Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tour - Day 10, 11 & 12 - Vancouver - Castlegar - Trail, B. C. - Calgary - Saskatoon

January 22, 2012 - travel from Whitehorse to Vancouver - dinner at Aphrodite Organic Cafe
So much of touring is about planning, traveling and eating and sometimes sleeping... the music-making, masterclasses and time with wonderful people are the rewards!

We flew into Vancouver from beautiful Whitehorse and jumped into our rental car, a surprisingly zippy Volvo S40.  It was a struggle to load the trumpet cargo case, our suitcases, the CD suitcase, the corno, the bassoon and bags, but we found a way to puzzle it all into place.
Warm-feeling rain of the coast replaced the crystal-crisp air of the Yukon and we stripped off our parkas.  
I told Guy that we were driving straight to the pie shop on Fourth Ave in Kitsilano that was closed when we drove by it on our 2009 tour.  We found it easily and discovered that it has evolved into a granola-style gourmet restaurant.  GF had the chicken breast with all kinds of organic seasonal vegetables and I had the best lamb-stew-with-rosemary-dumplings of my life.  There were vegetables that I had never tried before, including watermelon turnip and baby parsnips and alien baby cauliflowers along with things I knew such as red cabbage and zucchini... it was beautiful to look at.  We had lovely salad with beets and carrots and roasted sunflower seeds and lentil soup with carmelized leeks and chocolate banana cream pie and many cappucinos.  We also texted and emailed non-stop, recovering from our media-fast during the two day trip to Whitehorse (no Rogers reception).

Then we headed into the night to find our hotel and managed to find it without resorting to maps, gps or argument.  The Sylvia Hotel is one of downtown Vancouver’s oldest heritage buildings and it is beautifully sited on the edge of English Bay.  The vintage rooms and photos always make me happy.  There was a lovely old lady beagle checking into the hotel at the same time we were, along with a group of kids on a ski trip... it is always an interesting mix of people in the old-timey lobby.

Our room was right next to the elevators, but as we were both achingly tired from the previous day’s concerts, we slept soundly despite the rumblings.  I wanted to make reeds but it just didn't happen.  
January 23, 2012 - breakfast with Michael Jarvis & Carolyn Jack, travel to Castlegar/Trail
Morning was warm and misty - we sprinted out to buy supplies before a wonderful breakfast meeting with harpsichordist Michael Jarvis and Carolyn Jack (communications manager for the Vancouver Art Gallery).  We went to the Bulgarian cafe Acacia  where I abandoned all restraint and had the ground beef, cabbage, absolutely savoury-delicious  banitza (fillo).  We had a quick visit and I was inspired by hearing about Michael’s restoration projects of nineteenth century pianos... I hope we can do a recital some time with my two 19th century bassoons!  We said good-bye and loaded for the airport, returning the car and heading for the little prop plane that was taking us to Castlegar.
The flight was easy over astonishingly beautiful mountains feathered with deep show... I took lots of incomprehensible photos out of the scratched window despite the fact that we were sitting right under the right-hand prop support/wing.  Amazing to me that I can see the individual propellers in the photo but only a blur in real life.... 

Guy pulled his hat down and slept hard for the time that we were in the air.

We rented a Ford Flex and by now, are used to all of the electronic conveniences, able to navigate the controls more quickly each time we jump into a new vehicle.  We found our hotel easily and went downtown to the first Chinese restaurant that beckoned (Double Happiness) and ate far too much delicious breaded meat dishes with thick shiny sauces.  Back to the hotel ---- our room was directly next to the exercise room, so I promptly got on the eliptical machine for one hour, hoping to counteract the Canadian-style Chinese food.  Then scratched on a reed and went to bed.  Guy was already asleep --- he was still exhausted from his flat-out performance of the children’s show in Whitehorse plus our evening concert
Our management has timed our travel days very well so that we recover from the concerts and have time to get to our next venue.  Good stories always come from difficult tours so we will just have to find our material elsewhere!

January 24, 2012 - Concert in Trail, B. C. at the Bailey Theatre
The next morning, we were up early and had a really expensive breakfast in our Sandman hotel then I headed into town to explore and leave Guy to the exercise machines.  We had a sound check at 1:00 in the really nice old Charles Bailey Theatre and met the meticulous piano tuner, Terry Helleran --- he told us more about the theatre, that it had fallen into ruin several years ago and that a large chunk of plaster fell of the ceiling during a Jon Kimura Parker recital (landing beside the sweet little Steinway).

