A week of String Quartets at the Smithsonian Institute with the Axelrod String Quartet - Four Amati violins, Four stellar musicians, and three concerts.
It's hard to explain the feeling when you walk on stage holding an absolutely invaluable instrument, and you are in the presence of three really great musicians that have spent their lives playing this repertoire. James Dunham, my new inner voice hero - told stories of being a member of the Cleveland Quartet, and so much more - his perception for the detail, the subtleties, the rhetoric, Ken and his incredible giant brain of knowledge and skill, Marc for his human - ness, that might not be a word, but I describe him like this, a sense of understanding much, in the music and outside, enjoying the pleasure of this music very deeply. It was an interesting team, as I stepped in for my past teacher, Marilyn McDonald as she heals from a car accident, where she was not wearing a seatbelt. WEAR A SEATBELT EVERYONE!!! She is doing well, and we are in touch, and her spirit was with us this week in DC.
It was a strange thing for me, growing up on a farm in rural Ontario, walking around the giant capitol building of the United States everyday, and working in a museum that had serious metal detectors, and hundreds and thousands of kids and people visiting everyday. Our rehearsal/concert space had a double paned window into a hallway so we often were being watched as we rehearsed, with people taking our pictures, I wonder if they thought we were literally an exhibit - I'm not saying we are all that old, but it crossed my mind, and made me smile.
Performing Beethoven Opus 59 number 1 for the first time this week was an absolute dream. We also performed Haydn Opus 50 number 6 and Mozart K 387... all incredible pieces, but the Beethoven is a monster in the repertoire, and goes really really deep. It was just a fantastic experience, and one for the books. I look forward to continue my hunt for a string quartet of my own - I would love to be part of one, however, it has to be at the right time, under the right circumstances, with the right people, sound familiar?!?
with admiration to these gentlemen,
Dark Watchers - BBC RADIO 3 PREMIERE - unclassified with Elizabeth Alker (December 12th 2019) an ambient album composed in collaboration with Jonas Bonnetta of Evening Hymns.
Jonas Bonnetta and Edwin Huizinga sitting on a hillside in Big Sur discussing music, live, nature. In January of 2018 the two friends embarked on a life-changing journey of composing, and creating, and capturing nature sounds, taking field recordings, playing in public and private spaces all over Big Sur, touring Robinson Jeffers House, going on overnight hikes lead by Big Sur Land Trust summer program director Todd Farrington. What came of this, was an album of deep collaboration between these two musicians, that has since resulted in the making of a full length album, a vinyl pre-order release available now, and a BBC premiere last night, December 12th 2019. Thanks to Elizabeth Alker, with her unclassified program on BBC radio 3.
some words from our friend Kevin Healey
Dark Watchers is a full-length ambient collaboration between experimental musician Jonas Bonnetta and virtuoso violinist Edwin Huizinga, written and recorded in situ during the pair’s seclusion at Big Sur.
Working among the coves and meadows that furrow the coast, Huizinga and Bonnetta fashion an album in which composition and field sounds dissolve into something like transcription. Crackling fire fades into a thicket of electronics, glassy piano blooms into the dawn chorus of the rare yellow-breasted chat, each delicate note plucked out and ramified into melody. Bass tones are braided into the patter of brook and tidal eddy, the harmony of light on the water decanted into the sound of Huizinga’s violin.
In Dark Watchers, the pair bend to their task like scriveners, as if the intricate arrangements of wind and surf and the convocated ghosts of the Santa Lucia mountains were notes which could be transposed, if only one might learn the tuning. Cut off from the outside world, away from the smog of social media and centrifugal mania of digital life, Bonnetta and Huizinga look for the music of tangible things.
The album is a reckoning of spaces in transition – the coast, the dusk, the final eclipse of life – and its two sides preserve the same formal tension. Side A draws on the haunted solitudes of Big Sur in the fading light, études of color rendered in circuits and strings; Side B invokes an oceanic darkness, bottomless and familiar. There, fragmentary voices rise in a murmur of half-remembered poems, rumors of speech like shapes seen through the surface of the sea.
The poetry of Robinson Jeffers in particular hovers over the record, his work a faithful companion during its creation. Jeffers lived his life on the coast, building a home called Tor House with his own hands in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The environmental music of that house, recorded there on the anniversary of the poet’s death, is woven through the album like a soft tattoo, the composers seeking, as Jeffers put it, “the wind-struck / music man's bones were moulded to be the harp for.”
In the legends of the Santa Lucia mountains, the Dark Watchers are shadowy figures, half-glimpsed and penumbral, that stand among the high peaks that slope into the sea. They must never be looked at directly. In the instant they are seen, they disappear into the landscape of which they are a manifestation. Dark Watchers is a record of the composers’ attempt to surrender completely to the same landscape, if only fleetingly.For in that moment one might see the filaments, wavering at some hidden pitch, by which each thing is fastened to every other.
