Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Amazing Messy Life

I feel like a mythical, improbable creature, leaping from meteor to meteor, solid ground under my feet but somehow the universe always flying past more quickly than I can perceive.  No super powers that I know of yet nonetheless surreal.

New experiences keep rushing up to meet me and I embrace all of them with terror and happiness.

I have just finished my second day of adjudicating the Kiwanis Festival of Greater Toronto.  I have heard some very moving performances from wind players ranging in ages of 11 - 21.  I am surrounded by pure-hearted people putting themselves to the test and it is incredible.  Today I heard 20 flute soloists, 2 brass ensembles and two woodwind duos... yesterday I heard 31 woodwind soloists (flute, saxophone, clarinet and one each of bassoon and oboe).   The week will continue with woodwinds and brass and it is amazing. I have to be up at 5 a.m. and I get home late.  The competition finishes by 5 p.m. most nights, then I go on to hear university auditions, teach/coach or pick up my son from choir.  I practise late at night and get up early to arrive at the Festival venue (a resonant church) in time to play for awhile before the competition begins.  This continues all week.  Sometimes the kids and parents talk to me afterwards and I always learn something that I did not know before.

This weekend, my students start their spring recitals and next week, Guy and I will be playing concerti with the new Rose Orchestra.

Then I will also be revising the Bassoon Syllabus for the Royal Conservatory of Music and plan on reading through reams of repertoire and creating an outline for the revisions.  And I will be preparing orchestra auditions... somehow I think it would be fun to try to fit a symphony schedule around my touring/teaching/recording schedule.

My elderly Mom is in the hospital tonight with complications from her cancer and at the same time, my elderly Dad has had good news about his cancer... I worry about them all the time but they tell me not to.  Life is fascinating and I always feels 25 jumps behind.  Yet I am completely grateful.  Four times this week, when I return late at night, I have a note from to of the very young bassoonists I have met on my travels across Canada doing recitals with Guy.  It is better than dessert to read their fresh joyful commitment... it reminds me of being young again and I wish I could pass on every last good thing that I know so that they can not waste one drop of their valuable time.

 OK, I have to wash my face and make a reed now.


Monday, February 20, 2012

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.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rescued by the House Technician for River Run Theatre at our first show in 2010

Rescued by the House Technician for River Run Theatre

This is an entry that I made on my website two years ago... when Guy and I arrived at River Run Theatre last night for our recital,
Chris happened to be at the back door, waiting for the rock band that was playing in the big theatre... I jumped straight back into his arms.  Thank goodness for the behind-the-scenes people like Chris Stoekle who are the ones who really make the show go on!  And thanks to Susan, our ever-alert security guard, who created this superhero blazon, complete with tape on the back; "BS" stands for Bassoon Saviour!  We were able to present this to Chris at intermission.  More photos to come, but for now, at least one of the art work!
OK, even though I am 51 years old, I am still learning some very important lessons, and in some cases,
re-learning them.

Fifteen minutes before our opening concert for Linemar Performing Arts, I was swabbing out my wing joint, thinking calmly about the show, the music, my planned makeup adjustments, when I felt a slight tug on my swab.  Ignoring the warning thought that flashed through the back of my mind, I pulled firmly on the silk swab and it jammed.  Then I did what I tell all of my students NOT to do, and pulled really really hard...

The swab firmly lodged in the top section of my wing joint and visions of missing this concert began to flash alarmingly in my mind's eye.

I flew to the dressing room and called Frank Marcus, a repairman of such skill that I was sure he could reach through the phone and fix my bassoon.  He said there was absolutely nothing I could do unless there was a gun repair shop nearby that might have the right tools.  I said that I had to go on stage in 12 minutes.  He said it was hopeless, then he said I had nothing to lose by trying to pull it out since we were in a definite musical emergency.

This is when the incredibly calm and physically powerful house technician, Chris Stoeckle, stepped in.  He braced himself, carefully wrapped the chain end of the swab around his muscular hands --- meanwhile, I settled my sequined self on the floor, braced my over-the-knee black leather boots against the wall and held on for dear life.  Chris pulled, then stopped to say that he could feel the silk tearing.  I consulted with Frank via iPhone that was lying on the floor, and he said to keep going.  Chris regrouped, I rebraced and with one firm pull, the swab leapt out, sending Chris backwards and me leaping to my feet.  