Terry let us use the piano for a quick sound check, then returned to continue his careful work.  Guy’s left hand was still aching from his floor-pounding antics in Buzz and Crow.
I was not happy with my reeds but there was still time to make one before the show.

We packed up and went to visit the local artists’ collective Artisan then had lunch at the Caffe Americano before going back to the hotel.  There was time for me to trim a new reed for the evening concert and for Guy to have a nap... he has fine-tuned his ability to sleep under any conditions, including the scraping and testing of bassoon reeds; valuable skill in a roommate!

At 6:00, we were packing up, about to leave for the hall, when we got a call from the stage manager, Nadine.  She was worried because she had not heard if we had arrived and the airport was closed in Castlegar.  She was relieved to hear that we were on our way for the microphone check.  When we arrived at the hall, we were met by the lovely Nadine and the sound guys, Norman and Martin.  Nobody really knew who we were as there had not been any communication with the people we had been talking to earlier in the day for the rehearsals, but everything got sorted out and ran very smoothly.  We learned that Nadine Tremblay is a musical theatre director/performer/writer and we would love to see one of her shows someday!   We also chatted a lot with our very cheery security guard and I am sorry to not know her name.
The show was very warmly received and we had a chance to talk with people in the lobby of the Charles Bailey Theatre during intermission.  The weather was very snowy and we were amazed at how many people braved the elements to come to our concert.  Many people came to tell me that they had no idea that the bassoon could do so many things and people had many questions for Guy.  
January 25, 2012 - travel to Saskatoon 
The next morning, we drove back to Castlegar and I had homemade borscht and bread in the very homey airport cafe, Pie in the Sky and Guy made friends with a fancy little jet-setting dachshund named Smudge.  Our tiny airplane (Dash 800) had a really rough entry into Calgary.  Guy did not sleep during this part of the flight; he opened his sparkling green eyes and grinned.  He loves bouncy plane rides and was mildly amused by the people throwing up and squealing... I did not throw up but I was a bit clenchy.  

We switched planes in Calgary and flew peacefully into Saskatoon, which had a beautiful rosy sunset glow.  I have not been here before and loved seeing the broad bridges and the huge university grounds as Guy drove towards his parents home.
We had a fantastic dinner made by Helen and Allan Few... a feast for the eyes and a joy to the palette.

 I made two blanks in the kitchen, surrounded by pastry and comforts of home.  Tomorrow, we have an interview with CTV, lunch with friends and rehearsals with the Amati Quartet.  We will have to go to the gym at some point!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tour - Day 6, 7, 8 & 9! - Concert in Pender Island - Travel to Whitehorse - Children’s Show (Buzz and Crow) and Concert in Whitehorse - Travel to Vancouver

