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!

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Product Review: Winter Lip Care for Brass Musicians

It’s January.  It’s cold.  It’s dry.  The time of year that many brass musicians in my climate are struggling to maintain lips in good working condition.  I don’t know what it was, but overnight from De 31 to Jan 1 my lips were on fire and started cracking.  I quickly reached for a product I bought a year earlier:  Chop Saver Gold.  It was doing an “ok” job, but then I thought of asking around on Facebook about what other people use.  Then I thought of blogging a review about them.  Here we go!  (I’ll be expanding this post as I try out more products, so return now and then to check for updates) Continue reading

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

Tuning from within and from without

First, only barely on topic, I have to say that I love using the term “without” as the opposite of “within”.  What I’m really writing about though is a difference in the perception of tuning from within the ensemble and from the conductor’s and audience’s points of view.  In an ensemble I’m in, I’m playing alongside a relatively beginner trombonist.  Musicians love to play in harmony.  Dissonance is best served as making consonance sound even better.  Grinding chords feel fantastic when they are followed by the sweetness of resolution. 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.