A few months ago now, I got a short message from someone named Michelle Djokic. We had met, and our paths had crossed before. In fact, her family has been known to me my most of my life. Denise Djokic, a relative, is an incredible Canadian cellist who I've had the opportunity to perform with, and Mark Djokic is a fantastic Canadian violinist as well. Anyways, here I was reading a message from Michelle in my tiny little cabin in Bonny Doon, California where I was sheltering in place. Here is her message written on May 17th "Hi Edwin, I believe you are living in Santa Cruz these days. I have been hunkered down in Carmel most of the time. I need to make some music. Any desire to get together, safely, of course? or have a chat some time. My cell phone is 650-xxx-xxxx. I hope you are well and sane. Michelle" It feels strange to read this message now, as I'm sure your mind is piecing this story together - yes, we started playing music. Three hours later, I wrote back, and said, as many of you could imagine... YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea. We spoke on the phone, and discussed ideas, thoughts, repertoire, and said, let us just get together - we can play outside, we can be safe. I mean, we had met, but we didn't really know each other. Although - I will also say, that we have some pretty incredible mutual friends, and when some friends you have, that you know are just salt of the earth, well I trust that so hard, I mean, I surround myself with feelers, so when my friends feel, they get it, I get it, we get it. You get it? So we did have a few of those amazing friends in the back of our minds encouraging us that at least it wasn't going to be a waste of time hanging out and playing music together for an hour or two. I'm enjoying being casual about this beginning, because shit got epic! So we played a little, and then we played some more, and it was just freaking awesome. I had so much fun. Michelle is an absolute monster on the cello. Just so you know, that just means she has unbelievable command of the instrument, and it's basically just her soul playing, and the cello is there because it has four strings and has the potential, if played well, to sound amazing - of course since then I also found out that Michelle has one of the most amazing cellos on the planet - OBVI.
I'm not even sure how or why or when the decision was made, but we became a "Quaranteam". That decision brought us through the friendship ranks in a huge way. I don't play video games, and never have, but I bet it's the equivalent of getting to level 439 in a record amount of time. We got together again, and then I met Mark, Michelle's amazing husband, and we also got along - he gave me a nickname pretty much right away, called me Edwardo, and never looked back. He hasn't slipped once! So now I have another name, kind of neat actually. But don't get any ideas, I still love my name, Edwin. Soon I stayed over for dinner. We had Chinese, for the first time in many months. For someone that travels a lot, going from eating incredible food at restaurants all over the world, to cooking at home every single day, having take out Chinese felt glorious. I guess I could have ordered take out too, however, living alone, that seems ridiculous. I might as well cook, and I love cooking. Dinner turned into a planning meeting, and for those of you that know Michelle, will probably smile at that thought, oh yes, Michelle is a "doer" Someone that makes sh*t happen. It was so fun, we wracked our brains - how in the world were we going to play music for people, something we crave for two reasons. It feeds our soul, but even more importantly, it feeds other peoples souls!!! So, after much thought, we decided, well, lets invite people over - lets start a small series - lets invite people to sit outside, on Michelle's porch, physically distanced, with masks, with sanitizer, with all the things, but lets play music live. And we did! We started the Manzanita Music Collective. We played fourteen concerts I believe so far, every Thursday. It was one of those things that we put in our Calendar instead of taking it off... well, I don't think I put it in my Calendar, because I can store all my gigs in my head again. For a while I've needed a Calendar, but not now - although I really hope I will again soon... I do love making music with others soooooo much. I'm so grateful for Michelle, and her love for music, community, life, chamber music, so many things. I look forward so much to our next project, our next set of concerts, our next sharing of music, whatever it may be. When I left for Canada at the end of our summer series, she looked at me and said, you just wait, you'll be missing me - and it's true. I miss her. So I thought I would share a bit of our story, and toast to our next concerts, our next project, because we will do something again soon, I'm sure of it! Also, we have exciting footage, stories, videos, and audio to share with you over the coming weeks and months as well, because since our circle had to be local, and small, we had some friends follow us around with cameras and microphones so that we could share some of the magic with you all.
Thanks for reading,
Well, thanks to Jae Cosmos, I have been spending the last couple weeks thinking of 10 albums that really influenced me in my life... and looking at them now, what a strange mix! I think it says a lot about how I grew up, with tapes, CDs, and CBC radio playing every day at home. My sister, Linden Huizinga, was also a huge part of my musical upbringing, and lets just say Amanda Marshall for example, is simply something I got hooked on from my sister, but hey! It counts, and I definitely learned every single word of all her songs, at least, for a time. Also Nickel Creek was a huge album for me and my love for fiddle, as was the Leahy family in Canada... and Nigel Kennedy's album of Vivaldi, wow... never mind his VHS tapes, but that's another story. Anyways, this is a bit of an adventure into my past, my passions, my story, and my family... I also absolutely had to include Suzuki tapes, because every since I was a kid, I memorized every single note on every single one of those tapes, and until this day, I can basically play every single piece on any of those tapes from memory, although sometimes I need a little nudge or reminder.
Thanks mom, and dad, and sister, for sharing your music, for introducing me to some of these tunes, and yes, I also found some of these on my own too :)
Fun project - thanks Jae!!! I cannot wait to play more music with you again sometime soon I hope.
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,
on tour. kickin it. playin.