Jan 19, 2012 - Concert on Pender Island and visit from George Zukerman
Excited to be back on the beautiful island that was home to my parents for 17 years, I awakened early on Jan 19 and immediately began making a reed for the evening concert.  The snowstorms of the previous two days had made it impossible for the piano tuner to come and the last time the fine upright Yamaha at the school had been tuned was in October, so I wanted to be prepared in case it was quite flat (pianos never go sharp unless we are in the height of summer).
We had an amazingly savory and wonderful breakfast from Chuck and Doreen of Hummingbird Hollow - zucchini pancakes, a rich, cheddar and vegetable baked mini-omelette, fresh fruit, fresh muffins, homemade jam... incredible.  The resident herd of deer came to the front door and were looking in the window... Guy was particularly delighted when a calm little fawn touched his tiny warm nose to Guy’s hand.  There no natural predators for the deer on Pender Island, and the kind islanders feed them in winter, so they are quite trusting.
Then I kept working on the reed, making a wider, larger reed by free-hand shaping and profiling.    I managed to produce a reed that would play 10 cents flat from low B flat to treble clef F and thus felt prepared for anything.  Well, anything that involved a baroque-sounding reed playing modern music!
This gave us time to meet our lovely presenter, Jill Justice, for lunch.  We decided to go to Pender Sushi at the Driftwood Centre, but on the way, Jill pulled her car over to the side of the road.  I drew beside her in our massive SUV (a pimped out, purple-lit white Ford Navigator).  Jill called up to me, “Wouldn’t you like to see your mother’s old house?”  At first, I said no, thinking that it all might be a bit sad, and also thinking that I was really ready for lunch.  But Jill gently pressed and I agreed.  I led the way, finding the place fairly easily through the winding island roads.  And I was very glad... the main house has been rebuilt in a grand west coast style, and happily, the timber-framed studio that my father built many years ago was still in place.  I left feeling as if I had seen a dear old friend.
We went on to an excellent lunch at Pender Sushi with Guy giving Jill a lesson in chopstick handling.  Then we loaded up again into our massive truck and made a quick visit to the Community Centre to see the log picnic table with an integrated roof that my Dad had built... it too was in beautiful condition, preserved and useful, so again I felt that we still had a connection to this place.
Then we drove the the school for our 4:00 rehearsal... they were in the process of setting up the chairs in the gymnasium and moving the piano on stage.  We met many of the people who make this series happen, including Colin (a clarinetist) who was setting up the stage lights and Denny (a violinist with 25 students on the island) who was our stage manager and Larry, the treasurer!  Others were there from the committee, another example of the large numbers of volunteers needed to make concert societies live!
We rehearsed, and the piano sounded very nice... true, it was somewhat flat and a bit uneven, but manageable and the basic voice was very rich.   Guy opened the lid and took off the front panel to give some more sound... we argued a bit about where to place it since the challenge is to not have Guy’s back to the audience but still have enough of the instrument facing the room.  We then piled into the truck and scooted back to the bed and breakfast... in the dark, I chose one wrong turn in the curving network of country street options but my ancestral memory guided me back to the right path.  Guy and I have steadfastly declined GPS units in our travels and thus far have managed to blunder to the right places.
Guy changed into his concert clothes and headed out into the snow in his fine patent leather shoes.  We went back to the hall and got the CD table set up... I have been very disorganized on this tour!  Usually I have an inventory sheet prepared for each venue with an exact list of titles and numbers.  But on this tour, I have opted to bring many more of my recordings since we are playing so many pieces from the recordings.  In the scramble to leave Toronto, I managed to create a list of titles and have asked each venue to keep a simple running total of everything that we sell... it has worked so far and people have been incredibly tolerant of my system!
The audience was very warm and responsive... the music and stories pass in a blur for me but I am always grateful for the energy that comes surging back.  We always open with Flight of the Bumble bee and that gives me time to know how well I will hear the piano in the hall full of people.  Then we play the pieces with piccolo trumpet and bassoon, and then the Paganini with corno da caccia and bassoon.  This was the first time that Guy had played the corno since the accident in the Calgary airport (the automatic check-in kiosk popped open it’s front panel, causing Guy’s cargo case full of trumpets to pitch forward onto the soft-cased corno... a big ding in the curve of the body)... Guy was able to hold the tone and pitch despite an increased tendency for the corno to want to warble!  I played my regular concert reed and worked hard to keep the pitch low enough for the A=438 piano... I succeeded generally though had to give up on some of the sustained, soft low notes.  We close the first half with the Schreck sonata and it was a particularly lush feeling performance.
At intermission, I was standing behind the curtain when Guy went out to pick up the piccolo trumpet, so I couldn’t see why he suddenly let out a loud, happy cry.  When I peeked around the curtain, I saw George Zukerman standing at the edge of the stage!  I was very happy to see him, and so impressed that everyone had kept his visit as a secret so that we would be surprised!  
We had a quick talk and then visited with the audience before playing the second half.  Guy and I have learned that intermission is the best time to meet people and that we have to go directly from the stage if there is to be enough time to interact.  This means I am playing a two hour concert without swabbing the bassoon, but it has not been in problem in the very dry cold climates where we are playing (Regina, Calgary, Brooks, Whitehorse, Saskatoon, Trail, Brandon, even Pender Island was dry).
Jan 20, 2012 - Travel to Whitehorse - no cell phone or FaceBook for 2 days!!
We were up at dawn the next morning to pick up George at 6:10 a.m. on the way to the ferry... our hearts lifted at the site of the brightly-lit neon sign in the ferry coffee shop but on closer inspection, a notice in the window said it was closed until mid-February.
We had breakfast on the ferry, eating the packed muffins that Doreen had given us the night before and then we all went to sleep until docking in Tsawassen.  I plan to come back on another trip dedicated to asking George many questions about his rich life.
Guy and I went to downtown Vancouver and had lunch in the Vancouver Hotel before returning our pimp-mobile.  We got it back to the rental agency before 2 and saved a day’s rental.  We then had seven hours before our flight to Whitehorse.