-Kevin Healey creditsreleases March 3, 2020
Jonas Bonnetta-piano, electronics, synthesizers, clarinet, lloopp
Edwin Huizinga-violin, upright bass
Nicholas Leahy-pedal steel
Written and arranged by Jonas Bonnetta and Edwin Huizinga at Rancho Rico and Glen Deven Ranch in Big Sur, California in January 2018
Additional recording at Port William Sound in Mountain Grove, Ontario
Mixed at Port William Sound by Jonas Bonnetta
Mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri at Black Knoll Mastering
Photography by Lane Meyers and Edwin Huizinga
Album layout by Josh Daignault
Recordings in the field made on a Sound Devices Mixpre10-T with a pair of DPA 4060's, a Sennheiser MKH-416, and an Aquarian H2A hydrophone.
Made with the very generous support of the Big Sur Land Trust.
Many thanks to Lygia Chapellet, Todd Farrington, Nicholas Leahy, Caylie Runciman, Big Sur Land Trust, Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, Lana Weeks, Douglas Mueller, and Kevin Healey.
A few months ago Fire & Grace was invited to Hastings, New Zealand to perform and do workshops at Irongate School. One of the big important things we wanted to try and accomplish was working with the Maori and Samoan students and their cultures and find ways to connect them to ones that we study and perform. It was an absolutely mind-blowing experience. To hear these kids sing, play, and talk about their songs, what they are about, try to learn bits of their language, and perform these songs on the violin and with my colleague Bill on Guitar. It was nothing short of Magical. I would love to also give a shoutout to Raewyn Newcomb who has become a dear friend, and really understands and loves to help create the opportunity for these partnerships, and building a worldwide cultural community. I feel so honoured and thrilled to be part of this community, and look forward to connecting with these students, and budding young musicians soon again. Music brings us together, and music holds so much beauty and joy and friendship within itself - when we have the opportunity to share it together, it changes us forever.
I'm looking forward to sharing some more projects with you all shortly... it's been an incredibly busy start to the new year, and I cannot believe how much time flies... The photo above was taken at the very beginning of January, when I was lucky enough to spend a week in Big Sur with my friends William Coulter, and Ashley Broder in making a new album we are going to call Partita Americana. We have a short tour coming up in May and June, and are making sure the album will be ready when we hit the stage for those shows!!!
Next week, on February 21st, I will be performing the North American premiere of my new Cantata, The Angel Speaks, a stages piece for two singers, a small chamber ensemble made up of Tafelmusik Orchestra Musicians, and dance. I will also be performing, and on the same program, Tyler Gledhill and I will resurrect our piece; Inception, that we created together. This performance is made possible by the Ontario Arts Council, and Opera Atelier.
I look forward to writing more as these exciting projects see the light of day, and come to be. Thank you for riding this wave with me, I am forever grateful.
I’m so excited to share this project with you all....
For the past three years, we (Edwin Huizinga and William Coulter) have been performing concerts around the world as Fire & Grace. One of our most exciting arrangements is The Liquid Gold Suite - a fusion of Baroque and Irish dance music. In 2017, we toured Ireland with a filmmaking team and captured over 100 hours of footage of music, art & culture throughout County Kerry. As we head into post-production, our dream is to create a breathtaking visual story of our journey for all to experience.
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This past year I began the journey of making a film with my dear friend William. We started performing together almost four years ago. Our curiosities include discovering the connections of baroque and folk music, the dance elements between them, and the magic it creates. Diving into the culture and traditions of the folk music that we love, exploring new ways of sharing this music with the world, this is what we hope to do with this film. Our latest adventure took us to Ireland, a place where traditional music comes from the mist that hovers above the ocean, the dew that sticks to the trees in the forest, and the dreams that dance around the stone walls of the castles. We literally drove through a hurricane to make a film of our journey. We brought a team with us from California, a couple of dear friends. When we arrived in Ireland we also met Jim, and crew to remember. A hero among men Jim is, I would say. His words will flow with me into this new year. I will share just a few of them with you. He would turn his head towards you, smile, and say: "Everything is possible, all of the time" Well Jim, we did manage to shoot over 100 hours of footage all over county Kerry, and play seven shows in two weeks.... what were we thinking!!! A lot of very short nights, but late night planning and early morning drives 'drove' us to make something really really beautiful. I'm so excited to share this with you. We will be launching a campaign soon to raise the money to finish it, because as you can imagine, this project is an expensive one. I really hope it will encourage and touch people young and old, for years to come. Stay in touch. Be true to yourself.