I felt such a surge of relief and gratitude and there was much whooping and hugging.   Guy looked at me and smiled, having calmly continued with his own warm up and preparation during those 10 minutes of bassoon panic.   I did have a cut in my hand from the pointy key braces, but again, the unflappable Chris fashioned a bandage and made me laugh.   Then I fixed my make-up, put the bassoon together (in that order) and played the concert.  I have learned my lesson and I will never ever forget Chris Stoeckle.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Do It Again

Our February 11 concert will be my tenth recital of 2012.  Three different programmes, including kids' concerts and show with strings, but most of the concerts are the new "Travel Book" recital.  The music has become only more interesting with the repeat experiences.  Except that not one of the experiences is remotely similar aside from the repertoire... every piano is different, every hall, every audience, every city.  Well, we got to do double recitals in Whitehorse and Saskatoon, but still, something is different every time (the time and the people if nothing else!).    The music always has new depths to plumb and we are so lucky to have different opportunities to play and hear it.

Guy got his corno da caccia fixed.  It had a big fall in the Calgary airport on the January tour (the door of the check-in kiosk popped open and knocked his cargo case on top of the corno in it's soft case).  Anyway, the dents were all fixed and the valves aligned, and it is SOOOO easy to play with him now!  I had no idea that it was hard before, but now the tuning is beyond effortless, as easy as thought.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tour Day 17 - Masterclasses and Travel back to Winnipeg/Toronto

January 30, 2012 - Two Masterclasses and Travel Home
Up early the next day for two masterclasses... Guy had 5 trumpeters in the concert hall and I had 9 woodwind players in a lecture room (3 flutes, 3 clarinets, one oboe and two high school bassoonists) plus several people auditing... the 2.5 hours flew by and we said good-bye to our lovely new friends and hit the road, stopping only to visit the local Starbucks before driving 2 hours in non-threatening freezing rain to the Winnipeg airport.  We dropped off the car and still had an hour to spare, so we went to the very nice Stella cafe for an hour.  All the flights were delayed anyway because of a big snowstorm in Toronto.  Guy was bouncing off the walls... normally the calmest of travelers, he was crazy happy and cheerful, striking up conversations with people both within and far beyond speaking distance.   He did not sleep a wink on the 2 hour flight, then jumped out of the truck when we got home and (almost) singlehandedly cleared our sloping driveway of all snow.  He finally admitted fatigue at 2 a.m..

The best tour ever (and we’ve done loads).  This is what I want to do when I grow up.  A beautiful life.

Tour Summary

Things I Loved About This Tour
1.  Playing solo concerts every other night
2.  Hanging out with Guy Few for 2 solid weeks
3.  Playing on television (well, it is the same as playing a concert, but we know we’ll get to hear it again)
4.  Canada, Ice and Snow!
5.  Meeting young musicians and colleagues and new friends
6.  White stretch limo in Regina
7.  Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina
8.  Spaetzle in Regina
9.  Making reeds in Allan Few’s spot at the table
10. Bassoonists ranging in age from 12 to 82
11. Foxes in the parking lot in Whitehorse
12. Jack rabbit in Brandon parking lot
13.  Seeing my Dad’s studio and picnic table in Pender Island... seeing my Mom’s former home again...
14.  Having countless fantastic meals including breakfast a Hummingbird Hollow
15.  Playing with different pianos
16.  Staying with Helen and Allan Few
17.  Lorne Watson Hall in Brandon (beautiful to look and magically sonorous)
18.  Bailey Theatre in Trail (old and somehow grand)

Here are the things that GF loved about this tour....
1.  people
2.  children
3.  animals
4.  visiting  friends
5.  children’s show and the gift of the photographs from Bruce Barrett
6.  George Zukerman making the long journey to see us
7.  hummingbird in Pender Island
8.  all the stuff we ate
9.  the fawn touched GF’s hand with his nose
10. that NMJ’s skirt finally fell off at the last concert
11. advance birthday present from NMJ - spirit bear pendant from Yukon
12. photos in front of statues in Vancouver
Things I Wish I Had Done Differently
1.  I wish I could have thanked my manager at every concert (it isn’t cool to do that, but I wanted to)
2.  I wish I had thanked the Canada Council at the Saskatoon/Amati concert (Thank You Canada Council for making this tour possible we love you) 
3.  I wish I had not faltered over some of the names of the concert societies
4.  I wish I hadn’t interrupted the TV interviewer in Saskatoon (still talking too fast even tho I’m on decaf)
5.  I wish I had made more blanks (reeds) before I left instead of during tour
6.  I wish I had sharpened my !@#$# reed knives tho thank goodness for my magical Jende knife
7.  I wish I had made notes about the numbers of seats in the venues... now have to search internet/call
8.  I wish I had gotten the names of EVERYONE who helped us (CD sellers, security guards, stage managers, technical crews, volunteers, students) so that I could really say THANK YOU to them

Tour - Day 16 & 17 - Drive to Brandon from Saskatoon - Final Concert of Tour - Skirt falls off in Boismortier

January 29, 2012   - Drive to Brandon from Saskatoon - Final Concert of Tour - Skirt falls off in Boismortier
I got up at 6 a.m. to shower and finalize my packing.  Allan Few and I were driving to the Saskatoon airport to return the rental car and get back in time for breakfast.  Guy got up at 7 to help Helen make and present breakfast.  Our guests arrived on the stroke of 8:30.