We found a spot where we could plug in our computers and phones, all within striking distance of coffee shops, chocolate shops, gift shops and the time passed very quickly for me... we worked on our kid’s show that we were scheduled to perform the next day and reviewed our cues.  
Guy fell asleep the minute we got on the plane and we landed 2 and a half hours later, the white mountains around Whitehorse glistening in the bluey moonlight.  We dragged our suitcases through the dry squeaking snow and crystal glittered air, two long-legged foxes were in the parking lot... one sleeping on a snow bank and the other trotting between the cars.  Our little rental car (Ford Fusion) was plugged in and ready to go.  For some reason, we couldn’t find the trunk-popping button.  Or rather, we did find it but were so bleary that we thought it was some mysterious battery-exploding button and were afraid to push it until the rental guy came out and pushed it for us (sigh).
We crunched through the sparkling cold night (-32) and easily found our hotel.  As usual, we declined a GPS and our Rogers phones do not work in the Yukon (no FaceBook for two days) but the route couldn’t have been easier.  We checked into our big, rambling, old-north clapboard-style hotel and trudged around, searching for a spot to plug in the car.  We finally wedged in next to an immense, shining Dodge Ram pick up truck and another car to nose up to the electrical outlet trough.  Then we crashed into our beds in the absolutely warmest rooms of the tour.
Jan 21, 2012 - 2 Concerts in beautiful Yukon Arts Centre
We went down to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  A man dressed in insulated lineman overalls and coat did a double take when he saw me, swayed lightly and said, “Holy ****! That’s some great hair!’ and I said “Thank you!”
We had enormous delicious breakfasts supplemented by the emergency instant Starbuck’s decaf that Guy is traveling with.  Then we headed up to the Yukon Arts Centre to walk through our show before the 1:00 performance.  
We were met at the Performer’s Entrance by Denette Readman, the presenter for Whitehorse Concerts.  She showed us all of the rooms (change rooms, green room) and the lovely stage, introduced us to the stage manager (Marie-Joelle) and the technicians (Matt and Ryan) then took my key and re-parked our rental car at a plug-in station.
The main hall at the Yukon Arts Centre has a very nice 9 foot Steinway and this was being set up at the back of the stage to allow the chairs for the children’s show to be all set on stage with us.
We talked through our moves and cues, then got dressed for the show. Guy created his persona (Buzz) of a dishevelled, bright-eyed, innocent child with clothes that look like they were pulled out an attic trunk: baggy taupe riding jodpuhrs, mismatched socks, unlaced black boots, a red-star trimmed Russian military cap with askew ear flaps and a ragged-edged cadmium red silk jacket... very adorable. My character is the magician (Crow), mysterious, regal, connected to the animal world and to the wisdom of elders:  I wore my black sequined pants under my latest blue superhero skirt with a long train of blue feathers and a gathered bustle of various textures of net, silk, studs, silk, a black net shirt with fingerless glove-sleeves and a silver sequined vest over top.  Pointy black boots and a black feathered neck piece finish the invention.  We had a large, attentive audience of children, mostly aged 2 - 4 but a few older ones along with a very supportive group of parents.

Our children’ s show is hugely based on Guy’s character (Buzz) --- the eternal child who is so open to discovery, so quick to flights of joy and occasional dips into sorrow, responsive to all learning - Crow is the magician who awakens the genius in the child, leading him to accomplish more than he could alone yet also showing him that it is only his efforts that lead to the magical results.
Before the show, Marie-Joelle and Danette took care of everything (water on stage, setting everything the way we want) and at the last moment, I asked Marie-Joelle if she could film the show, so now we finally have a video of it.  And photographer, Bruce Barrett took over 100 beautiful photos which he gave to us on a disc at the evening concert in exchange for a CD.
The Buzz and Crow story shows many basic concepts and is based on the sounds that are made by the reed (a crow) and the sound made by the mouthpiece of the trumpets (a buzz) --- in the course of our silent story, children learn about breathing, how we communicate through breathing and movement, a little bit about how the trumpets and piano work.  They discover the music along with Buzz as he puts things together, they see his emotions as he lives through the different kinds of music... mostly he is elated by everything but he dissolves into sobs at the end of Oblivion and has to be coaxed back to happiness.  We leave time for many questions at the end and allow the kids to come close to the instruments, sometimes to play them though Guy is very careful about avoiding sharing germs with small children!  
After the show, Ryan and Marie-Joelle reset the stage for the evening concert and we had time to rehearse for half an hour, just to get used to the large Steinway and the acoustic of the hall.  The sound is very good though slightly dry (hall) and the piano was very good.  
We then jumped in our car and headed downtown.  Guy took me to a store that represents native artists and we found beautiful presents.  Though there are fine restaurants in Whitehorse, we did not have time to sit down to a long meal, so ducked into Tokyo Sushi for a quick dinner, then in to a neighbouring shoe store that had the most astonishing selection of warm fashion boots... everything from seal skin to black designer mukluks to the black tuscan goat with leather fringed yeti boots that I bought.

