Notes from Abroad

I have been keeping a daily written journal for the last six months.  By nature, I am an incorrigible archivist and have two trunks full of diaries from most of my life… minus several years of my early twenties when I thought that it would be cathartic to excise the torrid accounts of my many boyfriends… I regret losing those silly stories now.  Not sure where my prudish moment of bookburning came from; surely I wasn’t planning to run for public office?
Back to the present, the physical pleasure of putting pen to paper is undeniable.  Fighting the inevitable doubts, I have resolved to find the quotidian details of my life fascinating.  And the truth is, anybody’s diary will always reflect a common reality, a glimpse into the times of everyone alive at this moment.
I’ve succeeded in writing every day, and the written diary has momentarily eclipsed my blog.  Life has been wonderfully interesting for me these last few months.  I have performed 5 concerti and several recitals that included the Berio Sequenza XII and I am preparing to premiere two more concerti that have been written for me and give two new recitals with friends. I have given four masterclasses to inspiring students at universities beyond my own borders and the new year holds 3 more concerto premieres and more regular concerti and a recital tour with Guy and more masterclasses.  I have been intensely involved in negotiating life with my roster of a dozen wonderful students in Toronto, with great support, intelligence and comprehension from the administrators at the University of Toronto and still optimistically working  for the same from the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music (learning experiences all!)… enjoying the students tremendously (even when I am yelling pieces of wisdom such as …. Be…. MUSICAL!!!)  along with spending some time with my old rockstar father up north.
I was thinking that if reincarnation were a reality, then I wish to return as a bassoonist; if heaven is a reality, I will to be a golden cherub playing the bassoon; if a genie comes out of a bottle with an offer of 3 wishes, I respectfully request:   1.  to be a bassoonist  2.   the courage and the chops to play really well in any and all styles of music and 3.  to always help my family, both immediate and musical.

Glorious Youth in Our Company, Part II – Nico Comes to Toronto

In September 2011, Guy and I had the privilege of flying to Prince Edward Island for a showcase.  This has led to a mini-tour being booked for 2013 with 3 concerts in  PEI and Nova Scotia.
For me, the trip was unforgettable because I LOVE to travel and play, LOVE to do these things with my sensual, crazy, fun (so musical)  Guy Few and LOVE it when this leads to more tours.  On a personal level, it was utterly unforgettable because I met many young musicians but in particular, a fourteen-year-old boy who had just started the bassoon and was mad keen enough to convince his mother to drive from Frederickton, New Brunswick to meet me.
As you can see from the comments in this article, many people helped make this possible (see article), but above all, it was Nico’s clarity about wanting to know more about the bassoon and his remarkable poise, gentle confidence and clear devotion to an art that was only a whiff in the air at this stage of his career.
The conference was far busier than I had thought it would be and we had only a little time to talk and no time for the lesson I had promised to Nico.  The organizers were kind enough to admit Nico and his Mom to our private showcase and I gave him our newly-released After Hours CD.  Nico and I corresponded throughout the year and in the spring, Nico told me that he had saved $400 towards reed tools.
He has been frustrated by the fact that he cannot practise after 11:00 p.m. in his apartment building (a boy after my own heart) and thought that he could use that time to make reeds if he knew how.  I agreed, but rather than try to teach him how to make reeds over email, I suggested that he buy a plane ticket with his savings and we would start reed lessons.  
That is exactly what he did, and he arrived in Toronto at 7 a.m. on August 16 and I picked him up for a whirlwind 2.5 days of reed-making, music-listening, bassoon-trying and meeting another gifted student (Robert Lu) and several professionals (Michael Sweeney, Sam Banks, Shane Wieler, Gary Armstrong, Ziming Wan, Camille Watts, Gillian Mackay, Jeff Reyolds, to drop just a few names).  Nico spent considerable time poring over the heaps of music that I had on loan from the University of Toronto library and helped me haul even more of this music.
I assembled a tool kit for him from my collection of less-used knives, files etc and also gave him one of my father’s beautiful, rare white oak easels.  I know that this boy will appreciate everything and use it to the best of his ability.  I know that he will repay any generosity that I may have shown in how he treats his students in the future.
In a way, this was the first concrete act of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists, my very fledgling charitable organization that is devoted to helping young players gain the tools to become performers and to have the vision to see beyond the pre-set limits of our instrument.  Nico is the perfect candidate… when we spent time listening to recordings, he would deliver concise and accurate assessments of the players and music.  Always appreciative of the skills and efforts of others, he equally had no hesitation whatsoever in identifying generic, one-dimensional playing or writing.  I enjoyed his insights so much and he also led me to some performances and pieces that I knew nothing about.  
I decided to show Nico EVERYTHING about my methods of freehand shaping, profiling and reed-making.  He did the freehand work with the very sharp xacto knife under my eagle-eyed stare and produced a very respectable shape.  We continued with the profiling the next day as we had appointments to try Fox bassoons and meet with Michael Sweeney about Vivaldi Concerti (more on that later).  Though Nico learned very quickly, I had only enough time to show him the freehand shaping, profiling and blank-making.  He observed me performing all of these steps and he also did these things.  I showed him how to wrap and encouraged him to practise on all of his pencils!  The next step will be trimming and finishing the reed which I hope we can do in the coming months, or at the very latest when I am on tour in the Maritimes in 2013.
I feel that my mission in life is to perform, yet the opportunity to teach gifted, devoted young players seems to be inextricably connected to this ambition.  
Thank you, Nico, for giving me your time and your incredibly valuable enthusiasm that has reminded me of every good reason for continuing in this art form.

