

 

 

 

 

Prairie Debut Tour 2014: SNOW LAKE, Manitoba

 Guy + Nadina
Prairie Debut Tour 2014
Concert #1 at Ravna House in Snow Lake, Manitoba
Feb 23 – 26, 2014
photos by Guy Few

 

Day 1 – February 23, 2014 – travel to Thompson, Manitoba

Our  2014 Prairie Debut tour started with a 5872 km “run-out” to the mining town of Snow Lake, Manitoba.

At first, we blanched at little at the idea of taking four days to do a single concert but quickly agreed for the thought of visiting a far northern community drew us in.

On Sunday, February 23,  I had just welcomed bassoon virtuoso Ole Kristian Dahl to my house where he would be hosting a day of lessons for the bassoonists of Toronto.  That is another story entirely, and I left my house in the hands of my extended bassoon family (Megan Morris, head bassoon wrangler),  packed my truck with luggage, drove repairman’s shop in Brampton to deliver my student Jayyne Kao and her mother (picking up the repaired Schreiber that had been smashed earlier in the month by a swarm of students… also another story) before heading the Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

Both Guy and I arrived early at the Toronto airport for our late afternoon flight… ever since 2009 when we missed our first flight of a tour because of an overturned sand truck on the Gardiner Expressway at 5 a.m., we arrive at airports hours ahead of schedule.

When we got onto our AC plane, the stewardess instantly adopted us as kindred spirits, asking what we were doing, where we were going and why.  She listened with genuine interest and then told us she was a photographer and had just released a book called Behind the Whip: dominatrix portraits and words. Guy showed her the corno da caccia (had to reciprocate somehow!!).  We were delighted with her energy.

We landed in Winnipeg, then had dinner at one of our favourite spots  (Stella’s on departure level of Winnipeg airport).  The latte-making man and the security guard with the great glasses loved my fringed, complicated cut-out jacket.  Then we boarded our next plane, taking the short flight in a nimble 30 passenger Calm Air birdy-shaped jet to Thompson.  We read Tina Fey’s Bossypants over each other’s shoulders and probably laughed too loudly (well, one of us) for airport regulations.

The walks across the tarmacs reminded us that we were in the real north.

Our big black Ford Explorer was running and waiting for us at the tiny Thompson airport, seats heated, fans blasting, country rock station murmuring.

We began to follow directions to get out of the airport then realized that there was only one way out of the airport.  We stopped looking for street names and drove to our hotel.  I made a couple of reeds, then had a shower to scrub off the black dye that was covering me from my latest Magpie four-foot fringed jacket (my clothes have an agenda of their own) and went to bed.

Day 2 – February 24, 2014 – Travel to Snow Lake, Manitoba

Up early, made another reed, then headed to the fluorescently-kit breakfast cell, hoping for a northern highway breakfast, and finding a toaster and an unmanned station of weary, sweaty mystery products in lidded steam trays, and opted to hit the highway after Guy did a phone interview for  WLU’s Cord about our Juno nom.

Highway clear, sun blazing, no cars at all, sometimes a logging truck or gas tanker, hundreds of miles of Dr Seuss bobble-headed spruce trees and graceful poplars.  We stopped at My’s Place in Wabowden to have the excellent trucker breakfast that I wanted and continued on Highway 39 then 332 to Snow Lake.

We stopped at Wekusko Lodge to get our key to the rustic cabin perched on the edge of the rushing Grass River, arctic cold water plunging around a curve and looking like a postcard of some wintery snow palace-type place too perfectly beautiful to actually exist.

 

We drove into Snow Lake and found Ravna House, a whimsically painted blue house with a gated courtyard in a roadside development of prairie-style boomtown bungalows… we went in through the meticulously shovelled walk, knocked on the yellow door marked “Entrée des Artistes”.

Greeted by our host, David Hart and the oddly welcoming barking of corgi-cross, cream-coloured Lady Bella we entered a loft-style room that was set up for the concert with chairs and pianos in place.  Art graced the room and the snowy forest was visible through the draped windows.

