I Miss Orchestra

Orchestra Toronto had its 4th concert of its season a few weekends ago. It was pretty stellar! I was a little perplexed by the order: we opened the second half with the huge Holst and finished with the Ravel. IMHO, we should have finished with Jupiter. Oversized orchestra and the majestic C major finish.

In any case, the performance was fantastic. Denise on euph played really well. Trombones managed to step up their game even more! Wow!!

So now… They are rehearsing Beethoven’s 9th symphony. No tuba. 😦 Though the tuba’s predecessor, the ophicleide, existed for a number of years, Beethoven did not use it in any of his compositions, to the best of my knowledge. Not too long after the 9th symphony, Mendelssohn and Berlioz used the ophicleide (and serpent, even) in two iconic compositions: Midsummer Night’s Dream and Symphonie Fantastique, respectively.

But alas, no tuba for me in the grand 9th. I miss my orchestra pals. But I’m keeping myself good and busy: I’ve working on the RVW concerto intensely. Melissa Stephens and I have been reading through it together. I also worked it with a metronome last weekend. That definitely helped expose a few tempo changes that have sneaked in over the years of practicing it. But I feels great to play it through a number of times, then rip apart a few bars, put them back together and go from the top again. It’s sounding really good!

And I approached Danielle Lisboa about OT playing it (or another concerto, even) in two seasons. She going to speak with the programming committee. I would like to submit a recording to them in the fall and I feel really confident about that. So, I’d better get back to practicing!

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Ravel’s ‘La Valse’ – A Tritone-lover’s Paradise

Orchestra Toronto is in the nearing the end of rehearsals for its 4th concert of this season (the last for me though), which includes Ravel’s La Valse. What a great piece of music from the same guy who brought us ‘Boléro’. This piece, sometimes characterized as the birth, life and death of a waltz, is as much fun to play as it is to listen to. There are so many tuba-ego spots where I can totally shine. But it also a surprising challenge to play well. Continue reading

A Week to Remember

This has been an intense week, to put lightly. First, the Domaine Forget application deadline was this Thursday. As usual, I went into panic mode to fill in the application. I needed to do two recordings — at one with piano. Ian Pay, a bassist living in Haliburton County, has a home recording studio so I gave him a call. I recorded a few orchestral excerpts with him. Thank goodness for having him around locally. I panicked next for an accompanist. It’s March Break. Many pianists are teachers. Some were not available because they were on break. Some were just too busy. Lucky for me, again, Melissa Stephens, a local pianist, was available for a tiny window that worked for me too. So we headed again to Ian’s studio. Phew! Recordings completed and uploaded. Plus Sasha was able to write a letter if recommendation for me too. So I got the application in and on time. Now I wait.

On Wednesday too, I finally got The Breathing Gym in the mail. It had been in back order since November! I had remembered bits and pieces over the years so it’s great to have the book to fill in the blanks. But bonus is that it gives the musical goals behind each exercise. A bit of an expensive book but it’s paper gold!

In the meantime, Orchestra Toronto was having special sectionals yesterday. Versatile artist, Guy Few, coached us. He was fantastic – great attitude, great ear for tuning, and some great tips and tricks too. I also enjoyed his take on interpretation of the pieces we’re: Ravel’s La Valse and Holst’s Mars and Jupiter. He was very engaging and the FULL brass section was very responsive. And hearing us in full forces was amazing: 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 euph and me. Oh yeah, baby!!

Thursday wasn’t all good for me though. I found out on Tuesday that my mom was in the hospital for a blot clot. It seemed simple enough until I got to speak with her in Thursday and she told me through tears that she has cancer. I started to cry too. It was a very emotional phone call. I didn’t know what to do and the rest of my day at work was quiet for me. I considered missing practice and driving right home, but I knew that playing would be therapeutic for me. I sat quietly in the car, in the underground parking, and cried. I had it pent up for a while. Driving to the practice helped me clear my mind and put my heart at ease a little. Though I still felt guilty as we started the sectional. Something so exciting for me mixed in with feelings for my mom.

This Sunday, my partner and I drive to Ottawa to spend time with my parents. I don’t know what else to write about that right now. I’m just looking forward to seeing her and hugging her and telling her how much I love her.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Today is the Orchestra Toronto concert featuring Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. This marks for me the end of a mini saga. R&J has brought me through a great journey. I’ve had the part for 4 months, one lesson, the prospect of auditioning for school, life decisions, new high notes and James Thompson’s buzzing technique. My playing and musicianship have taken leaps forward. It’ll be really sad to say goodbye to the piece, but I know that mores pieces will come along which will push my limits and challenge me – and I’ll fall in love all over again. Did you know a tuba player could be so sentimental?

Australian Youth Orchestra and Prokofiev

More youtube searching – “prokofiev brass” – and found this from the AYO.  The tubist recorded this using his phone.  The video’s sideways, but who cares!  I’m McLuvin’ his sound.

The build-up starts around 1:30 with low brass in around 1:55 (and again at 3:50).  Great tone!  Fat sound!  Clean attacks!  No apologies!  I notice he’s breathing a lot but there’s no lack of sound with upper brass sustaining.

I also noticed the lick around 3:36 where tuba backs the trumpet.  Low D down to pedal Eb is nice and clean.  I want to work with the trumpet who’s got this in OT to make sure we’re together.

Brass Quintet + String Quartet + Percussion = Prokofiev Goodness

Last Friday, I attended a recital-masterclass of the Boston Brass at the University of Toronto.  Providence and co-incidences came together to have me attend this.  It was on a Friday and I just found out about it on Thursday night while at orchestra rehearsal.  There was a snow squall warning for home, so I stayed in TO.

I took notes of some gem concepts for musicians and I got to meet Andrew Hitz!  What a fantastic player and monster machine on the tuba.  He’s all about listening.  His opening greeting to the audience was about taking advantage of the internet and listening to just about anything you can listen to on the web (youtube, spotify, etc…).  If you’re not listening and learning, then someone else is and that person will have an advantage over you in technique and auditions.

So today I searched “prokofiev brass” to see what I could find to give me a hand with the Dance of the Knights in orchestra.  I found this.  😀

What am I watching for?  At time 2:21, the low f minor Knights.  I’m looking at his breathing and how it avoids breaking the musical line.  He’s not trying to tear down the walls either.  It’s musical and forte.  Plain and simple.