Back to the hotel for a quick nap and collecting Guy’s concert wear. I slept for 15 minutes then we drove back to the arts centre for the “meet-the-audience” session.  About 20 concert-goers came to listen to Denette Readman interview us on subjects ranging from our beginnings in music, how we find repertoire, what kind of music do we listen to, why do we like new music, continued interest in classical music.  Then questions were taken from the audience, and they centred around our instruments (makers and history).  The questions went on a bit longer than planned because we always enjoy talking about our story and I had to scramble to get into my dress for the show.  I had a couple minutes to spare and quickly sanded my reed before going on stage. 
Then a fire alarm sounded and the concert had to be delayed until the fire department came and confirmed that there was no fire.  The hall was full and the audience very responsive.  Our management has arranged for us to have individual speaking microphones for all concerts and this has been a huge help.
We went out at intermission and had the chance to speak with many children and grown-ups.  This is the time that we get wonderful questions and responses from people... one woman expressed her appreciation of how we play Bach (not austere or technical) and there were many questions about the bassoon.  I can show people the keys, the reeds and the C# brace that cut my hand (from one of our stories).  There was even a former bassoonist in the hall, a beautiful young Scotswoman from Edinburgh and we learned that we had a connection through her teacher and my dear, departed friend, Christopher Robson.
After the concert, Whitehorse Concerts held a reception and we had the chance to speak more with musicians and artists from the area...I so wish that I had a better memory for names!  I should be making notes but at this event, two women asked for a closer look at my bassoon so I reassembled it and let them inspect it... it is always hard to juggle a bassoon and a notebook!   But so incredibly good that people are interested enough to ask.
Guy and I were very tired when we arrived in the hotel rooms after midnight, but we still wanted to look at all of the photos and the video!  I fell asleep on the bed with all the lights blazing, waking up in the wee hours to crawl under the covers.  We were up early to pack and have breakfast with Debbie and Vern Peters at the Burnt Toast cafe before heading to the airport again.   Our flight was easy with only a bit of roughness in 50 km winds at the Vancouver airport.  We now know our way around Vancouver, so we bailed into the car and went straight to a restaurant that I wanted to visit last time... Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe and Pie Restaurant.  We wanted to try the pie, but as of last Friday, it has become a full-fledged restaurant offering 3-course organic meals.  I had a lamb stew with rosemary dumplings that was one of the best meals of my life. 
This has been a very good tour... cold temperatures and heavy luggage, but the fantastic experience of playing a two-hour recital every other day with travel days in between to promote recovery!  We are meeting so many people who have never heard the bassoon before and who love Guy from many other performances.  I feel astoundingly lucky.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tour - Day 4 & 5 - Brooks, Alberta & travel to Pender Island, B. C.

