New Year, New Concert Sessions, New Possibilities

Yay — 2016!  The Christmas season was pretty good, musically.  Three concerts that went very well.  Highlands Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra Toronto, but especially (and a little surprisingly) the Highlands Wind Symphony.  We nearly sold the house out, which is tonnes more audience than we’ve seen in a long time.  And the band played REALLY well.  It’s always a tough and fast adjustment to the Norther Lights Performing Arts Pavilion.  The sounds are so different.  But we did really well.  Particularly for ‘Christmas Lights’ that I conducted.  It’s a medley of various Christmas carols and tunes, with the Ukranian Carol present throughout.  The ending overlays it with ‘In dulci jubilo’ – almost like Berlioz in the ending of his overture to Benvenuto Cellini.  It’s really a lot of fun.

So then with 2016 — it begins anew.  Highlands Wind Symphony has had their first rehearsal this week and we’re sticking to a theme for this Spring concert:  An Afternoon at the Movies.  I’m going to be taking a second look at ‘Dances With Wolves’ – one of my favourite movie soundtracks in a pretty high quality highlights arrangement.

The Highlands Chamber Orchestra is also starting up this Friday and the core idea to our Spring concert will be concerti featuring orchestra members.  Flute Concertino by Chaminade, Havanaise for violin and orchestra by Saint-Saens, Concerto for two Horns by Vivaldi (rv 539), slow movement to Weber’s first clarinet concerto (that also features a gorgeous horn trio).  With also a possibility of a renaisance brass sextet and perhaps, if I can convince the soloist, a movement of a concerto for piano.

But wait – there’s more — that really vague post I did in the Fall about a new conducting opportunity… it’s back and can be identified now:  Counterpoint Community Orchestra.  Toronto’s LGBTQ community orchestra.  I played tuba with them years ago and in the Fall they let their long-standing conductor go.  This season will be filled three guest conductors, the first of which conducted them in a great Christmas/Holiday show in December.  The next conductor, a friend of mine, has already been confirmed.  That leaves one final opening and they will be announcing the position soon to take in applications.  Needless to say, I’m working on mine now.  I’m going to save the rest of this subject for a separate post.

For now — Happy Musical New Year to everyone.  See you in the rehearsal hall!

2012 Year in Review

It’s the final day of 2012. I’ve been thinking about this blog entry for a number of weeks now. How would I sum it up? Then this morning, a friend on Facebook put up this status:

In 2012 well I learned a lot. lost a lot. gained a lot. Must say hardest year to date but I’m still smiling happy new year everyone and a happy 2013 to all!

Nailed it! Continue reading

Wrap up of the Holiday Season Concerts

Yesterday was the last one.  I suppose I didn’t do that many, really, but it’s been an intense few weeks of rehearsals and driving around.  I subbed into the York Symphony’s holiday concert (plus 2 rehearsals leading up to it) because their tubist suffered an injury and needed surgery on his knee.  Ouch. Continue reading

Highlands Chamber Orchestra’s First Concert

Nearly two weeks ago, the still-brand-new Highlands Chamber Orchestra put on its first full concert! I was humbled to be chosen as their Music Director and it’s been an amazing ride for three months.
The first few rehearsals were surprising, if can be that honest. Pieces started sounding really good quite early on, especially Finlandia and The Great Gate of Kiev. We cut a piece by Liszt early on and nearly cut Peer Gynt after that. Doubt was setting into the orchestras board, including me, of our success at a concert. But we decided to give it ‘two more weeks’. To our shock, Peer Gynt came together really nicely. We could then spend time fine tuning it.
Also on the program was a double concerto for clarinet and viola by Bruch. What an amazing learning experience for us all!! Suddenly I wasn’t in charge. As a developing conductor, learning as I go, this was a surprise. Joking aside, conductors need some ego and confidence to lead an orchestra and shape a piece exactly the way they want it. Throw in not one, but two concerto soloists and we play a subservient role to their interpretation. And the orchestras role is changed too. They played it beautifully!! The strings to be so cognizant of playing ‘under’ the soloists, and the upper winds to be so patient to play in the tuttis only. The horns though had the interesting role of being pure harmonic background along with the bassoons. They had to achieve that delicate balance between ‘horn’ and ‘string’ sound.
The opening Finlandia was amazing!! The best they’d played it: dark, passionate, energetic and rousingly patriotic. It was probably my favourite piece of the night. The double concerto went surprisingly well too with the orchestra responding very well to tempo fluctuations that happen in concerto performances. Everyone was watching and listening. After a performance of a Schubert string quartet and a Brahms trio, we closed the first half with Elgar’s Nimrod. We had a running gag going in rehearsals where each week we played it slower than the last. We didn’t beat our record at the concert, but boy it felt great. I love conducting that one without a baton: it feels so good from my finger tips to my core.
The second second half contained some really challenging material, especially for the winds. Despite this, the orchestra still played very well. Peer Gynt had so many great moments, including the ending, and the Trisch-Trasch Polka practically played itself. The Great Gate of Kiev was amazing as well: the ending was so majestic and grand. It was a fantastic ending to the concert.
We were all riding a HUGE high after the concert. It was such an amazing accomplishment for everyone, and was really enjoyed by the audience. I don’t know if I could gush enough about how well itwent. No exaggeration.
No there’s talk about collaborations with choirs, a Summer Festival performance and an Opera Extravaganza evening. I’ve already submitted a draft program for the spring, which includes some baroque, classical and big romantic numbers. We’re already looking forward to the next concert.

March to the Scaffold this Sunday with two tubas!

This weekend is Orchestra Toronto’s second concert.  They’ve started a tradition now that the December concert is kid-friendly.  This time around, there will be a marionette performance to some of our pieces, and a performance by the violin concerto winner – 18-year-old Clarisse Schneider.  This is our program:

Continue reading

Music Minus Middles

Nancy Nourse (on piccolo) and myself played duets at an Orchestra Toronto fundraising gala

Me and my Movember played at an Orchestra Toronto fundraising evening gala hosted at the beautiful Mansion building of the Military College in North York (Yonge blvd and Wilson).  This pic is of Nancy Nourse and me – our piccolo-tuba duets garnered a lot of attention.  To the roaming audience’s delight (and my own), the combination was really nice.  And we weren’t that far apart — for some of the Mozart duets we were within an octave of each other.  I was doing double duty too:  I played with the OT brass quintet. Continue reading