Possible New Conducting Opportunity

I can’t reveal any details at this time but there might be some new conducting for me in the near future.  I’m completely obsessing about it and can’t stop thinking about it.  I keep reloading the ensemble’s web page to see what’s up and if they publicize any details.  Details I have are scarce, but I might be subbing in or interim.  And if things go the way I hope, I could audition for the podium.

To tell you the truth, I’ve been Oprah dream-walling this opportunity for a good while.  Out of the blue, I was contacted this past Spring about my conducting.  Things were very vague then and they’ve since focused a little bit.  So I’m super excited but keeping this under wraps to not jinx it.

*crosses fingers*

ps. this does not affect my commitment to the Highlands Chamber Orchestra – I see myself with them for a good long while, or at least until they get tired of me.

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.

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!

Wrap-up on the first season of the Highlands Chamber Orchestra

I think the highlight of my last 6 months has been the Highlands Chamber Orchestra.  We performed in November to some great reviews.  The musicians were completely pumped! At the after-concert gathering, we were talking huge plans for concerts to come!

So, we took December off and I started planning rep for the Spring concert.  There was a lot of back-and-forth with board members about difficulty of parts, but we eventually settled on a draft list of pieces and started rehearsals in January.  The program included:

  • Julius Caesar Overture (Schumann)
  • Symphony 5, 2nd movement (Beethoven)
  • Symphony 39, 1st movement (Mozart)
  • March of the Three Kings, from ‘Christus’ (Liszt)
  • Il pastor fido, selections (Handel)
  • two Toréadors pieces from Carman (Bizet)
  • Rosamunde Overture (Schubert)
  • plus … ‘Nessun dorma’ by Puccini with Chris Chumbley as the soloist

We scratched and honked through the first month or two and things started to come together.  We eventually figured out that the program was too long and would likely have to cut something.  We reduced the number of selections from ‘Il pastor fido’ first – the high horn parts were a killer!  Liszt, Beethoven and Mozart were looking iffy come April.  I was really really hoping to not cut the Liszt because, first, we paid for it, and second, it was going to be a cornerstone of the first half.  Third, though, it’s a favourite piece of mine.  I really really love it.

Beethoven was looking rough though, because there were often key woodwind players missing from rehearsals – just luck of the draw with Winter vacations and random absences.  It sounded really thin and frail most of the time.  Mozart was so-so too — the string parts are tough.  “Too many notes!”, said someone in the movie Amadeus.  By the end, we shelved Mozart.  It just wasn’t working (but we’ll revive it for next Spring).

Come May, we doubled up the rehearsals – Fridays and Saturdays.  That was seriously fun!  Everyone was on board with it and we knew there would be some absences (Highlands Summer Festival rehearsals were starting up too), but at least we doubled our chances of getting people out – especially our oboist from Fenelon Falls.  She had a decent way to drive for rehearsals.

In mid-May, two weeks before the concert, I figured it was a good time to play through pieces non-stop.  At some point, you need to start doing that to make sure the pieces hold together.  You also get a good idea of the complete musical ‘thought’ of the piece hearing it from start to finish.  So we started that particular rehearsal with the ‘Julius Caesar Overture’ and we read the piece from top to bottom, no stopping.  At the end, we applauded ourselves.  No foolin’ — outright applause.  And then we rehearsed the Rosamunde – again, no stopping and with the tempo up some.  It sounded great.  I had goosebumps in the middle of it and smiled from ear to ear.  The orchestra had made a huge leap from the week before.  It was so obvious to my ears.

In performance, the orchestra played so well.  All those extra rehearsals paid off!  I think the only misses were the second half of the March of the Three Kings, and the chaconne from ‘Il pastor fido’.  Highlights for me where Julius Caesar, the Carmen pieces (I did a little ‘hell ya!’ at the end of them) and Rosamunde — PLUS ‘Nessun dorma’.  Chris was bang-on for it!  It was beautiful!

I have to say though, the first half of March of the Three Kings was a thing of beauty.  I was tearing up a little in the section where it goes into a cut-time pulse.  Tuning was good, balance was good … everything had come together for it.

