It certainly feels like an incredible honor to be invited to perform at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC as a member of the Smithsonian Chamber Players with Kenneth Slowik and several other very esteemed colleagues. As I got off the plane after a short flight from Toronto, about an hour and eight minutes to be exact, I was in a cab and actually fiddling away on an AMATI violin within an hour from the Smithsonian collection. In what world is that even possible??? During the course of the first day my colleagues filtered into Ken Slowik's office one by one. His office is in the corner of the National Museum of American History, on the third floor, down a private hallway with very thick double wooden doors - always locked. It felt like a reunion, I first worked with Ken Slowik when I was a teenager at the Domaine Forget summer music festival playing quintet by the name of Onslow. Next Loren Ludwig walked into the room, an extremely talented and learned viola da gamba player, and also a member of Acronym, a band which we are both founding members of and have since released three recordings of previously unrecorded baroque music. Then Zoe Wiess, a friend and collaborator who I went to school with at Oberlin, then Lucas Harris, a very familiar friend and colleague from Toronto, where I am currently residing. Then in comes Cat, the daughter of the director, followed by a couple of people from New York, Francis Liu and Arnie Tanimoto two musicians who I have undoubtedly crossed paths with but not able to sit down and make incredible music with until this past week. What a treat.
We were exploring the music of Dowland and Lawes this time around, two incredible English Renaissance composers. Also great musicians, they have composed incredible music for viol consort. I feel very lucky to have been asked to be part of this week of music making also because the parts Francis and I were playing were treble viol parts, but could also be played on violin, and as they were relatively high parts, they fit perfectly on the violin. I haven't even begun to mention the gorgeous instruments we both got to play on for the week... O.M.G.
I was walking around the "Mall" in Washington, DC which is a 146 acre park in the middle of the Capitol of the United states with several incredible museums - all of which are free to the public. Anyways, I was walking around the Mall with Lucas Harris, and he was saying the William Lawes is one of the composers that were at the top of his list of people he wished hadn't died so young. "A couple more decades of William Lawes would have made for so much more glorious music" says Lucas Harris. And I completely agree, sadly he was shot by a stray bullet while on duty in the Kings Guard.
The forty two gut strings I mentioned in the headline refer to the fact that Kenneth Slowik wanted to experiment with stringing every single viola da gamba with pure gut strings - for ALL the strings for this concert. It was an incredible sound. Now for those of you who are less aware of the finer details of playing and performing renaissance and baroque music, we do not often play our instruments with %100 pure gut strings, often the lower strings are covered with some kind of steel, or silver, to make them easier to play, or simply easier to handle. Loren Ludwig was stuck with this incredibly thick massive lower string that vibrated about half a centimeter in either direction when pulled by the baroque bow. Again , a totally incredible sound. So, six viols times six strings equals 36, and then 6 more gut strings because the two violinists, Francis and myself, were using three pure gut strings on top, and then one covered g string each on the bottom because the music we were playing is considered late enough for us violinists to have one covered gut string, and thank goodness for that because otherwise some of those really low notes might have gotten just a wee bit too "clungy".
I would like to highly recommend this incredible english music, Lawes and Dowland being two incredible composers that play with dissonance in ways that no composer has really done since, at least in that way. We often found each other working on bars after bars of music without a single cadence, and then all of a sudden being completely surprised by all kinds of chord changes. It is the kind of music that allows for constant discovery, and questioning of where it goes, and how, and for what reason, and with what color, and what quality... the list goes on. There are simply endless opportunities for ways to hear, understand, perform, and listen to this music.
I am so grateful for this incredible opportunity. Thank you Kenneth Slowik for the invite!
It is always incredible to do something for the first time. I feel that life often ends up being a collection of many first time experiences, and then you slowly settle into a few things that you love to do over and over again. Chamber music has been one of the those things that I have come to realize at an early age as something that I want to make sure that I get to do over and over again in my life. That said, this morning was a very special morning because I got a few incredible players together from the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and we walked over to the Centre de musique baroque de Versailles, just a few minutes walk away from our Hotel where we are currently staying to play some music. The reason we are here is to perform three concerts, starting tonight, at the Royal Opera House in the Palace of Versailles. One of the most unique opportunities in the world for our orchestra that we have been lucky enough to do now for the third time! Tonight is opening night of Lully’s Opera Armide, the second time we bring this particular Opera to Versailles, France.
