Patrick Sheridan Workshop

On Saturday, April 16th, I attended a workshop presented by Patrick Sheridan — co-author (along with Sam Pilafian) of the famous Breathing Gym (more on this later).  This was hosted by the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s Festival of Brass, which they hold every year.  Mr. Sheridan was a soloist this year for the festival (unfortunately I didn’t get to hear him in concert because of the logistics involved and because his major concert conflicted with mine with Orchestra Toronto).

fancy tuba eh? he's a design consultant for Jupiter Band Instruments Inc.

So, I sat in the second row, centre — I was at first a little higher up, but someone came in and encouraged people to sit closer.  The Jane Mallett Theatre is an intimate venue and sitting closer was fantastic.  People should sit closer more often – don’t be shy.  Mr. Sheridan — I think he’d just prefer “Patrick”, he was so easy going and friendly (and funny as hell), so I’m going to stick with that from now on — focused his talk and workshop, no surprise, on breathing and on making obvious the not-so-obvious concepts of the mechanics of breathing.

In workshops and classes I’ve taken before, I’ve been introduced to elements of the Breathing Gym and so this started as a refresher for me, albeit from the co-author of the book.  But Patrick went a little deeper than other instructors I’ve had.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken in so much air in my life.

He covered a lot of material in just an hour and a half, so here are some major points to Patrick’s talk: Continue reading

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Concert this Weekend

Orchestra Toronto’s fourth concert of the season is going on this Sunday afternoon at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.  We had our dress rehearsal last night and it seemed to be a bit of a shambles.  The rehearsal order and timing was sorta out the window with extra time being spent on the pieces with the soloist, who we only ever schedule for the dress rehearsal.  Which I suppose is usual, but two rehearsals would be great – let us all get used to each other.  In any case, I’m not in the pieces for soloist.

I felt good with the Eb last night.  It’s going to sound great.  There are only two pieces of interest to me – the West Side Story ‘medley’.  Cute and compact.  Hardly like the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.  But still.  And there’s the suite from Lord of the Rings.  Nice music (dark, sweeping, heroic) and a few interesting tidbits in it for tuba.

I’m looking forward to the final concert, which includes Pictures at an Exhibition and parts of the Firebird suite.  Both I’ve played before with other orchestras, so it’ll be nice to hear them with Orchestra Toronto.  I wonder who will be our bass trombonist.

Face to Mouthpiece

This was a little tidbit from my lesson with Nick Atkinson, but it’s really affecting me.  Nick suggested I breath from the corners of my mouth without really pulling away from the mouthpiece.  The conclusion I drew from this is that my embouchure is maintained while I’m taking a breath.  This is very useful when needing to take a quick breath while in the outer ends of the tuba’s range because, for me at least, it reduces the chance of kacking or fluffing the next note because I’ve reset my embouchure when I pulled away (just a bit, but still) from the mouthpiece to breath.

But this is also helping me in another way — slurred octaves and fifths when warming up on the harmonic series.  C-G-C, etc.  I’m trying to remember the details of that moment with Nick, but I believe it also involved not sitting so lightly on the mouthpiece (but not so deep that the pressure adversely affects a free buzz).  Get inside a little bit.  This is really helping my harmonic series slurs (first three notes of each) by reducing the “flip” sound when switching notes (smoother and quicker transition).  I’m going to explore this further.

Lesson with Nick Atkinson

So during my trip to Ottawa from March 25 to 28, I was able to get a lesson with Nick Atkinson – my teacher from when I was going to the University of Ottawa.  At the time, he was the tubist for the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the Rideau Lakes Brass Quintet, and conductor of the UofO wind ensemble.  Today, he continues to play with the NACO, Rideau Lakes and now the Capital Brassworks (which didn’t exist back when I was going to school).  He no longer teaches at UofO, nor does he play with the OSO – both of those positions are taken up by Martin Labrosse, who was a student of Nick’s way back when.  Nick jokes that he’s getting old, but he’s as lively as ever — and sounds as good as ever.  That man is master of the Eb tuba.

So Nick and I met up at his place for the lesson.  Continue reading

A Road Trip to Ottawa and a Capital Brassworks Concert

A few weekends ago, I took a trip to Ottawa.  A lot of good things came together that weekend to convince me to make the trip:  needed to burn last year’s vacation at work; Capital Brassworks concert announced for that Friday (March 25th); needed to return my parents’ spare laptop that I got working with Linux; and visit my parents.  Where do I start with how great this weekend was???

Continue reading