We awakened in Calgary and went to work out before an excellent breakfast in the restaurant attached to our vast Sandman.  Then we googled for cappucino and discovered the Kawa espresso bar   where we had real, dense, delicious capuccinos and a one-of-a-kind apple/chocolate chip scone.  This was a beautiful coffee bar ... I was initially doubtful because it was so big, but Guy said it was just because it is in the spacious west rather than in the real-estate-challenged territory of Toronto.
We loaded the truck, chatting with some hotel execs who had sneaked into the parking garage for a smoke rather than braving the outside -28 weather.  We hit the road by noon, with the usual squabble over directions.  I loaded the first edit of my Vivaldi concerti into the CD player  and Guy listened for awhile before falling asleep during the 2 hour drive through the frosted golden prairie to Brooks, Alberta.  I took pictures with my iPhone, trying to capture the delicate palette of golds, lavenders.  Haven’t looked yet, might just have pictures of the hood of the car.
We easily found our hotel at the side of the main road into town.  We got take-out so that we would be sure to have something to eat between the sound check and the concert at 7:30.  I worked on a blank and Guy caught up on emails before we headed over to Griffin Park Theatre.  We were met by a very nice technician named Derek who let us in the back door, then we were greeted by Janet who brought a plate of sandwiches, a kettle, fruit, whipped cream, tea bags and drinks... real prairie hospitality!  It is so comforting to have food backstage, especially the way that they did it in Brooks, tiny sandwiches, fruit cut up into bite sized pieces, cups for the tea.  Somebody thought through the details and it adds up to a genuine sense of welcome.
Marilyn Jackson came to greet us and then she realized that the programmes hadn’t been printed!  It was 4:30 and the concert was at 7:30, so I said that she shouldn’t worry about it, but she insisted.  So I got on the phone to our manager and he forwarded the materials again, and Marilyn got excellent programmes printed in time for the show!
Guy and I rehearsed in the theatre... the acoustic is warm, no echo but not overly dry.  At one point, a large man came on stage and without saying anything to us, shouted up to Derek who was in the sound booth, “I’m really busy and can’t come tonight!”  He then glanced at us and was about to leave, so I introduced myself and asked him some questions... he was the local band teacher and plays both trumpet and piano.  He said he might come to our next concert if we ever return to Brooks.  I smiled and said that would be nice.  I asked him if he had any bassoonists in his band, and he said that there is one who is interested, so I asked him to encourage the young player to contact me.  
We rehearsed with the light-voiced Kimball piano… the lectern of this compact piano was quite small and the biggest challenge was to keep the many pages of our recital book from flying away during his rapid page turns.
After the rehearsal, we went back to the hotel to eat dinner and get our gear.  Guy wore his patent leather stage shoes out into the -30 crunchy snow and did not fall down once. I changed into my blue feather gown at the hall but had to wrap myself up in a huge wool shawl while backstage to conserve body heat.  The audience filled up the hall and Shanda came backstage to introduce herself before going onstage to introduce us.  She introduced me as Nadia and apologized sincerely after the concert.  I didn't mind…I assume people will know my name once they hear the show!
The audience was larger than I expected given the freezing temperatures in this small prairie town... maybe 200 people and all of them wearing coats, hats, gloves.  They stayed until the end and bought lots of CDs.  There were many children who stayed for the whole concert and several people came to tell me that they knew George Zukerman.   One of Guy's childhood neighbours was at the concert… Kim Taylor said that she bought tickets for this show last July when the season was announced and she say that we would be performing in Brooks.
We open the tour concerts with Flight of the Bumblebee and this one was almost faster than I could play.  We punctuate the music with stories and always worry that we are rambling too much.   The first half has a duo with piccolo trumpet and bassoon by Boismortier, one of the e minor, opus 50 sonatas by the same composer, a Bach aria, 4 Paganini duos  for corno and bassoon and the Schreck sonata for piano and bassoon.  We visited with the audience during intermission and talked mostly to a family with three children, ages 8, 10 and 11.  The second half opens with another Bach (Air on a G string) along with the Prelude and Scherzo by Jean-Jean, short pieces by Shostakovich and Piazzolla and Glenn Buhr, ending with our beloved St-Saens Sonata.  Some people in the audience stayed to tell us their impressions and buy CDs... a really welcoming, kind group of people.  Derek (our technician for the evening) waited patiently for us to pack up and load out.
We went back to the hotel to pack, then put on long johns and jackets and socks to go to bed... it really was cold last night and the heat really did not have much effect in our room!  
We got up early to work out in the tiny cardio room... I had my first experience on a stair climber.  Then I made a blank and we packed our suitcases and wrangled everything back into the little blue Ford Edge.  We were surrounded by massive pickup trucks packed with compressors and other heavy duty equipment that we assumed was for the many oil drilling sites dotted around the countryside.
The car started with just a small whine of protest and we returned to Calgary.  The sun was hitting the gold of the fallow fields everywhere as we drove along.  Everything went smoothly despite the great cold.  
We returned the car and went to check in for our flight to Vancouver.   The stupid automatic kiosks never work for us but this time, the front panel of Guy’s machine flew open, and somehow caused the trumpet shipping case to topple over on top of the corno in it’s soft case.  I thought it would be flattened, but there is a large ding in the curve towards the bell and a newly flattened area.  He still hasn’t tried to play it since our travel day is not yet over and fingers are crossed that it will not be whacked out of tune.  
We flew to Vancouver where they are in an unusual cold spell.   The airport is filled with native carvings and seems very grand.  We rented a Ford Navigator to drive to Pender Island where they say the snowfall is deeper than the mainland.  We arrived 3 hours early at the ferry terminal and ate Chinese food and had organic espresso and booked our return ferry.  The crossing will take 2 hours since we have to go to Nanaimo then Pender Island.  It is a long day of travel but not difficult….I am hoping that there will be somewhere soundproof to practise tonight, or maybe we will just fall head first into bed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tour - Day 3 - Masterclass in Calgary, Alberta

