In Praise of Preparations, Premieres and the Unexpected

These first few weeks of April mark the end of the semester at Memorial University where we both teach. There are many juries and recitals to help prepare our students for, and many of these recitals are the first outings of this magnitude for some of them. Through extra lesson, dress rehearsals, etc., we do our best to help “prepare them for the unexpected,” knowing of course that, in a live performance, anything can happen. (For example, when Nancy was an undergrad, she miraculously moved her bridge a centimeter to the left during vigourous up bow in a thankfully not-too-public performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto.) This universal truth –that anything can happen at a performance– was shown to be true in a unique way during a grad student’s recent recital. During the final bow (it was a lovely recital, btw), the student’s boyfriend strode onstage, flowers in hand, got down on one knee, produced a ring and – yes, you guessed it – proposed in front of the entire audience. This was definitely a first in the history of our School of Music! (She did say yes…)

Our own slightly less glamorous preparations are underway too – for five concerts coming up in the 3rd and 4th weeks of April. We are practicing a number of different programs which encompass the six violin and keyboard sonatas by Bach, a Beethoven sonata, and new Canadian works by Gougeon, Crawley, Schafer, Morlock and David Jaeger. The Morlock and Jaeger are new to us. Living composers are generally awe-inspiring and, as performers, we are especially grateful for the really good ones! Jocelyn’s Petrichor came to us a couple weeks ago (its premiere will be on April 26 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, and we will play it again on April 27th at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto), and it is beautiful – well-crafted and elegantly, idiomatically written for the instruments (always appreciated, though not totally necessary). Jocelyn really has a unique harmonic language and sincere musical voice. The soul/message of this piece spoke to us immediately and becomes clearer to us each time we rehearse it. We are so enjoying the process of learning this work!

We are also enjoying getting to know David Jaeger’s music! As many of you may know, David has been selflessly promoting, championing, supporting, fighting for, etc. other Canadian composers and their music for years and years through his work as a senior producer at the CBC radio. (He “retired” last December.) He made a monumental impact on the careers of young composers and performers in this country through programs such as the Two New Hours (woefully, it is no longer) and the CBC commissioning program to name but a couple. But now we have the pleasure and honour of playing his Sonata Tristan and Isolde at the Canadian Music Centre on April 27th. How many of us even remember that David began his career as a composer? Well, he did, and we’re very excited to play this wonderful piece filled with lyricism, energy and drama. (On our last three recording, we were fortunate to have David as the producer. This includes our new complete Beethoven sonata album. We celebrate its release with a performance at the Gallery 345 in Toronto on Monday April 22 at 8 pm! All are most welcome….)

So, to summarize what we’re gearing up for this month –

Monday, April 22: Performance and Beethoven album release celebration at Gallery 345 in Toronto, 8 pm.

Wednesday, April 24: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, The Music Room, Bach’s Sonatas nos. 1, 5, and 3 for Violin and Keyboard as well as Clifford Crawley’s Bach-inspired Comme de longs echos (2012), 8 pm.

Friday, April 26: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, The Music Room, Bach’s Sonatas nos. 2, 4, and 6 and the world premiere of Jocelyn Morlock’s Petrichor (commissioned with the generous assistance of the Canada Council), 8 pm.

Saturday, April 27: Benefit concert for the CMC at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto. Works by Gougeon, Morlock, Jaeger, Bach, Beethoven,7:30 pm.

Sunday, April 28: Cecilia by the Sea series, St John’s Anglican Church, Lunenburg NS, 7:30. Concert to be broadcast by CBC on a future In Concert.
2013/04/10

How to get to Carnegie Hall: Practice and Bring a Shovel!

In February the Duo played to a full house at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall! It was a wonderful, thrilling, and hugely fulfilling experience and one we will always remember. We certainly won’t forget the 4 days beforehand either! If you’re interested in this nerve-wracking tale keep reading:

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? With practice, practice, practice, a lot of luck and a shovel.

On February 7th, along with our two kids, we fly to Nova Scotia for a concert that was to be a sort of pre-Carnegie Hall prep recital. The concert is to take place in Lunenburg at the beautiful, historic St. John’s Anglican Church as part of the St. Cecilia Series (a highly respected, long standing series), and they secured for us a CBC pickup and national broadcast. We purposely leave St John’s a day early knowing we would have more time to practice if we are away from our university and busy regular lives. After looking at the forecast, we decide to switch our rental car at the Halifax airport from a Fiat to an all-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee. We drive the hour and a half to Lunenburg; the day is beautiful, sunny, clear, but very cold. On February 7th the head of the NS series contacts us to say that the concert may need to be cancelled due to the impending winter storm. February 8th: sure enough, we are informed that the NS concert is cancelled because the storm has been upgraded to a severe and long lasting blizzard originating from the eastern seaboard. It’s being called the “storm of the century” by the media there. (Subtext thoughts: Oh NO! NYC! Panic!). We start to consider leaving immediately for NYC. Looking at flights, there was nothing available that would get us to NY before the storm hits. We contemplate flying to Toronto and then staying there until the storm leaves eastern US. No go: Toronto is socked in with a separate and also gigantic snow blast. We consider driving to Halifax and staying with family in order to be closer to the airport. After talking to Nancy’s brother we decide against it: there would be no piano to practice on. (He also put the thought of missing our Carnegie performance in perspective: “At least you’re still a good person and haven’t killed anyone………yet!”)

