So a few years ago I was hired to play my first Celtic Christmas show. I was completely over my head, Celtic fiddle? I grew up in the middle of nowhere outside of Guelph, Ontario going to Suzuki school once a week for years practicing Mozart and Bach (both of which I love very dearly) Well, for those of you that know me, will not be surprised when I said, Yes to the tour, in fact I think I said something like, that sounds GRRRRRRRRRRREAT. Well it was a life changing experience performing Irish fiddle music all over the USA in gorgeous Theaters. I believe the vibe is what sells it. The experience and energy, and level of fun that we have on stage tearing up those jigs and reels are just totally out of this world. So why am I talking about this you might ask? Well, on this tour, I met a guy named William Coulter. Bill, as I call him, has become a great friend and we have been developing a folk and baroque duo show for the last couple of years. Why Folk and Baroque? Well, baroque music is one of my favourite styles of music, and something I have also had considerable training in - with Gustav Leonhardt, with Marilyn McDonald, with Stanley Ritchie, Libby Wallfisch, Vera Beths, Lucy Van Daal, so many great musicians. I've studied with them, played with them, had a couple drinks with them, ran into the ocean with them after a Saint Matthew's Passion - well that was just with Libby... but another lesson in baroque music none the less!!! So you take Baroque music, you add ornaments galore, and you dance around a bit, and then BINGO! you have FOLK MUSIC!!!!!!!
One of my favourite questions I get all the time is what's the difference between a violin and a fiddle. For some reason, soooo many people believe the fiddle is smaller.... of course most people think I play a tiny violin..... when will they ever learn??? I wish Einstein was alive and beside me to explain why the violin looks smaller when I hold it then lets say, when my amazing friend Johanna holds it... hehehehe...
I'm not quite sure why I started writing this blog - but now I'm starting to realize that it's because I'm pitching this duo, this tour, this project... And I think it's going to be AWESOME. And.... we are going to be recording it in June as well, so after our 15 concert tour this month, we're gonna put it all on a record. I'm psyched. Bill is an incredible guitarist, and has been studying and teaching and performing folk music for decades... yes he has a couple of years on me, but not too many! And me? Well, I love it so much, and Bill has decided to put up with my craziness and try out this duo. #LIQUIDGOLD I hope you guys like the name... It makes me smile every time.
So keep in touch, let me know what you think, let me know if you can come to a show, let me know if you want a copy of the album, or if you'd like Bill and I to come to your house and play a concert... you know the drill, we're musicians. If you give us a chance to make music, we will.
At Oberlin Conservatory, where I did my undergraduate degree in violin performance with Marilyn McDonald I was also part of the baroque ensemble led by Jeannette Sorrell. One of the highlights of that experience was performing the Bach Double with Evan Few and the Oberlin Baroque Orchestra. Just a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of performing with Apollo's Fire - Jeannette Sorrell's very own baroque ensemble based in Cleveland.
It was such an incredible feeling to be working together again, and with so many great friends and colleagues. Four of us violinists were in the same studio together at Oberlin.... Talk about a small world. And none of us even live in Cleveland. However, this ensemble is full of superstars and we fly in from all over the world to make magic, and music :) The concerts and tour this last month was for the St. John Passion. One of the most incredible works that J.S. Bach ever wrote. It was totally incredible to perform it seven times, record an album with the group, and make a bunch of really beautiful looking videos. We performing it a few times in Cleveland, brought it to Michigan, and then also to New York City and had a live broadcast at St. Paul's Chapel, part of Trinity Wall Street, in New York. What an experience!!!
I was playing second violin, in a section of three, with Adriane Post and Andrew Fouts - two really great friends of mine. I have known them both for at least a decade, and performing with them every day for over two weeks in this ensemble was absolutely incredible. I have also performing chamber music with both Adriane and Andrew many many times over the last ten years and so I often felt like I knew exactly what was going to happen before it happened. There is absolutely nothing like working with the best of friends. The first violin section was full of four rockstars as well. Olivier, Johanna, Evan, and Emi, Emi being the only one I had never worked with before. Of course by the second week I found out she was in an all girls rock and roll string quartet that performed Michael Jackson covers... of course...