I love my job Part 2

I love my job
Still revelling in the memories of my first-ever trip to the Oregon Bach Festival… still remembering the people, the vivid landscapes, the musical richness of the experience.  I will never forget the electric surge that came from the 400 musicians and patrons who attended our recital on July 3 in Beall Hall and flooded to talk to us at the intermission and after the concert.  Or the brilliant crabby man who stayed to the end to share his thoughts about the repertoire and our outfits.  It was all incredible.

Our suitcases lingered for an extra 30 hours in the western paradise of Oregon/California and were delivered to our Toronto house today, along with all of Guy’s trumpets, my reed tools and scores and gowns and the copies of the final edit of my new Vivaldi concerto disc that were all in my suitcase (not the trumpets).

Our first day home was spent contacting the composers and conductor and engineer for the recording project next week… everything is coming together though because it is new music, and some things are going to be ready quite close to the sessions!  And the artist Scott McKowen started the cover art for the Vivaldi disc… his particular style of scratchboard will make a beautiful cover…. you can get an idea by looking at the illustrations in his recent book, A Fine Line.  And contacting my next composer for a bassoon concerto to be performed and recorded in November 2013… will announce once everything is really truly in place.

Tomorrow, I get to play in my third large choral/orchestral work of the summer (Elijah with the Elora Festival).  Then practise like a crazy lady on the new Michael Occhipinti double concerto, Ballo and Mathieu Lussier’s,  Le Dernier Chant d’Ophélie and Glenn Buhr’s  and man will only grieve.

After the recordings, we are giving a lecture/mini-recital and mini-masterclass for the National Academy Orchestra in Hamilton.

Then I am going to take my Dad shopping… he wants to trade his little Ford ranger for a sports car!



After driving back to Toronto last night after the recital, I hit the hay by 2 a.m., up at 7 to get myself to the TSO rehearsal.  Edwin Outwater put the show together very efficiently, making some demands on the orchestra but not getting bogged down in overly-ambitious refinements.  The orchestra is a gleaming beast, quite beautiful in a variety of poses, and one can imagine the potential for athletic alacrity combined with the rich sounds in all the sections.

I came home and slept like a stone, getting up in time to get ready for the early evening concert… something about being part of a large group has always exhausted me.  By contrast, I always feel energized by the recitals despite the greater physical demands.  I have always said that my greatest challenge in orchestral playing lies in the fact that we are sitting for hours.
Another show tomorrow, then off to Berkeley, California to edit my Vivaldi Concerti.

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!

I had two free days

I had two free days… enough time to cook and catch up and to work on reeds.  The meals were good but I am constantly experimenting with reeds, with the result that I now have more ideas but not yet a comforting supply of reeds!  Doing everything freehand (well, except gouging) is very interesting yet the knowledge grows more slowly than my need for reeds!

Getting ready to have a student concert at Christ Church Deer Park during spring break.   This concert was planned almost a year ago for our Double Reed class, yet the reality of spring break has reduced our numbers.  We will present a one-of-a-kind programme with 2 oboists, 4 bassoonists and a pianist on Thursday, February 23 with music ranging from Dresden-school baroque (Fasch) to pattern-music modern (Black by Marc Mellits.  The enthusiastic double reed players include students from U of T and the Glenn Gould School and a fine young visiting bassoonist from Taiwan.   All are willing to do something different on spring break and meet in my living room for the rehearsals!

On the same day as our double reed concert, Guy and I will have our first rehearsal with a new community orchestra.  We will be playing some of our favourite concerti with the Rose Orchestra in Brampton on March 10,  and this week we will read through the Lachner Concertino for corno and bassoon along with the Hummel trumpet concerto and Weber’s Andante & Rondo for bassoon.

And next week will be a marathon of judging for the woodwind division of the Kiwanis Competition… I will be hearing hundreds (it seems) of young woodwind players and during the week of eight hour days, there will be one lone bassoonist!

I spent part of today filing the recital programmes for our duo (Guy + Nadina) in the archives… the cat (Diva) promptly got involved, rolling on the glossy programme covers, sitting on the newspaper clippings and licking (yes, licking) the snapshots.  Freaky little brat.

For the first time, I am getting lots of video from our concerts… here is a snippet of Paganini from a friendly “fan cam”.

Time to pitch headfirst into bed, then back to the reed table at dawn.