Today, I subbed as second bassoon in the Toronto Symphony for a program that features music by John Adams, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland and Joan Tower.  The orchestra sounds very sleek.  Edwin Outwater was conducting, replacing on short notice Joan Carniero.

I had a great time getting to know Sam Banks, the current second bassoonist who is playing principal this week… he has a most beguiling legato ability and a beautiful tone that connects so well with other instruments in the orchestra.

I had a great time seeing many old friends and noticing many changes in the personnel.  As one of my friends said, it was a time warp… so much has changed yet it feels so familiar to return to the territory that launched my career.  I spent a decade as an orchestral bassoonist, mostly playing second in the Montreal Symphony, then on to playing principal in the Canadian Opera Company for a season, then free lancing for awhile before going full out on my solo career.

I enjoyed today, but was tense going into the rehearsal.  I was up at 5:00 a.m. to make a ‘second bassoon reed’ and to feel prepared.  I always prefer new reeds for anything because I find the intonation and response more stable (if the reed is fully finished)… this is not always possible when time is short! And I hadn’t played the rep for a long time, so I wasn’t sure if I had forgotten any soft sections (soft low playing is my nemesis).  But everything went smoothly.  I came home and had a nap, oddly exhausted with relief.  I like the challenge of being a fish out of water… I think that different experiences have the potential to refine my skills if I keep rising to the difficulties.

Tonight I rehearsed with Guy for our full recital tomorrow in at the Gravenhurst Opera House in for the Muskoka Concert Association… will make another reed tomorrow morning before we load the truck with dresses, trumpets, corno da caccia, CDs and whatever else we need for the evening show.  A two hour drive from Toronto, we will have a soundcheck at the hall before the show, dinner with the hosts and drive back in the night so that I can be ready for a 10 a.m. rehearsal with the Symphony.  I really look forward to the new version of our programme… we have added an operatic aria from the Italian composer Savario Mercadante and a delicious small piece by the cornetist and French composer of American rags, Julien Porret.  We are also adding the Tansman Sonatine (replacing the Schreck) and playing other works by Corrette, Boismortier, Piazzolla, Glenn Buhr, Shostakovitch and St-Saens.

Life is always interesting.  I am constantly trying to figure out how to grasp just enough time to fulfill my musical goals on the fly, always trying to align my preparation with the challenges that I crave.  I know that we can bank a certain number of abilities and experiences, yet the craft has to be refined at every stage… there is no coasting.