A long time ago it took weeks, or months to travel to Ireland, today I hopped on a plane and arrived in about five and a half hours. What a world we live in!!! The country here is soaked with the old world. Gorgeous buildings, cobblestone streets, pubs that poured their first pints four or five hundred years ago. It is truly a magnificent feeling. I arrived in Dingle this afternoon after traveling from the Dublin airport, getting picked up by Eilis Kennedy, we made our way across the country. The roads were narrow, the fog was thick, and you couldn't see ten feet in front of you on the mountain pass. What a drive! We also encountered an Irish traffic jam, of some cows going back to their stall after a day out in the fields. William Coulter and I rehearsed for a few hours with Eilis to prepare for a run of a few shows in a row now, starting tomorrow in Dingle at St. James Church, a series that William's brother Steve founded years and years ago. We also went for a gorgeous walk along the pier, and even caught some live music, which was drifting out of all the pubs. Live music in all the pubs!!! We walked into one of them, and Bill turned to me and said, "that's one of my favourite guitar players in the world" And then the fiddle player looked up from playing a tune and said. "I know you! You're Fire & Grace!" Well, Ireland, I'm already falling in love, and I've only been here for one day. The weather was PERFECT. it was rainy, cloudy, wet, dreary, and gorgeous. Honestly though, it feels so wonderful walking back to our lodging with the wind and rain and Irish air whipping around our faces, after a pint of Guinness. Ready for a few shows in a new country I've never been, with lots of new experiences to be had....
Thanks for listening,
I am back in Toronto for a while now playing some great concerts with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, however I wanted to share some stories about the journey of ACRONYM. We just spent a few days together at Avaloch Music Institute in New Hampshire, and learned some really great new repertoire - among my favourite - is a Sonata by Biber called Jocunda, a very strange and wonderful piece that highlights the variety and improvisational aspects of Biber and the music of his time so well! I am also delighted to inform you that we went into the studio the following week, in New York at Oktaven Audio and made another record. It is so incredible to make such great music with friends and colleagues that you share so much love of the music with. It feels incredible to be in the studio and have everyone in the ensemble, and in the booth, just routing for the group, our concepts, our ideas, our sound.
The four fiddlers in ACRONYM are Beth, Adriane, Johanna and myself, and we all met at Marilyn McDonald's studio in Oberlin, Ohio, almost 15 years ago. I will share a photo of the four of us below, because we have such a great time together, and Jeff Weeks, a photographer that joined us for a few hours at Avaloch this summer captured it quite beautifully.
This weekend we are all meeting up in Clinton, New York for a concert at Hamilton College, performing with our dear friend Jesse Blumberg and playing a program of all Rosenmüller. It's is going to be a fun show - if you're in the area, drop by and come listen!!!
Driving down Highway One to Big Sur is one of the most special things for me. The feeling, the memories, the draw that I have, the spot this place has in my heart. It feels like home. I'm writing as I listen to the waves crashing, and I watch the birds soaring not above me, but below me, and today, there is not one single cloud in the sky. As I drive down the highway however, the feeling is different this time, there are so few cars, and the energy is vibrant. Pulling into the Ranger Station in Big Sur, the last possible stop before Highway One is completely closed, there is a buzz of confused tourists turning around, that have not heard the news, locals rushing to a parking spot with groceries in hand and getting ready for the hike to their home, or ride, or wheelbarrow on the other side of the huge gap, which used to be a bridge. William and I get out our instruments and play some tunes as we wait for someone to come pickup all of our stuff for Fiddle Camp. Yes, road closures and all, fiddle camp is ON! I start hiking through the redwoods, down the hill, by the river, back up the hill, passing others along the way, every one stops to say hello. We are on an island now, lets say hello, ask a question, share a moment. Getting to the other side of the closure other cars are lined up along the Highway. As a local, you have a car on either one side of the bridge or the other, and the rest you have to figure out with friends, neighbors, family, and of course the best of all - the community itself. Last night about 15 incredible musicians, teachers, players, pickers, fiddlers, banjo players, sat around and we began to discuss the goings on of camp. The kids arrive today. There is so much love here for sharing. So much talk about flow, about plugging in to the needs and desires of the kids - of sharing your passion. I'm going to be teaching a bulgarian tune, an improve class, a fiddle class, there will be soooo many things everyone can learn - and I'm going to try and go to everyone else's classes too. Banjo, Ukulele, Mandolin, you name it... Last night it was impossible to go to sleep, people were jamming, and discussing ideas for the week. This morning at breakfast we decided that there must be a yoga class every morning at 7 am, obviously!!! playing whatever instrument you do all day, everyone has to stretch! That while drinking raw goats milk, fresh strawberries, and the most insane ginger scones of my life was a pretty cool start to the day.
it's time to meet all the kids, and continue being part of exciting the energy around us, contributing to the madness, and joining in the fun :)
on tour. kickin it. playin.