Back to why this morning was so special, well, for the very first time, I sat down together with Chris, Tom, and Mimi from Tafelmusik and read several string quartets composed by Hyacinthe Jadin, A TOTALLY INCREDIBLE FRENCH COMPOSER. I always find it so amazing when one can sit down with incredible musicians and come across some incredible music that non of you has ever heard, site read them, and completely fall in love with the music. There are similarities to Haydn, with incredible jokes in the minuets and trios, as well as similarities to Mozart in the part writing, and conversational material. I am very excited to program some Jadin in the next coming years on my own series as well as hopefully share more of his works with the North American community.
We were welcomed this morning at the Centre de musique baroque de Versailles by Julien and Thomas two of the people behind a lot of the discovery and creation of these modern additions of an incredible amount of baroque and classical repertoire from French Composers of our past. We also read some Vachon, and took a look at some Grétry. Two other great composers writing chamber music in the late 18th century.
It is such an honour to be traveling in Europe and performing right now just outside of Paris in Versailles with Opera Atelier and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Tonight will be a very special night, as we perform Armide, an opera composed for Marie Antoinette which was premiered at the Palace of Versailles in the Opera House where we will be performing. Greetings from France, and I look forward to sharing some of this incredible music we discovered this morning with family and friends at home, and abroad.
photo shot by Jennifer Toole
Last night was a special night for me. I was asked by one of my dear friends Natalie Spilger, someone i dearly admire, to perform at a dinner in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California. The dinner was a meeting of the minds where several contemporary leading business CEO's from around the world got together to talk shop. In particular, it featured a celebrated man from the Netherlands named Jos de Blok. A dutchman who has totally transformed nursing all over the country of The Netherlands. This concept that he has implanted into the community of The Netherlands is now being studied and used all over the world more and more. I thought for such a unique audience and interesting group of people I would compose and perform something new, by yours truly. The event was at Plant Food and Wine, a new restaurant on Abbot Kinney and it was such an incredible rush for me to perform something I have been working on for myself. I want to encourage all of my colleagues to try writing, composing, and improvising on their instrument - and taking the next step of performing it when there is an opportunity to do so.
I walk up to the hotel lobby and ask the front desk clerk if she could tell me where the old downtown is, and she says, oh sorry, the old city was completely bombed in the war. It is gone, there is almost nothing left. I am continually reminded when I tour in Europe how unbelievably recent the Second World War actually was, and how much damage was actually done. My grandfather, a dutchman who lived through the war, never talked to me much about it, but there are definitely daily reminders everywhere you walk in Darmstadt. Yesterday 50 or so of us Knights flew out of NYC to do a European tour of Germany and Austria. Today is a rehearsal day for us, and then tomorrow is our first show. I believe the headline read "A Casual concert with the Knights" as I walked by the Darmstadtium yesterday, where we will be performing. I took the photo above of the hall, and you can see Darmstadt itself in the reflection of the building.
What I didn't find out until last night, walking around the city is that Schlossgrabenfest is also happening right now in Darmstadt, and approximately 300,000 people are here this weekend from all over Germany for a massive music festival right in the middle of town. Last night there were about 7 stages set up all over the city, with all kinds of music from german singer-songwriter stuff, german Rock and Roll, and even a stage just set up with a radio DJ playing the hits, with even a little music from a local Toronto guy, Drake. It's so fun to walk around a massive music festival in Europe, I find it so different from North America, first of all the whole festival was free, there was little to no police presence, and alcohol was unrestricted and openly allowed, well, everywhere. It's also fun to think about all these hundreds of thousands of people raging to all this incredibly loud hip-hop and rock music right outside of the concert hall where we will be rehearsing Shostakovich's 9th symphony today. Maybe it's just me thinking about that juxtaposition because I spend a lot of time in both worlds, touring with my band The Wooden Sky, and then playing so much classical music all over the world as well.
Some of us stayed up late talking about Shostakovich last night, and what he was thinking about when he wrote this particular symphony, and where the world was at, and what was happening. It's interesting being in Germany, performing this piece. It was composed in 1945, and premiered in Leningrad on November 3rd 1945. Originally it was supposed to be a celebration of the Russian victory over Nazi Germany, however shortly after Shostakovich started writing the work, he stopped, took a few months off, and started writing this particular symphony in a completely different character, far different then what he was originally intending and what people were expecting. I'm so excited to perform it here in Germany. The lightness, the classical aspect, the folk-like quality.
If you're in Darmstadt, you can find more info about our concert tomorrow here.