David took us on a tour of the artistic house and offered Guy a coffee, but then we decided we should go for lunch since it was already 1:30 and we had a youth concert at 3:30 and we hadn’t played since the previous day.  I was beginning to be fretful so Guy became the perfect tour person, happily agreeing to everything (coffee, lime drinks, non-alcoholic wine, deep crust pizza, chocolate, more chocolate — this was before the first show)

David also co-runs Angilina’s Pizza, and took us there to have us make our own pizzas.  I was weakly muttering that I avoid bread products, not because I don’t like them, but because I get too fat to get into my corseted gowns, but stifled myself after a while because it just seemed churlish in the face of David’s astounding generosity.

He handed each of us the perfectly sized pieces of dough…. a grapefruit-sized lump for Guy and an orange-sized lump for me (thin crust).  He quickly instructed us on how to knead the dough, then he ran it through a press, and showed us how to do the final shaping.  Then we added tomato sauce and chose toppings (Quebec cheeses, ground meat, chopped pepper, and much more) and David trimmed our crusts and loaded the pans into the oven.

We sat down to eat after about 10 minutes… thinking ahead, David also fried chicken and heated a lasagna for dinner before the evening concert.

By then, I had lost all reserve and gobbled my pizza with real delight.

David cleaned up and gathered our provisions and drove us home… a multi-tasking dynamo who never stopped moving once during our visit, surrounding us with beauty and good food at all times… heaven.

We got back to the house at 2:30 and changed into our kid concert clothes (psychedelic coloured pants, long purple silk shirt and my lace-up black boots for me, casual black with dress hoodie and pointed, patent dress shoes for Guy) and had time to test a couple of things on the concert grand Yamaha gleaming on the side of the room.  The room sounded resonant and excellent… David warned us that would change a bit when the room was full of people, that the sound would dampen a bit, but we found that it stayed lively even when crammed to capacity as it was for both concerts.

Young people began arriving after 3:30… first Elissa Bogdan (our host from Wekusko Lodge) and her two-year-old and an in-arms baby girl.  Then waves of snow-suited children, from toddlers to teens, including a corp of Junior Rangers of Canada with their coaches.  Grandmothers and parents were there too.  David welcomed all and told them to keep their boots on as he had prepared the floor with elegant smooth carpets to absorb snow.  He said that in the past, he had required people to remove boots, but it put too much of a damper on proceedings and in the end, found it better for everyone to let them just walk in.   Logistically easier to keep boots on too.

Guy walked to the door to greet everyone and welcome the kids individually.  I stayed back by the piano as the arctic air flowed in and I wanted to protect my bassoon a bit from the temperature shifts.

Then the big Junior Rangers arrived, fresh from a three-day backwoods trip that had them learning to be self-sufficient in the wilderness.  Everyone packed in and sat… the two-year-old girl was ecstatic, longing to lunge toward the keyboards, skittering around the piccolo trumpet perched on the floor in its stand… One small girl, seated in front row with pink snow suit half peeled off, looked up and asked if we had started yet… another girl sat beside her in a beautiful blue, strap-shouldered evening dress with black, ostrich feather fringe on the hem… she was a little unhappy about having to keep her pink snow boots on as they did not match the elegant dress, but she was not about to cause a scene and sat in the front row.  David waited until the very last child was in place and we started.

 

Guy took his place at the piano and we played Flight of the Bumble Bee; Boismortier Gigue from Concerto No, 5,  Op. 138; Shostakovitch Waltz; Jean-Daniel Braun Giga; Trumpet in the Night; Shostakovitch Fast Dance.

We opened up the floor for questions and the questions were surprising and interesting.  After watching Guy flipping between instruments so quickly, one girl wanted to know if I play other instruments.  I said that I played three different kinds of bassoon (baroque, classical and modern) and make reeds for all of them and spend so much time on this that I haven’t learned to play another instrument,  I have a wooden flute that I want to learn.  And I take at least an hour per day to make reeds.  Another child wanted to know when Guy and I played our first concert together as a duo (that would have been the concert that we did at Jan Narveson’s place, or maybe the first real concert was the Abbey Bach Festival?)… I’ve got all of our programmes in a box and can figure this out.  Another asked how many concerts we’ve done, and one of the Ranger leaders (Randy) asked if we had a kind of music that we preferred.