The executive director of Prairie Debut and a real powerhouse of generosity and forethought, Lynne Bailey insisted on driving us to Brandon (a 6 hour journey) because she wanted to save us the strain of steady driving through drifting snow before the concert.  She shared the driving with her husband and we made a couple of gas stops. We checked into our motel/hotel... definitely sobering after 4 days in a loving family home!  Lynne stood by until she was sure that we were check in to our rooms, then left to do some business until dinner time. I had half an hour to make a reed... not quite enough time but I started even though I knew I couldn’t finish.  Guy was more sensible and flung himself on the bed with the clicker in his finely groomed hand.  Then we met Lynne for dinner, and then gathered our gear and went to the hall... I lay down for 15 minutes because the ground was moving under my feet.

The Lorne Watson Hall was tiny but also very resonant and flattering.  We were met by the ebullient dean and concert pianist, Michael Kim who showed us everything and introduced us to the student stage manager, Melissa.
This was the first concert of the tour where we spoke without microphones.  There were many faculty members in the audience (Cathy Wood, clarinet Joel Brennan, trumpet, Alexandre Tselyakov, piano) and loads of students.  I asked the usual questions of the audience: how many trumpeters (at least 14) and how many bassoonists (1!!)  We launched into our program, and during the second movement of the Sonata No 1 in e minor (Opus 50) by Boismortier, I felt an unaccustomed coolness on my rear end... my skirt had been hanging loosely since the beginning of the tour and in the early days, Guy had insisted on pinning it to the corset.  He was sure it was going to fall off and I said it wouldn’t, but tonight, on the last concert of the tour, it decided to prove him right!  I reassured the audience that I was wearing pants so it wouldn’t have been the end of innocence had the skirt abandoned me completely.  But it didn’t.  At the end of the second movement, Guy jumped up and smoothly zipped me back together, crowing all the while about the accuracy of his prediction.  The audience laughed a lot.
As in all of our concerts, we went out at intermission and talked with many students and their parents.  There were two young fellows there with their Dad... Davis (who plays trumpet and piano and something else) and Keiran, who was the lovely 12 year old bassoonist who ended up playing in my masterclass the next day.  I was interviewed by a young woman for the school newspaper and we talked to as many people as we could before playing the second half.  Afterwards, Michael drove us back to our hotel with a pile of sandwiches and we crashed into bed.

Tour Day 15 - Two Concerts with Amati Quartet - Filmed for Sasktel 48

 January 28, 2012 - Two Concerts with Amati Quartet - Filmed for Sasktel Max
Up early for a fantastic breakfast then getting ready for the first Amati concert.
We arrived early and had time to set up on stage while the sound and camera guys were checking their positions.  Sheila was setting up the speaking mikes and soundboard and she loaned me her Swiss Army knife to shorten my reed.  We had time to get dressed... I always need GF to tighten my corset.  After the first two shows of the tour, he has learned to ask me if I can breathe since at the shows in Regina and Brooks, he had to loosen my stays on stage.
The shows always pass in a blur for me... the stories ignite and the music takes on new shapes... some things were better in the evening... a thrill to play two shows in the same day.  It was our first time out with two new arrangements of Flight of the Bumblebee (trumpet & bassoon) and Oblivion (corno & bassoon)... we also did the Shostakovitch Dances in their original arrangement (trumpet & bassoon with strings) which was weird for Guy since he is more used to playing trumpet and piano at the same time.The cameras rehearsed during the afternoon then rolled in the evening.  Both concerts were full of enthusiastic people, including many young people...great to see young people, maybe because they remind me of my son, or my own early pure-hearted self.  One of the high school students is a bari sax player named Daniel (he signs his name "Big D" which is lovely) and he has converted to the bassoon after the concert!  His band teacher is torn between delight and panic but I am flat out thrilled.  And I love to see older people... I am always so grateful that people give us their time.  Marla and Geoff (first violin and viola) brought their children (Miles and Carmen) to help with handing out programs.  Miles showed Guy a new game for his iPhone (Cut the Rope) and the dressing room was filled with Guy’s play-by-play sounds as he valiantly tried to master the game int he 10 minutes before showtime.

We had two trumpeters volunteer to sell CDs for us... Adam came to the first show and Mitch arrived in a splendid suit for the evening event.  Here is Adam and Guy... I wish I had a photo of Mitch!