Well, the whole experience was incredible, and I absolutely have to take a moment to talk about the soloists and the choir. Many of them are great friends of mine from other ensembles and concerts and festivals, but meeting a few for the first time was a true highlight. Amanda Forsythe singing soprano was just so beautiful. Every time, the arias would give you sometime new to think about and enjoy. And then Nick Phan - he just completely blew my mind. As the evangelist he was our storyteller, every single day, in GERMAN no less, and it was just some of the most amazing singing I have ever heard, day after day, night after night, what an honour to work with you Nick! And last but not least, a final nod to Jeannette, who I've known since 2002, my first year at Oberlin. Thank you for caring so much, thank you for being an awesome musician, and thank you for inviting me to be part of your incredible band!!!!
till next time,
Several months ago my friend Jonas and I were making music together in his studio, and talking about how it would be great to start a series in Sharbot Lake, Ontario. A small little town where his partner Sylvie Smith & Nicole Tarasick have recently opened up a gorgeous cafe. Cardinal Cafe, is a gorgeous red brick, one room church that has been completely renovated into a beautiful cafe and on Saturday night, January 30th it was transformed into a concert space. When Jonas asked me what we should bring to this tiny church turned Cafe without hesitation I said, Bach. Bach is and has been my favourite composers of all time. His music transcends all else, for me. The pieces Philip Fournier and I performed had surely been played at the Zimmerman Cafe, Bach's own coffee house cafe where many of his works were premiered hundreds of years ago.
I would like to take a moment to give a huge huge thank you and heartfelt acknowledgement to everyone that came out on January 30th 2016. The place was beyond sold out, there were people standing, sitting on the freezer behind the coffee machine, in the back. A couple people even dropped by just to stand outside by the door to see what was happening. (I only found that out later of course) The energy and spirit in the room was like nothing else. If anyone ever asks me if I want to play a small intimate concert in a beautiful space, or in the country, or in someones home, my answer is always yes. The next step is to figure out how.
We brought in a harpsichord from Toronto, courtesy of the trusted steed known as The Wooden Sky van, something we share together when we're not on tour, and stays parked in Toronto awaiting our cross country adventures. We loaded it up, and I would like to risk saying, it was the first time that little church had ever had the sounds of a harpsichord reverberating in it's beautiful space. For some people at the concert it was the first time they had ever heard a harpsichord, and for some, yes, for some it was even the first time they had ever heard Johann Sebastian Bach. One great moment was when someone said to Phil, "I've been using the harpsichord setting on my electric keyboard for years, and now I finally understand where the sound comes from" A beautiful night of firsts, of sharing, of music, and of community.
Another quote I would love to share from the evening from Ken Fisher "Last Saturday evening, The Cardinal Cafe hosted a baroque evening. Edwin Huizinga and Philip Fournier opened the gates and windows of heaven in Sharbot Lake. Playing together and separately, these passionate and gentle men, shared their very souls through the medium of Bach and Leclair. We are so grateful to Jonas Bonetta, Sylvie Smith & Nicole Tarasick for this most extraordinary evening." thank you Ken!!!
Yes, as Ken says, I played a solo, the E major Partita by Bach, and Philip did as well, one of Bach infamous preludes and fugues. and then a couple of Bach's Obligato sonatas and then a Sonata by LeClair as well.
Lastly, I would just like to say Thanks so much to Jonas Bonetta, a great friend and amazing visionary for this idea. I can't wait to plan more concerts for Cardinal Classics, and to come back and share my love of music with Sharbot Lake.
I have had the extreme pleasure of working with Bruno for the last eleven years. His humble qualities and extreme subtle musicianship almost feels like they come from a time long ago. Bruno's rehearsals are so completely full of gems, phrases, thoughts, interesting quotes, that Tafelmusik comes together in ways that I didn't know possible when he is working his magic. Just yesterday, he says to us, at the beginning of the Beethoven's Ninth Symphony first rehearsal, he says, the first movement starts about 20 bars before the beginning. Now this might not make sense to everyone right away, but to the band, it is so clear, and immediately changed the sound and expressive qualities of even the very first note of our sound. Bruno is one of the most incredible human beings I have ever met. He has a way about him, that I find incredibly hard to describe, and yet I feel like I completely understand where he is coming from. His musical ideas are so often exactly what I wish I could figure out how to put into words, or into an expression, and he does it so incredibly eloquently. It's absolutely incredible. I also feel very close with him. He was one of the first conductors that I got a chance to work with at a professional level where I understood the incredible power that a maestro can have over a group of people, and a piece of music, and making it happen.
Yesterday as Bruno walked into the room for our first rehearsal the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra stayed quiet. We had just finished tuning and we understood how beautiful this week is going to be. How important it is what we are doing. Giving Beethoven's Ninth Symphony another performance. Sharing it with the world, recording it. Working with Bruno. These things are all completely invaluable to us musicians. I have been looking forward to this week since I was asked to be a part of it, almost one year ago.
I managed to find a quiet moment at the end of the rehearsal to say my hellos, but I find myself short of words, being so excited, and having so much respect for this other human being. I realize that there is barely a need for words. In the last two and half hours Bruno has already told me so much through his music making, OUR music making. His love for the music, for us, for the world, for Beethoven, for family, for the notes, for the rests, for the dynamics, it makes so many things make sense.
I just wanted to share a few words with you, and if you have the opportunity to see this performance this week, it will change your life, in some small way, perhaps without even realizing it yourself. I know it has for me.
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.
on tour. kickin it. playin.