It's the evening before our second Stereo Live show in Toronto. It's been an incredible ride this season, planning, booking, organizing, and presenting a new series in Toronto. I love this city, and whenever I am home it is so fun to be able to make music with the musicians that I admire and love. April is a busy month for me, because I'm part of a rather long awesome run with Opera Atelier, a baroque opera company in Toronto that is performing seven shows of Orpheus & Eurodice. Before those shows however, we have many rehearsals, including a wandelprobe, which was tonight, a tech, a dress, and then finally - opening night which will be on April 9th. Also constantly planning and organizing the next project, tour, rehearsal, record, etc as a freelance musician, is always exciting too. I'm also going to be part of a great chamber music concert with Jeanne Lamon, a mentor and friend who has been directing the Tafelmusik baroque orchestra for decades. We will be performing together with a few other friends on April 18th - actually the same day as the closing of the Opera. Another thing with us musicians sometimes, we book all kinds of things whenever we can - and sometimes they are quite tight! An Opera at 4:30 PM and a chamber music performance at 8:00 PM in the same city though, is definitely possible, and according to google maps they are only about 10 kilometers apart... I'm hoping for a ride, i'm not gonna lie. The end of the month involves some more shows with my band the Wooden Sky - it is always incredible getting on the road and making music with these guys. We have been on stage together hundreds of times now, and it feels so good - AND it keeps getting better!!! Anyways... back to Stereo Live! The reason I was tempted to write down a few words this evening, even after an incredibly long day, is that it was also simply an incredible day. Keith and I, who started this little series together, invited Morris Ertman from the Rosebud Theatre of the Arts to come to Toronto and join us for our 2nd show which is tomorrow at 3:00 PM. We will be performing the Seven Last Words, by Haydn, the string quartet version. Well, today was a big rehearsal day for us, workshopping the piece - and what you might not realize, is that the piece is often done with narration, with someone speaking, or announcing the words as they happen in the score. Well, Morris has written a story for us this week, about the seven last words, and when we ran it through today it was just totally incredible. Music to me is always a story. Whether it's an obvious one, or a made up one, or an old one, or one from the past, or about the future, or just even the beginnings of one, it always takes me somewhere, someplace, somehow. Morris today brought a whole new component to the string quartet version of the Seven Last Words by Haydn to me today. He manages to weave us through the words, while telling a story, and mentioning all kinds of details, yet also keeping it as a big picture. I am so excited to share this journey with those of you that can make it to the performance tomorrow. I also hope that you enjoy the piece as much as i have enjoyed working on it this week. We have two shows this weekend. April 3rd at 3:00 PM at the Campbell House Museum, and also April 4th at 8:00 PM at the Little Trinity Church. Links can be found below...
the string quartet will consist of myself, Keith Hamm, Chris Verrette, and Rachel Desoer.
Campbell House - April 3rd
Little Trinity Church - April 4th
Yesterday i had the privilage of performing for some of Toronto's next generation at the TD Children's Literature tent, which was part of the "Word on the Street" festival that takes place every year in Toronto. I was filling in for author Kathy Stinson who was unavailable to read from her new childrens book "The Man with the Violin". The story is all about how Joshua Bell performed in the subway station in Washington DC and how so many people walked by without noticing, however every time a child would walk by and hear the violin, they would try and stop their parents and listen. Kids are attracted to music, and beauty, and have an incredible mind and heart to take in all kinds of emotion. It was a joy to read for these children and I encourage all you parents out there to continue to read to your kids and encourage them to do something musical in their lives because it is proven that music increases the cognitave processes in your brain. And you can always ask yourself, why not learn the one and only universal language?
thank you to CBC, TD, Kathy Stinson and Lindsay Michael for inviting me to be part of this project.
our record available online and in stores today! the wooden sky ------------------------------------------ Let's be ready
In the world of indie rock the day your record is released is a big day. I have released many records so far, and been part of many record releases, however in the classical and baroque world, the day of the release can often slip by somewhat unnoticed. Well, not today. Today we are going to play a show at Sonic Boom in Toronto, and as well as being able to stream our record on CBC, indie88, and exclaim, you can now purchase it everywhere online and in stores all across Canada. We are also starting a Canadian Tour very soon. I can't wait to share some new gorgeous violin licks, beautiful songs, and rock'n tunes with all of you guys. I hope you love the record!!!
tour details here
Friday night was a beautiful night in Toronto. I partnered up with the Campbell House Museum located on the northwest corner of Queen and University to put on an evening of live music. After living in Toronto on and off for the last several years it feels totally incredible to be able to put on a live music event in the city and it be so successfull. Of course it was amazing that the morning of the show I got a call from the museum saying that it was completely SOLD OUT, however the real reason it was successful is that people arrived shortly after 7:00 pm and many of them stayed out until midnight, and had an amazing time. I've been wracking my brain and dreaming about ways to put on amazing events for my friends, my community, my city, our world - it is not easy!!! All the ingredients have to be there - but basically what it comes down to is an awesome vibe. And maybe a bar to order a drink or two, alwasy helps!!! Well, thanks to Gavin Gardiner of the Wooden Sky, Keith Hamm, Alex Read, and Britton Riley we created a beautiful Vibe. I have these amazing gentleman to thank because for me music is all about collaboration. And not just amoungst ourselves, but also a collaboration with the audience. If you're not going to tell the audience a story, then why do they show up?? I want to share my love for the music, the city, the day, as do all of my amazing colleagues, and people come to be part of that!!! It's so exciting to find a team that is on the same page. and to have them also be absolute total world class rockstars is also a bonus. I can honestly say, look any of the guys up from the show on friday night for any show that they are apart of and you will not be dissapointed.
