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!

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Tchaik 4 with Orchestra Toronto

We’re on to the next rehearsal schedule for Orchestra Toronto and the main piece on the program is Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony. This is a powerhouse piece for brass, even with us only really involved in the first and last movements. Sure, there’s some cute stuff in the third movement for all brass (except for tuba), but it’s nothing compared to the power in the opening and closing.
I got familiar with this symphony because it was prominently featured in the audition list for the Montreal Symphony. There are countless important licks for tuba here and just about all of them are double- or triple-forte!! So when I saw the draft for this year’s program last year I got really excited. I printed the part off the Internet and started getting familiar with it. Oh, I almost forgot, I have snippets of the part in my excerpts book and I had considered playing them for my audition to the GGS a few years ago.
So I was super excited to get back to OT rehearsals after the holidays. The first two rehearsals were good. We read through the outer movements really slowly. Especially the first one. Between the counterpoint and the emphasis away from the downbeat, it’s not a cinch to put together.
More importantly, I was looking forward to the big brass sectional of the season. This would be our second year at it. Last season, we had a sectional for Holst’s Planets and Ravel’s La Valse. Trumpeter Guy Few was our coach and he was fantastic. This year, we had some trouble booking someone in advance because many were busy on that Thursday night. We finally confirmed with Rupert Price, principal trombone with the Windsor Symphony. That night, just this past Thursday, we spent 2.5 hours on Tchaik 4. He had some great advice on articulation, style and interpretation. All which made it easier for me to play. It was fantastic to get his view on the piece, and the brass section sounded fantastic with he suggestions. I’m sure my ears took a hit in that boomy room, but I loved every minute of it. I’m looking forward to hearing it all put together next week with the rest of the orchestra.
In terms of my musical career, the opportunity to play Tchaik 4 is very important to me. In the world of community orchestras, I might not have another chance to play in a good number of years. I’m definitely happy with the brass section we have right now. We have some recent additions from UofT who are contribution a lot to the brass section and we’re all gelling well. We’re going to bring the house down on this one!

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

Milestones

I have NEVER played better in my life!

How’s that for an opener? I really do though! I’ve been practicing the excerpt from Copéllia by Deslibes — the Masurka. It’s some fancy finger work at a reasonable speed. D major on the Eb tuba too. Yesterday I started playing it without stopping or fumbling. Things like that make me yell “YEAH” in all caps. Sometimes “F*CK YEAH”. It just feels so good reaching milestones like that.

I had another today: on my C, pedal D flat at fortissimo is starting to get some nice brassy edge to it. YEAH!

But I also finally got a start to the Bach solo I need to do on the C. Wowsa! Lots of bars with endless 16th notes. This book (Bach for the Tuba, vol.2) is for the tuba. Should I be able to play this stuff without breathing?!? Apparently, yes. I’m making quick progress, but it sure does feel like a kick in the pants. How perfectly do I need to play all this music?

For a school audition, they want more to get a feel for your technique for placement. For a job, they’re gonna pick the one, single best person. Currently, I think there are some excerpts that could sink me. Some of them though, I’m REALLY good at. I’m also really liking my sound lately. Big and bold! That’s gonna be a factor, for sure.

And then I wonder why my first orchestral audition is Montreal. If not the top, then one of the top three orchestras in Canada. Gotta start somewhere though, right? And being Montreal, it’s totally pushing me to go all the way! I think I’m going to kick some butt in Montreal!

In The Zone

I don’t think I’ve practiced something so much in my life. I’m working on the RVW concerto. The first two movements so far. And especially the first.

I now understand a story I heard on ‘Q’ on CBC Radio a while back. The show host was interviewing a husband-wife music duo and she told of when they first met:  She was a harpist and was working on a Mozart concerto when a man moved in next door. She presumed she was driving him crazy working on the same single bar of music for hours at a time. Turns out he was a guitarist, they fell in love and the rest is history. Continue reading

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