JRC Patrol, Snow Lake
Back Row: Kash Melnick – Parker Peddle – Brendan Smith – Wanda Laval Huff
Front Row: Wesley Snow -GF – NMJ – Evan Galiz – Logan St. Pierre 

And before we played our last piece, we had a draw for a prize for our After Hours recital CD.  We had all the children write their names on paper and a young girl with amazing streaks of magenta red in her hair drew the name of Tekoa, the elegant five-year-old in the strapped blue dress with the ostrich fringe!

Everyone left and David began finalizing the setup for the evening concert.  He already had the teacups on the table,  samovars were in place (two of them) and he went into the garage and started the charcoal that would be put under the samovars.  He had many kinds of elegant tea, subtle, and fragrant.

 

While David was getting dressed for the concert and finalizing all of the staging preparations, he organized a babysitter for his beloved dog and also laid out a beautiful dinner in his lower-level library.  A bowl of fruit on a large round table, a freshly made greek salad, de-alcoholized white wine, homemade lasagna and his restaurant’s freshly made fried chicken. Gobble.

I then waddled upstairs to finish my make-up and get hoisted into my concert gown, which tonight consisted of my Jessica Biffi green taffeta custom corset and superhero feathered skirt with faux leather pants and Fluvog lace-up black boots and a Magpie sequined vest. Guy had to work for over ten minutes to find a way to both lace the corset accurately AND allow me to breathe… I was definitely packing ballast!

The concert hour came and we moved carefully through the full room to the stage area and introduced ourselves, then launched into the Concerto #5 in A Major — the room was crammed with people but still felt resonant somehow.  They were very close yet they also sat very still!  This is the same program that we will play during all 15 concerts of this tour, yet it will have a different feel in every town.

We mix our stories with the music and try to behave, not ramble, and to stick to our plan, but sometimes it is just essential to adapt to the environment and customize the story.  Our first story is Royal Connection and usually focuses on the regal past of the trumpet and Guy’s many command performances, including one for the Queen, but today he chose to speak of King David, which is the nickname given to the host of Ravna House, David Hart, by some of his supporters.

Then we played Vivaldi Concerto in e minor, RV 484 and I love playing this with Guy.  He has customized the reduction so that it plays like an opera, rather than the usual meek pianist struggling to stay out of the way, and it is very fun to interact with him.  Because of the set up of the house stage, the 9 foot Yamaha concert grand is against the wall, and Guy had his back to the audience which gave me the unique perspective of seeing his face during the concert.  Amazingly interesting to see the faces of the audience turning from me to Guy as we passed lines to one another… they followed not only the music but our mutual energy.  Audiences always do this, but never have I seen it so immediately.

Then we played two Paganini sonatas (orig. violin & guitar) with bassoon and corno da caccia, followed by Bach’s Ich Steh’ mit einem fuss im grabe and ending with Weber’s Andante and Rondo.

The audience stood us during intermission and David began serving tea.  People entered their names in the CD draw, and after intermission, we drew a name.  At first, we couldn’t quite read the writing, then called out the name of Lester.  A handsome man jumped up, full of glee at winning, dark eyes shining.  Later, after the concert, I had time to talk to him, and saw that he was missing much of his thumb and index finger of his right hand.  Ever direct, I asked him if he were a builder, as my Dad was a builder and I was very used to seeing edited digits on northern men.  He smiled and said no! and pointed proudly to the embroidered word “miner” on the arm of his leather jacket.  Lester and his twin sister were the first babies born in Snow Lake and he has been a gold miner for over 30 years.  Movie star good looks and a deep joy in his work impressed me as you can probably tell.

After intermission, we started with the dynamic Sonatine by Alexandre Tansman, the piece that always makes me wish I had practised my scales 49 hours per day for the previous year.

We then moved into our Life, Love and the Unknown set, which usually involves Piazzola’s Oblivion, Glenn Buhr’s man will only grieve if he believes the sun stands still and Simeone’s Trumpet in the Night.  In my haste to send the programme, I made a “cut-and’paste” error and somehow Flight of the Bumblebee had worked itself into the only serious part of our programme, so we found a way to work it into the existential reality of our human journey, or something like that.