Home late after the last show, we put on our pyjamas and ate leftovers on beautiful china in the cozy kitchen...  Helen and Guy planned the large breakfast that was being presented tomorrow morning to Lynne and Doug Bailey who were going to drive us to Brandon.  We were in bed by 2 a.m.

Tour - Day 14 - Masterclasses at University of Saskatchewan and second rehearsal with Amati Quartet

January 27, 2012 - Masterclasses and Rehealsal
We were up for morning masterclasses at the University of Saskatchewan.  We were met at the school by  Dean McNeill, a well-known trumpeter and prof at the University.  He welcomed us and got us set up in our separate rooms. 

Guy had several brass players and I had a group of bassoonists, including Kayla Nicole McKenzie who played the first movement of the Hurlstone sonata.  She had a lovely sound and was very brave about trying any idea that I suggested.  The bassoon section of the Saskatoon Symphony was present, Stephanie Unverricht and Marie Sellar (also Kayla’s teacher) along with two other students (Ian and Zack).  I also was honoured that Marla Cole sat in on my class and the saxophone teacher, Troy Linsley.  After Kayla played, we then played two quartets (with 5 bassoonists) that Stephanie had arranged, and then we took pictures.  It felt like a big group... Like dog years, I always feel that one bassoonist is the equivalent of seven more common instrumentalists.

We then went to lunch with Marla at Il Secondo and then visited GF’s favourite eyeglass store (Optika) which is the home of a beautiful boxer dog named Furnace.   

Then it was time for dinner and the evening rehearsal with Amati.  When we got home, Guy finished off the macaroni and cheese that had been made for supper and I messed with reeds again.

Tour - Day 14 - CTV interview - first rehearsal with Amati Quartet

 January 26, 2012 Interview on CTV, Saskatoon - visit to Mendel Gallery with Margaret Cugnet  - Rehearsal with Amati Quartet at Convocation Hall, University of Saskatchewan
Up early for another beautiful meal, this time breakfast - carefully made oatmeal, fruit, cheeses, delicate tiny cheese biscuits, muffins and “breakfast biscotti” along with orange juice and capuccino.

Then we headed downtown for our noon interview on Saskatoon CTV.  We were met by the leader of the Amati Quartet, Marla Cole.  I was glad to meet her after our many email exchanges and she briefed us on concertAlso on the interview were actors from Persephone Theatre’s new production, 39 Steps (James and Jeff?) along with their publicist, Cat.  They were a bit bleary-eyed since the opening preview had been the previous night and they were up until the wee hours.  But the good news was that the run had already been extended.
We were greeted by CTV’s host, Jeff Rogstad who took us on set.  We plopped into leather chairs and waited for him to finish news and weather.  I really hoped that my new Yeti boots would make it into the television picture... I plotted how to strategically raise my leg at the right moment ...  Jeff sat down to interview us, starting with one of our YouTube clips that Larry Kryski had made for us in the fall of our performance of the Shostakovich Fast Dance at University of Waterloo.  The questions came and went very quickly --- what kind of music, why is my hair blue and then it was over and we popped out into the bright prairie day.
We drove through the riverside streets, the sun striking the beautiful bridges.  Margaret Cugnet was waiting for us at the Mendel Gallery for lunch --- she runs the  Yorkton Concert Association and she had made the journey to hear us in Regina at the start of the tour.  She was also planning to hear our concert with the Amati Quartet.  Margaret was genuinely interested in hearing about our tour and had also brought along programmes from the start of Guy’s career. 

It has been very fortifying to meet people who are so supportive.  Marla had to leave early as she had a student waiting but we planned to meet for lunch the next day.  After lunch we toured the gallery and got to see the artist installing the next show Kai Chan:  a spider’s logic.
First rehearsals with Amati Quartet--- amazing to see the instruments up close and in particular the painting on the back of viola.  

Guy’s bashed-up corno was still playing well... my reeds continued to make the adjustments from the previous days in the mountains.  We read through all of our works, just taking the time to go through everything --- the new arrangements of Flight of the Bumble Bee (trumpet & bassoon), Oblivion (corno & bassoon) then reading through the Bacchanale, Lachner Concertino, Bassango (I forgot my music but managed to remember it), Trumpet in the Night and the two Shostakovich dances.  After we finished the reading, the quartet continued rehearsing their Piazzola piece (Tango Ballet), the lovely Schnittke Polka, Arvo Pärt’s Summa and a very cool Shostakovich.  Guy and I went home and found cookies waiting for us on the table, along with the big spread that was in the newspaper about our concert and a sweet note from Guy’s mother... the best tour stop ever.