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?

Am I too intense?

I’m just dying to say “hey guys, you’re out of tune!” “you’re not breathing together” “you should play louder there” “that note should be more accented” “you should bring that out more because it’s practically a solo” “you should do a lot more buzzing for your warm ups” — and other know-it-all comments. Continue reading

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.

The not-so-simple-and-easy-to-play

I’ve been working my butt off on my C lately – warm ups; harmonic series slurring; low range long tones; and orch rep – Prokofiev’s R&J Suite 2 and Holst’s Mars and Jupiter.  My rep focus has been on the low f minor Dance of the Knights:

Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet: Dance of the Knights

  • where, when and how to breath to make it through the 4 bars
  • tone quality on the opening low Fs, and last one, plus the accent on the C in between

So I sat down in orchestra last night, all warmed up and ready to go.

Then I spot it. Continue reading

Last Weekend’s Orchestra Toronto Concert

Orchestra Toronto did its second annual kids concert this past weekend and it was quite the experience (beyond being sold-out again!).  Not since, as a kid, playing alongside Nick Atkinson in a combo concert of the NACO and the OYO have I played in orchestra with multiple tubas on stage.  It was pure pleasure teaming up with Courtney Lambert.  My other half and friends were in the audience and said the performance of the March to the Scaffold was great.  Immediately after it, I excitedly said it was fantastic and Courtney replied that it indeed was “Fantastique”.  lol

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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:

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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

Small Ensembles

With Orchestra Toronto comes the opportunity to play some small ensemble stuff. We’ve got a brass quintet together to play for the Toronto Centre for the Arts‘ open house tomorrow. It a short set but fun nonetheless. But I’m really looking forward to the posh fundraising evening going on at the beginning of November. The quintet will play again, with a longer program, but I’m also doing some duets with the orchestra’s piccolo player, Nancy Nourse. We’ve had a practice together and the music is good. Some Mozart duets, some baroque movements and a modern piece expressly for picc and tuba. Honestly, that one isn’t my fave. Too much solo playing for each of us and not enough duetting.
This playing and practicing is giving me another chance to hone my tuning and blending. When I played in Brassfully Yours a number of years back, it did wonders for these skills. I finally knew what it ‘felt’ like to play in tune. For me, it’s much more than hearing. Since I’m hugging my tuba, hitting the sweet spot for a long note in tune makes the whole tuba resonate and I feel that happening from head to toe.
I would recommend extensive quintet playing for any and all tubists.

A new season with Orchestra Toronto

With Fall comes the new season of Orchestra Toronto and by all signs, it’s looking like it’s going to be a good one! Albeit – the rep for the first concert is a bit of a snoozer for tuba, save ‘The Moldau’. We’re doing R. Strauss ‘Last Four Songs’, ‘Three Nocturnes’ by Debussy, (as mentioned) ‘The Moldau’ by Smetana and ‘The Magic Flute’ overture by Mozart – the last one sans me, of course. Tuba didn’t exist at the time.

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