Many stress-filled hours later and after considering all possible options, we accept there is nothing we can do but hope that the blizzard will be over by the time of our scheduled United flight leaves at 1:00 pm on the 10th. We decide to park our car near the main road (on NS route 3), a ½ km down a hilly dirt road from the house where we are staying.

The evening of the 8th the blizzard hits. The winds are so fierce we can hardly sleep. On the 9th, we practice, listen to the weather reports, practice, worry, practice. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of psyching ourselves up for the concert and thinking about the ramifications if we don’t make it. All day we keep checking outside to see if the storm is letting up. The snow keeps coming: 20 cm… 30 cm…. 40 cm. The neighbour’s truck gets stuck on the dirt road. We go to bed on the 9th with the storm still going strong.

February 10th: we get up at 6 am so that we have lots of time to get to the airport. It’s still snowing but winds are now only gusting to about 60-80 km/hr. At 7 am the four of us, along with Nancy’s 87-year old father, trudge down the hill through drifts that go up over our hips. We drag our suitcases over the snow inside a push-me type shovel. At the bottom of the road we see incredibly that route 3 has been recently ploughed. The car, however, needs a path cleared in order for us to be able to reach to the road. Tim and Clara start frantically shoveling. At 7:23 a truck with a plough attachment happens by and digs us out. By 7:30 we’re on the road. The highways are snow covered and deserted except for a car coming the other direction every 10 miles or so. (We see three separate Aliant vans in the ditch. Guess they don’t budget for snow tires?) The drive, which normally takes one and a half hours, takes 3 hours.

At the United counter we learn the following: 1) our incoming flight is going to try to land (winds still quite strong for the small Bombardier aircraft so it might be diverted), and 2) if we don’t go out on this flight, there is NO WAY to get to NYC before Feb 11th. All flights, all airlines, with any and all conceivable rerouting are booked for 3 days at least. We watch the incoming flight’s progress for three hours. Miraculously, unbelievably, it lands. Our flight is the first flight for 2 days to leave for New York from Halifax.

Yes! We got to Carnegie Hall!
Duo at Weill Recital Hall
2013/02/19

Welcome to our New Website!

We’re just days away from wrapping up the Beethoven album of all 10 sonatas for violin and piano!  It’s been an exciting, wonderful, daunting, humbling, massive, incredibly enriching project, which began in June 2011 with the first of three 3-day sessions at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.  (Of course, learning and performing all the sonatas together started considerably earlier!).  Beethoven’s genius is truly astounding – in his mastery of the violin and piano sonata genre and his understanding of the instruments, in the way his style evolved during the course of these works and, of course, in the sheer beauty, drama, and intensity of his music.  We really felt his enormous presence in his music reaching across the centuries; in fact, he’s been living in our house for years now (and boy, he is messy)!!

We are very grateful for the support during this long process of our two encouraging children, wonderful parents, friends, students, Memorial University and the NL Arts Council.  We also want to thank David Jaeger, our producer, editor and friend for his enthusiasm, expertise, warmth and good humour.  We’ll be celebrating the album with a performance in Toronto at Gallery 345 on April 22.   Hope you can join us!

Obviously, we’ll be performing Beethoven for a while now and some upcoming concerts  — in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on Feb. 9 (which will be broadcast nationally on CBC radio), Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in NYC on Feb 11th, and Regina’s St Cecilia series on March 23 will feature the “Kreutzer”.  But we are also really focused now Bach’s Six Sonatas for violin and keyboard.  These works illuminate what an incredible keyboard player and violinist Bach must have been.  The physical flexibility and dexterity that these works require have expanded both our technical ease and fluidity.  The music is also astounding in it’s pure emotional depth and expressiveness, without ever sounding sentimental or romantic.  In October of 2012 we presented the first of 2 concerts where he present Sonatas 1, 3, and 5 alongside a Bach-inspired world premiere by Cliff Crawley.  On March 3 “we’ll be Bach” to do the other 3 in St John’s.  Then on April 24 and 26, for the Kitchener Waterloo Chamber Music Society, we’ll present all six  sonatas alongside the Crawley with another new Bach influenced work, this time by Jocelyn Morlock (commissioned with the generous assistance of the Canada Council).
2013/01/25