The final story of the concert involves an airport accident with a pair of Guy’s designer jeans (you will have to come to the concert to hear about this!) and we end with our beloved St-Saens Sonate.  The beautiful warm audience rose immediately to their feet, so we decided to play the encore without pretending to first leave the stage… I saw people cover their eyes and look through their fingers as we played the Fast Dance by Shostakovitch and Guy does the rapid changes from trumpet to piano without hurting himself or the instruments.

We then joined the audience for refreshments.  After a while, Guy and David Hart, our tireless host, played Beethoven duos and a four-hand reduction of the Fifth Symphony!  At the end, Lady Bella (David’s beloved sentient-being-on-four-legs a.k.a. dog) was brought back from the sitter and she was ecstatic to be home, greeting everyone, then joining the group of friends sitting at the tea table under the chandelier where she listened to her master (a.k.. loyal liege) from this position.

 

I sprung myself free from my concert corset and got into my long silk shirt and boots, toque and fleece.  Guy changed to his quilted jacket and sweats; people smiled, saying that we looked northern now.

We tore ourselves away and drove back to our riverside lodge in the forest.  The light was on and the cabin was toasty.  I made reeds and Guy sat with me for awhile before we both pitched into the bunk beds and slept deeply, the silence cushioned with the near roar of Grass River.

Day 3 – February 25, 2014 – travel to Winnipeg

Up with the bright sun on the snow topped trees… I finished another reed and we packed up and returned to David’s for an astounding breakfast.  We had a hearty breakfast and slipped pieces of cheddar to Lady Bella who graciously received them from her blanket (a.k.a chaise longue) in front of the window.  Yep, we are spoiled for real life now.

 

 

David asked us to sign his guest book and, over Guy’s protests, I filled four pages with comments and pictures… then David had us sign a poster for each attendee of the two concerts, including the children!  Of course we were glad to do this, and David signed a poster for us.

For the record, this was our first house concert yet it felt as significant as any main stage event.  The alertness and considerateness of both audiences (youth and evening) was of the highest level,  and the care and professionalism of our host was uplifting and inspiring.

Then we left, getting gas, and I drove a bit too fast in order to arrive in time for our flight in Thompson.  We stopped again for gas and our usual celebratory bags of cheeses.  Living life to the fullest as always.

Flew to Winnipeg, spent the night in the 4 Points Sheraton, a short yet howling-wind, thoughts-of -perishing -on-the-tundra kind of walk.

Day 4 – February 26, 2014 – travel to Toronto

and up at 5 a.m. to fly to Toronto.  Had breakfast at Stella’s and saw an incredible parade of people, including a beautiful Inuk mother in a full beaded parka with her lovely baby, and a real cowboy, complete with guitar (be still my heart) and many more.  A short flight to Toronto (around 2 hours), landing early in the windy morning, and home.  Of course I managed to lose my only sensible coat in Pearson airport on the wrong side of security, so now have to layer my impractical leather coats, but a small price to pay for a great experience.

For the record, I love touring with Guy Few.  The world opens up and we get to play music.  There is nothing better and Ravna House, Snow Lake was one of the highlights of our touring life together.

The next concert of this tour is on March 8 in Lacombe, Alberta.

Grass River at Wekusko Lodge
photo by Guy Few
 
 (photos of Guy are thanks to my overburdened, elderly iPhone)
 

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.

New Photos!

I love getting new publicity photos!  I always love the fantasy and the process.  These photos were taken at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport… I had just come home from premiering the first movement of Paul Frehner’s Apollo X with Orchestra London and Valdy was driving in from Pembroke, the last concert of his Ontario tour.  We needed shots for our first show with orchestra that will be on February 1 in Brampton with the Rose Orchestra (Valdy to Vivaldi).

We met our photographer, Bo Huang and his wife Yan at the airport.  I had managed to secure permission from the airport administration that very morning to set up and it was one of the most enjoyable shoots I have ever done.

Here are a couple of the pictures… many more were taken from all angles and I’ll reveal them on our websites over time.

All photos by www.bohuang.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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