Today was easy though cold!  Guy’s wonderful parents took us to breakfast in the gracious dining room of the Hotel Saskatchewan, then waited as we rumbled all of our suitcases and instrument cases back down to the lobby.  The presenters had arranged for a stretch limo for us that made us feel like startled nobility.  We sat back and enjoyed the ride as the driver took care of all our suitcases and made us wish that we could take him on the whole tour.
Our flight to Calgary was on an even smaller plane but we have been lucky in finding places to stow our instruments and heavy coats.  We waited a long time for our rental car... the solicitous clerk offered us a king cab pick up truck to make up for the delay but we opted to wait.  To reward us for waiting an hour, they upgraded us to a computer-assisted, smooth-running SUV and we navigated our way to downtown Calgary.  A very cold day (-28 C) and our 21st floor hotel room was unheated with ice was building up on our windows as we left to teach a masterclass at Mount Royal University Conservatory.  
The class was a lively mix of academy students . The young performers included a flute and percussion duo (Fiona Ferguson and Eric Fry) and two horn players (Justin Malchow and Megan Van Horne).  We played a mini concert for them at the beginning and end of the class and fielded some welcome questions from the audience (how and why did we develop our duo, how do we create programming for children’s concerts, how did we develop our rapid articulation skills).
I was very happy to have a wonderful former student in the audience, Liz Morrison.  And to complete our activities, Tom Holst of St John’s Music (sponsor of the masterclass) brought over a collection of trumpets (regular and rotary) and french horns for the students and pros to try.
Afterwards, we went to a wonderful dinner at the Indian restaurant called Green Chile with the organizer of the masterclass, Laurie Matiation  (hornist with the Calgary Symphony and co√∂rdinator of the brass programme at Mount Royal University) and two engaging trumpeters (Ian and Nathalie).
When we returned to the hotel, they had moved us to a heated room and we have flopped into bed.  Tomorrow we drive to Brooks.

NB for the bassoon players... I will talk about the reed-life in the very cold, dry conditions!  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tour - Day 2 - Concert in Regina

Up at dawn yesterday to work out in the spacious, ornate, Victorian fitness room of Hotel Saskatchewan, then met with Guy and his parents for Sunday brunch in the old-worldy dining room.  Back to the room to make a reed... climate much drier here!!  We had a sound check and Guy had his first experience playing on the Chinese-built Hailun 7' grand, meticulously tuned by Dennis Weist who also represents this instrument in Canada.  CTV came in to film some of our rehearsal and interview us for the 5:30 news.
Back to the hotel to collect gowns and makeup, then back to the hall to strap into first dress of the evening.
First concert of the tour went very well and our stories had a new audience who didn't mind that we ended after 10 pm!  Signed lots of CDs, met many musicians, including 3 bassoonists (Alan Denike and students)!!!  Went to the pub with friends and drank cranberry juice and laughed a lot.
Gotta get on a plane now to Calgary.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tour - Day 1 - Toronto to Regina

Sitting in Toronto Pearson Airport with some time to spare as we wait to fly to the Regina, the first stop of our Tour-To-Cold-Places.  I made Guy come to the airport 3 hours early because I had heard that there was going to be a work slowdown amongst the security personnel.  But instead, we simply found a parking spot by the elevators, no lineups to check our baggage, and the security line non-existent.  So we celebrated with Guy’s trademark start-of-tour burger and fries followed by airport capuccinos... lots of time to chat with the inevitable parade of bright-eyed children who stop to stare at my hair and Guy’s hat.A tiny aircraft awaited us, and luckily the plane was not full so we found places to stow computers, coats and instruments.  When we arrived in Regina, we were met at the airport and whisked away to dinner with our very kind hosts who are also the founders and presenters of the Cecilian Concert Series.  Dennis Weist sponsors the series and looks after the Hailun grand piano that Guy will be playing tomorrow night and Lore Ruschiensky is the tireless director of the series.  This fascinating pair are major world travelers and think nothing of going around the world to hear different concerts... they recently heard a chamber music concert at the Neurosciences Centre in San Diego and a symphony concert at the Walt Disney Hall.  Other key members of the concert series were also at the dinner, including Corinne Groff who drove us from the airport and to our hotel, along with Joyce, Gary and Lily Ann... it was an incredibly warm and welcoming way to start the tour!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Eighty Dollar Champion

