Starting Season Four with the HCO

Here I am mostly through Summer 2015 and really looking forwards to the 2015-16 season coming up with the Highlands Chamber Orchestra.  We’re having a read-through at my place this coming Sunday – hopefully a decent turnout despite Summer holidays.

Last month, I settled on a draft program for the November 21st concert.  We’ve been sticking with a Pops feel with lighter music and this year the theme is “Haliburton 150” with Canadian, British and American music:

  • Canada:  Fall Fair by Godfrey Ridout
  • Canada:  Canada by Bobby Gimby (orch: Milton Barnes)
  • Canada:  Snowbird by Gene Maclellan (i.e. of Anne Murray fame)
  • Canada:  Beachcombers Theme by Robert Hales
  • America:  Variations on a Shaker Melody by Aaron Copland
  • America:  In October, from Suite no.1 by Edward McDowell
  • America:  Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar
  • Britain:  Nimrod from the ‘Enigma Variations’ by Edward Elgar
  • Britain:  Suite from ‘Pirates of Penzance’ by Arthur Sullivan
  • Britain:  Suite from ‘James Bond: You Only Live Twice’ by John Barry

Quite a swath of music there.  I’m looking forward to conducting every one of these for each their particular reason … ‘Fall Fair’ because I’ve played it twice in other orchestras, so it will be nice to experience it from the podium.  ‘In October’ because it’s from a 3-disk set of American orchestral music that Collin bought on a whim from iTunes years ago and I’ve always love it.  ‘Nimrod’ because it’s an emotional powerhouse of a piece and it’ll be my second time conducting it with the HCO.

The last time I blogged I mentioned getting Rhapsody in Blue in the mail — so long ago.  What a fun piece that was.  Lauren McInnis play it beautifully and the audience was roaring.  So much has happened since then … more reason to catch up soon.

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And here we go!!!

We’re just a few days from September and the start of the 2013-14 music season and I’ve started already. A few weeks ago, Orchestra Toronto held a summer audition for two applicants for the open music director position. They were both pre screened and so were both really good. So much that the orchestra never sound so good. But boy, am I out of shape… especially for Tchaik 4. Whoa! Back to breathing and buzzing exercises!

Yesterday, I was a guest speaker giving a tuba techniques talk at Steve’s Music’s annual band clinic for school teachers. I talked about why I picked up the tuba in grade 9, why I loved it and what it takes to make great and quick strides on it when you’re starting out. I got some good questions from posture and position for small kids, to what to do about a really wet embouchure. And I got some good compliments too! It was fantastic! I can’t wait to do one of those again.

I also got the rental package for “Rhapsody in Blue” in the mail. Highlands Chamber Orchestra rehearsals start a week from today. I’m VERY excited about it. RiB is going to be a challenge to prepare for the November 23rd concert, but I know that the musicians are going rise to the occasion. They are as excited as I am!

Plus, at Steve’s, I picked up the scores and parts for “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” and “English Folk Song Suite” for the Highlands Wind Symphony. Both are band favourites of mine so I’m really looking forward to conducting them!

Next week, we kick it into high gear… Thursday, Orchestra Toronto is auditioning two more conductors and the Highlands Chamber Orchestra kicks off their season. It’ll be great to see everyone again and officially welcome Fall together!

Application for Apprentice Conductor

Well, hello there blog!  It’s been a little while.  I’ve missed you.  🙂

So here’s some big news – I’ve applied for the position of Apprentice Conductor with Orchestra Toronto.  It was announced last week and I started on my cover letter right away!

But as it turns out, the current music director for OT, Danielle Lisboa, is leaving.  She’s moving to Edmonton, I hear.  This puts a little kink in the plan of Apprentice Conductor – they will hold the applications until the fall once they [hopefully] have a new MD.

In any case, I’m super stoked about it!  It’ll be a great opportunity for me to learn with an experienced conductor and get some hands-on time with a large orchestra – especially it being OT because I know so many people.  The familiarity will make me really comfortable in auditions.  And, if I get it, at the discretion of the director, I could conduct a piece in concert!  Booyah!  And all I’d be learning I’d be taking back to the Highlands Chamber Orchestra.

Yay!  🙂

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.

The start of a new season

A new concert season is well underway and I’ve finally got a minute, or weekend even, to post as update. As usual, there’s lots going on: a few gigs already, including the best Highlands Swing Band gig ever at Camp Wanakita. The chemistry and the acoustics were undeniable!! Blam!!

But the big thing new for me is conducting the new Highlands Chamber Orchestra! Wow. It’s a lot of fun! Glen Carter conducted the inaugural concert in the spring and now I’ve got the reigns. It’s such a fantastic musical and learning experience for me. We’re performing Finlandia, the Great Gate of Kiev (from Pictures at an Exhibition, Tushmalov’s version), Peer Gynt and a double concerto by Bruch for clarinet and viola. The concert is November 18th in Haliburton village.

Finally, Orchestra Toronto has expanded their season this year to include two additional concert which are repeats of the first and third programs. The year’s highlight for me is Tchaik 4 in February (and one of the repeated concerts which is great). For the first concert, I’m included in a piece call Morceau Symphonique from Franck’s Rédemption. Not a blockbuster, for sure, but a catchy tune and a chance to play some high stuff on my Eb – in unison with trombones. I’m going to post a separate entry on that piece alone as part of my series of rep for tuba. Keep an eye out for that in the next few days.

Oh — a final thought on Montréal: I was genuinely shocked to find out the Canadian audition yielded no winner. It’s gone international. I could have continued to practice for it! Lol