Let me also just take a moment to give a shoutout to the audience. Alot of them stayed for 5 hours to hear us play Haydn, Mozart, a set with the ever engaging and powerful vocalist and guitar player Gavin Gardiner, a Kitchen Jam, a friend Jenna Rogers sharing some of her songs, and Keith Hamm and I tearing up a fiddle tune or two.... THANK YOU!!!
So, there is definitely more to come, I'm hoping to organize a couple of these shows next year at least, so stay tuned, let me know how you feel and what you want to hear, let me know what you love,
until next time.
Tonight I had the pleasure of warming up my gut strings in the first orchestra tech rehearsal of Persée in the Opera House of the Palace of Versailles, home of the late King Louis XIV. This opera, written by Jean-Baptiste Lully, was first performed on April 18th in 1682 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris. Now, hundreds of years later, Opera Atelier and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra are bringing it back to France. The last time this opera was performed in Versailles was for Marie Antoinette's wedding in 1770.
As I find my way to the backstage area and drop off my case with the other musicians', I clutch my instrument with extra care as I travel through the rather treacherous looking backstage area to the pit. There is scaffolding everywhere, and the wooden planks we walk on as we head toward the pit are easily a hundred feet above the lowest level - where they used to store sets I believe. The crew is working out the flying rigs, and the dancers and singers are getting accustomed to the new stage, which is of a quite different stature then that of the Elgin Theatre, where we had our first run of performances in Toronto earlier this month. The Opera House feels like it is waiting for Kings and Queens to enter from the hallways and step into all the beautiful opera boxes four stories high.
Opening night is on Friday! We are all so excited to share this incredible production with our friends, family and the people of Versailles. The adventure of Persée and Andromède awaits us...
LOS ANGELES ~ SAN FRANCISCO ~ NEW YORK ~ TORONTO
as I sit here in Brooklyn with a green tea in hand, at one of ten thousand local coffee shops popping up everywhere all the time (which i love) I wanted to share some highlights from the last month or two and some dates for 2014 with you all. The last couple of months I have been basically living out of my suitcase, and also living out of my bands headquarters basement, namely Gavin Gardiner's basement. Thanks Gavin! Some incredible shows though, A really beautiful recital in Los Angeles with long time colleague and friend Peter Longworth, vivaldi concerto's in Wilmington Delaware, a show in Toronto with the Wooden Sky, Brendan Canning, and Classical Revolution - i believe my first triple bill... a big self-organized, self-promoted california tour with some great college buddies where we performed two weeks of shows based around the Quartet for the End of Time, by Olivier Messiaen, a recording of the Brahms Horn Trio in Santa Barbara, and even a quick visit to Glenn Devon Ranch, where we hope to bring many many more kids in years to come to explore the love, beauty, and magic of Big Sur and Music. Plans in motion for August's festival already. Stay tuned! I guess this brings me to this coming year. Well, I'm constantly dreaming, but lets start with some for sure dates. I would love to invite you to an upcoming CD release concert of a new group in the making, called ACRONYM. we are basically a bunch of great friends based in and around New York that love playing early music. Two albums are coming out in January, and our concert is set for February 10th in NYC. Details can be found on our website ACRONYMENSEMBLE we are also playing a show on February 8th in Oberlin, Ohio, where many of us went to school and first met, almost 8 years ago already... I should mention you can already listen to free soundclips from the albums on our website now :) The Wooden Sky is also releasing an album in the new year, we are aiming for March. I'm sad to say, strings only made it on a couple of tracks because of our insanely busy travel schedules this year - but come hear us play our annual holiday show this week, on Sunday December 29th, all proceeds are going to the daily bread food bank. tickets can be found here. Dreaming live.... projects in motion, I'm working on a live video installation project with Rachel Monosov, and a solo album, which may end up just being an album of all kinds of collaborations as i have some of the most talented friends i know... Wishing everyone a beautiful 2014 as we get closer to the New Year. I'm off to read through 12 brand new compositions from local New York Composers that have written songs for my quartet, another project! exciting times...
on tour. kickin it. playin.