I am reading a lovely book about a horse (Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts)
In this wonderful true story from the 1950's, I find so many points that resonate with the life of musician.
The protagonists (Snowman and his owner, Harry de Leyer) faced incredible hardships beyond anything that I have known, yet their dedication to a craft and art that wasn't immediately justifiable and actually out of their social class is really beautiful.

And as I am about to head out to Stockton, California for an intense weekend at the Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition, the story of Snowman and his remarkable rise to stardom while happily retaining his humble family role gives a really charming perspective on the nature and value of competition.

Read it!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

If I Could Do It All Again (or Not on the Test)

When I finally discovered the bassoon at the albeit late age of 16, went to the Curtis Institute at 18 and landed my first big gigs at the age of 22 (associate principal in Mexico but I took second bassoon in Montreal), maybe you could say that I was a highly trained classical musician. I had a huge supply of excitement about the world of music that lay before me but absolutely no understanding of the riches that were possible.  Despite my rapid progress, I was steeped in doubt and held back from many opportunities.
I was hugely attracted to orchestral playing, but also mesmerized by the three concerti that were being taught at the time (Mozart, Weber and, well, Weber A & R).  My head just about blew off when I realized there were many many many more and that it was possible to learn lots of them!  Likewise I was immersed in chamber music, loving quintets but also wishing to play chamber music with piano and strings and I established mixed chamber groups the minute I got my first job.   And baroque music.  And electronic music.  So much I wanted to try.  But somehow, always, it was repeated over and over that you had to choose one niche and stick to it if you wanted to make a living, so each foray carried a certain amount of guilt (i.e. who did I think I was!?).
Since then, I have managed to have many professional experiences...  concerti, recitals, orchestras, chamber music, electronic, baroque....
None of this was on any test in school.  And all of it has a world of possibility within it.
Yet sometimes I find myself still thinking as if any of could be on a test... am I playing softly enough, will someone object to my fast tempi (or slow ones), or my trill choices ir my sound or my reed... why do I think this way when what the world needs is more active artistic events and fewer simple tests of strength and compliance?  
Great performance choices are not going to be part of any test. Great performance choices involve long periods of experimentation (also known as mistakes) --- tests require a limited set of parameters and are useful ways to test your strength.  But once these baby steps towards personal discipline have been established, then then next step is to find ways to extend your reach, to imagine a greater performance and the training that is required to arrive. To imagine ways that the voice of the bassoon (or whatever you do) can be used to create an artistic event.
To be good at something, we gradually identify the parameters, refine our grasp of the problems, repeat the our successes, gradually eliminate the number of errors. To be great, we expand the parameters, extend our reach, exponentially increase the number of errors, until we discover something, then we refine and start anew.  It never ends and each day is more fun than the last as long as we remember to live as if each day were our last.

If I could do it all again, I would lunge in the directions that beckoned when I was young.  I would not hesitate for a second to find collaborators who wanted to present recitals with me and develop shows that reached out to people.  If one pianist at school said no, I would ask another one instead of retreating (as I did at a youngster at Curtis).   Everything that I do now, I wanted to do when I was young.  I would wear what I thought was exciting instead of hoping not to offend.  This impulse towards showmanship didn't have a place in classical bassoon training and my teachers (all great bassoonists) were not doing anything like it.   They would do one concerto per year, maximum or one recital per year.  They lived for their orchestral jobs.  There is a big beautiful world out there for musicians and our youth is a blessed time when we are given the time to learn everything that we need.  I wish I had realized that!

I wish young players all courage to not only learn their scales (so important) and develop their orchestral excerpts (essential) and do well in exams and competitions (absolutely necessary) but also to imagine the possibilities, imagine what stages they want to command, what shows they want to develop and how best to bring their bright, individual personalities to every event.  Iron discipline and fluid imagination... this is what I crave.