Sunday, December 1, 2013

Life in Music: the company we keep (colleagues)

I am grateful and amazed to the point of being stunned.  Stunned in the sense of standing motionless, jaw slightly agape, mind racing, body frozen.  No actual injury; quite the contrary.

This month, I have played with some new people and have felt new fires rising... rehearsing this week with the violist David Rose for our recital on December 9.... all who know David know what a supremely gentle and intelligent soul he is.  Those who have played with him know how skilled he is.  And what fire and strength lies in this refined and thoughtful person!  To play with him, I feel how amazingly quickly he learns... each repeat of our fiendishly challenging new work by Gernot Wolfgang is better... if I fumble and stumble, David is momentarily confused by my opacity but never loses his pulse.  Each great player that I work with has some distinct trait beyond the universal markers of beautiful tone, tuning and sensitivity.  Sometimes it is hard to name because I am experiencing these traits for the first time.  But it is amazing to experience.

In October, I got to improvise with the folk guitarist Valdy.  We had just finished eating Jamaican curried goat for breakfast and were waiting for other musicians to arrive for a classical rehearsal at my house.  Valdy looked at me with those impossibly blue eyes and asked, "Do you improvise?"  To which I replied, "Not publicly"  For me, it is right up there with dancing, which I do by myself in my house.  He kept looking at me.  "I've talked about it for decades and I really want to."  "Get out your axe," said Valdy (he probably said "bassoon" but he is super cool and I remember it as "axe")  So I whipped out my horn and a responsive reed, and jumped in.  He asked if G were a good key, which it truly is, allowing me to play my favourite high notes and still be in an open key.  So I played and he supported and I had the sensation of improvising.  I know that he was supporting me 101%, finding logic in my gestures, providing harmony on the spot.  Then he changed styles and I stiffly followed, slowly gaining confidence.  It was wonderful!  And I know more than ever that I want to do this, to both support and lead, and that I will need to do more.

Earlier in the fall, I joined Valdy at an event... he did a scheduled encore and brought me on stage with him.  The night before, he wrote out some lovely harmonies for Quand au Soliel, and we played together.  What a beautiful musician, one who connects and surfs on the harmonies.

I will tell you later about playing with bassoonists Lee Goodhew Romm and Laura Koepke... the generosity, eagerness and groove of these two colleagues.  And I will tell you about soloing with group of twenty-seven and Orchestra London and the joy of playing on stage beside extraordinary conductors (Eric Paetkau and Alain Trudel), in front of orchestras that are giving everything their all to allow the new music to live.  And of working with composers who are searching for solutions while stretching the voice of the bassoon.  The incredible generosity of all these musicians.

I have to go practise now.

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