Over the months, I can hear how particular people are improving in their playing – it’s sort of like they are my little family and I’m seeing them grow up.  And they are giving me great feedback too – sometimes specific and sometimes I just absorb commentary from our rehearsals and I adopt new techniques or evolve ones I already have.  And I get lots of great compliments from spouses and the general public at our concerts.  Everyone is loving this – and so am I!

So, like I said, HCO’s been the highlight of the first 6 months of my 2013.  Now to plan for music for the Fall session – we’re doing a Pops Concert!

Tchaik 4

I need to stop apologizing for late posts…. it’s been a weird 6 months for me, emotionally and spiritually.  But let me get to the subject at hand:  Tchaik 4.

Back in January and February earlier this year, Orchestra Toronto worked on Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony.  It was my first time performing it.  It was the ‘biggest’ piece of the performance season for me.  But, for a change vs. previous years, I had very little prep to do for it.  Why?  Because it was a piece for various auditions.

Back when I auditioned for the GGS in Toronto, I prep’d it as an option but ultimately didn’t use it.  I also prep’d it for the Montreal Symphony audition last year, but as you know, didn’t go.  So I was already well-prepared for it when it came time to rehearsing it with Orchestra Toronto.  We also had a brass sectional for it with trombonist Rupert Price (Windsor Symphony).  Finally, I had a lesson on it with Mark Tetreault (Toronto Symphony). This was my first time meeting Mark in person.  What a fantastic guy!  He was really encouraging and said some really nice things about my playing.  He gave me some great pointers about the bits I needed help on.  Darn it!  I wish I had taken notes right afterwards … like maybe blogging about it.  oy!  But I do remember playing too loudly.  I like to look at it as trying too hard.  Still I *KNOW* I play a lot louder when I get with the trombone.  Alex, on bass, produces a lot of source.  Seriously a lot.

Specifically though, I do remember working on this section with Mark:

tchaik-4-first-mvt-snippet1

I was heavily emphasizing the dotted 8th note – i.e. the syncopation.  Mark suggested letting the dotted 8th be the ‘rebound’ (my word) off the emphasis of the note before it – i.e. the on-beat.  This instant led me to not trying as hard (also with his suggestion) and the lick practically played itself.  He also suggested playing the dotted 8th’s shorter and let them ring on their own.  Again, less work, but also more time to breath.  What difference all that made!  There was also this lick:

tchaik-4-first-mvt-snippet2

… and this one …

tchaik-4-fourth-mvt-snippet1Both presented similar challenges for me – the leap to a high Db (on my C tuba).  I was naturally emphasizing the upper note, which put a lot of pressure on its accuracy, which I was worried about.  Mark suggested the opposite – emphasize the lower note.  The tessitura of the upper Db will make it shine on its own.  This improved the phrasing, but he also suggested practicing with a slur from the F to the Db.  I threw that into the category of “practice the long stuff short and the short stuff long”.  It really does work.  Such simple things made my part much easier to play.  Thank you Mark!

Come concert day, I was really relaxed.  I think we played it really well.  I was super happy with my own performance.  All that preparation over a few years made it cinch to play.

Next season:  Tchaik 5!  😀

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!  🙂

Giving Lessons in Haliburton

I’m starting to give lessons in Haliburton. Not a full marketing drive, but I asked a new trombonist in the Highlands Wind Symphony if he’d like to get some lessons from me to help improve his tone and he said yes. So we’ve had lessons two Saturdays in a row. I don’t play trombone but that’s ok because my focus is on breathing and buzzing. Both work together to give a good foundation for all brass musicians. Yesterday, we were working on the harmonic series in warm ups and he played a high Bb. He said it was the first time he’d done that! I said it was due to faster air flow encouraged by his work with the Breathing Gym and the emphasis on buzzing. The noted sounded great too! I was really proud of him and took it as a bit if a nod with my methods. I picture running a brass education studio up here. I don’t know how profitable it could be, but it would be very enjoyable.
In related news, I sent an application in coach the winds in the Kawartha Youth Orchestra. I don’t know it would work with my schedule or theirs, but the person I was in contact with suggested I apply anyhow. I’ll let you know how it goes!