Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I want to be a musician when I grow up

This is a great week... I love doing different concerts in different locations and this week, I have the fun of traveling to a new venue for a recital and playing/recording with different groups right in Toronto.

On the weekend, it was the B Minor Mass on historical instruments... no matter how many times I play this piece on the baroque bassoon, it always seems too hard!  My super positive colleague, Heather Carruthers, was a joy to play with, and at every rehearsal, she would say, "Those F#'s are really good! Oh, and the low C#'s too!"  Then we would practise with a tuner.  And when I said, "Do you wanna play duets before the rehearsal?", the words were barely out of my mouth before she had the music propped up against a library shelf in the church were we were rehearsing.  It is so wonderful to play with experienced musicians who are not the least bit jaded.  Heather has the enthusiasm of a young, idealistic person yet she is one of the finest pro baroque bassoonists around and very close to my age... this is really great.  And it makes me want to try a bit harder to be a better baroque bassoonist.

Also on the weekend, rehearsals continued for the new music of David Occhipinti, another of the supremely talented Occhipinti clan.  David wrote a sixteen new works for chamber groups that included string quartet with guitar, a larger group with string quartet, bass, percussion, clarinet, bassoon and guitar (some with voice) and a trio for guitar, bass and percussion.  His music is lyric but not predictable, atmospheric but strong.  The songs are all based on James Joyce poetry and were sung by the lovely Robin Dann.  David wrote all the music, played all the solos, rehearsed and conducted discreetly and purposefully from his chair (surrounded by amps, cables, pedals, piles of music), produced the sessions (playing often with headset so he could hear the whole mix).  He had written all the grant applications to get money to do this project and spoke charmingly from the stage.  He is a virtuoso player yet able to juggle all the personalities and abilities of the chamber group... he even made sure that we had snacks at the rehearsals and to me (who has run many snackless recording sessions and projects) this was the crowning achievement.  We worked hard, and the both the concert and recording went well, and make me resolve to be a better bassoonist and to get a much better grasp of the steady, connected rock-n-roll style of the incredible improvisors in this group (Andrew Downing, Bev Johnston and David Occhipinti).  Playing with great players makes me feel my own flaws more keenly yet I always have a clearer idea of what I need to do to become a better performer.

After our final 4 hour recording session today at Glenn Gould Studio (CBC), I walked over to Roy Thomson hall to pick up my music for the next couple of weeks... I will be playing second bassoon! OMG This always takes me back to the early days of my career when I played second bassoon for a decade with the Montreal Symphony... I find it to be much more challenging than any other kind of playing, yet for that reason, it is always fun to revisit the experience once in awhile. When I stopped in the library, my friend Gary Corin was there and reminded me of the cartoon I had made for him over ten years ago... I was very pleased to revisit it!  Still makes me cackle.

Then I whipped home to meet with one of my students who is borrowing my Wolf baroque bassoon for 
the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute in June... he is taking the instrument home with him to Saskatchewan to practise for the next three weeks and I needed to make sure he has reeds and a fingering chart.  Then I got an email saying that my son's return flight from Sweden was arriving early, so I shot out to the airport, then waited 2 hours with other parents-pretending-not-to-be-desperate-for-the-sight-of-their-child for him to clear customs... so happy to see him after his 10 day choir tour!  He loved Sweden and the whole experience.  Then I drove him home, then took my student to the train station with his mountains of end-of-term luggage plus two bassoons, then returned home to practise.  Guy and I have a recital this week, and to make sure that I am in good shape (stamina-wise), I have a few tests... one of my favourites is to play the complete Telemann Fantasias.  If I want to be in crazy good shape, I play them twice, but it is getting late at night so just once today!  And it is amazing to play this music again... always challenging, always enticing me back to try again...

I really really want to keep being a musician, even when I grow up!

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