Thursday, 27 October 2011

Lennoxville / Sherbrooke / Bishops trip

Recently, I had applied to Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec. I was accepted by the school, but needed to do an audition as formality. Thus, I planned a trip down to Lennoxville. On my list of things to do were:

1. Meet the family I'll be living with.
2. Visit friends.
3. Experience living on University residence (apparently Bishops is like the movie American Pie at times.. exciting!)
4. Meet the music faculty.
5. Take the Bishops' tour.
6. Do my audition.

Everything went as plan, but making that plan was difficult. Unfortunately, the ride to Lennoxville and back had bailed on me, so I had to organize something else. Fortunately, my teacher is extremely gracious, and offered me his trunk and to drive his car to the bus station! However, I do not have a full license so he said 'No problem. Bring a friend and get him / her to drive you to the bus station, and drive the car back!' I was floored. First of all, Reuven (my teacher), is lending me his bass trunk (these run anywhere from $1,500 - $3,000), and then he's also allowing one of my friends (someone he's never met before) to drive his car to the bus station with me, and drive it back alone! I asked my friend Samuel Mckee to drive me there, and fortunately he said yes.

When I arrived at the bus station, I had many stares. This was because of how large a bass trunk is (click on this link to see: double bass trunks), and that somehow, a man of 5'7 could handle it by myself. The flight case weighed 50 pounds, my case inside weighed 20, my bass weighs 30, and everything else weighs about 5-7 pounds. In total, that is 107 pounds - no easy feat.

Anyways, when I put my bass into the bottom of the bus, the driver told me that I'd have to pay extra, and I said 'No. The website said "1 piece of luggage, 1 carry on", and this is my luggage, so I am not going to pay extra'. He didn't argue further. However, I was nervous that he'd take it off, and I wouldn't realize until my arrival in Sherbrooke. Fortunately, this did not happen.

When I arrived, it was raining lightly, and it was fairly chilly. I phoned a cabby and said that I had a very large 'suitcase' and that I'd need a van. They said that they'd send a car. I hung up the phone, and said that they were idiots. A bystander overheard me and said 'they never listen, do they?', while looking at my case, which stands 7'5 or so. Alas, the cabbie arrives, looks at me, and drives away. I phone them back and said that it wouldn't fit, and the woman asked me if I tried. I said, "the case is 7'5! It won't fit in a car. Send me a van. I don't care how long it takes". She told me to wait 15 minutes, and in the end, the van was quite large. My teacher had texted me a story of how he was in Winnipeg and in the same situation. In the end, he had taken a stretch limo because of his lack of options. It's hilarious what us bass players have to do sometimes.

Anyways, to cut to the chase, my audition was successful and they asked me beforehand if I 'even wanted to do my audition' and if I felt like I had 'wasted my time'. I told them that I 'might as well' do it. I only played two movements of a Vivaldi Cello Sonata, linked here: Vivaldi cello Sonata No.5.

So, to conclude, I am going to Bishops University for Music. I am enrolled in a Honors Music Major - Double Bass, and with a German minor. Germany is where I plan on completing my Master's degree, and perhaps my Ph.D (I can go for relatively free because I'll be fluent in German). I may also take an Italian minor as well.

Rodin / Claudel ballet

Recently, I had gone to see Rodin / Claudel. It was the second day of the world premiere, and the first ballet written by Canadian born Peter Quanz. I was in the third row from the pit, one of the best seats in the house (will run you about $120 or so).

First off, the order of my passions are as follows.

1. Double Bass / Music.
2. Ballet.
3. Jazz drums.

For anyone that knows me personally, and has talked to me about music, they know how passionate I am. I believe that ballet being second shows my passion for it very well. Almost every ballet I see makes me cry, and Rodin / Claudel came close.

Actually, Rodin / Claudel has an interesting premise. Auguste Rodin was a sculptor, as was Camille Claudel. Presumably, from the ballet, they both fell in love, but Auguste couldn't make up his mind. In the end, Camille goes insane and is committed to an insane asylum. Peter Quanz' narrative lightly tells the story of Auguste / Camille, but it focuses more on their romance. Besides Auguste's involvement in Camille's life, her whole story is intricate and interesting. Here is a link to her Wikipedia page (

The lead female was excitingly beautiful. So much so that I could hardly tear my eyes from her to focus on other parts of the ballet. It's interesting, during a ballet; there is so much going on. Generally, you feel that you must follow the lead dancers, but watching the support dancers can be so exciting as well. This was especially true in Rodin / Claudel. Most of the support dancers were dressed only in ballet undergarments that were skin colour. They were meant to represent the clay (or other objects) used to sculpt by Camille and Auguste. One of my favourite parts of the ballet was to see how the lead roles would move the other dancers to represent sculpting. Often, it was as if the leads' had a passion for sculpting, and actively drew it out while dancing. When I noticed this, it made me teary at how beautiful it was, and thinking about it now makes me teary as well.

However, as grandiose as the ballet was, it was not my favourite. I'm unable to pin point exactly where I disliked the ballet, but when I saw 'Giselle' by the Nacional ballet de Cuba, it became the 'untouchable' experience. I fear that nothing may touch this (except for Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky later this year), and am saddened to say that Rodin / Claudel did not make me shed tears, or have an extreme emotional reaction like 'Giselle'.

Fortunately, in conclusion, we can say that as Canadians, we should be proud to have Peter Quanz with us. He has choreographed internationally, and has had a world premiere with one of best ballets in the world! We should be happy, proud, and moved that a man came from our country, making such a beautiful piece. So, rejoice, and the next time that Rodin / Claudel is showed, go see it.

The leads at a rehearsal

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Starting of the season, and decision to go to University.

It's been a while since I've updated my blog, and there has been a lot of development, so it is time.

First of all, since Music season has finally started, I am busy yet again! This is wonderful! I get bored when I'm not busy all the time, so I have been very happy recently. I've noticed that being happy has a huge effect on playing music well, even in largo, downtempo tunes that can sound sad.

The two last Orchestre Symphonique de L'Isle rehearsals have been fantastic. We've worked on Dvorak's New World Symphony a lot, a bit of Camille St-Saens, Carl Maria von Weber, and Paul Dukas. Those are the composers that we're playing for November 26th, and I'm really excited to keep working on the St-Saens. My stand partner and I were both very surprised at how hard the Dukas piece was. We hadn't worked on it that much by ourselves, and were surprised when our conductor indicated the tempo.

We also sight read through Dvorak's fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony. What a ride that was! The basses have a huge part in this, and a lot of is very physical. A lot of tremelo, and very fast tempos. At the bottom of the post, I'll post a link to a great recording of the fourth movement. Also, a previous post of mine shows the last page of the basses part.

The rehearsal we had before that one (on the 7th of October), we were practicing the first movement. There is a large part of the first movement that is repeated, and we were practicing the transition into the repeat. I had misunderstood, and thought we were starting from a different part. My stand partner didn't realize, so he hadn't corrected me. During the transition, there are two bars of rest for the basses, and since I thought we were starting from a different part, I understood that there was only one bar of rest. So, during the second bar of rest, I had played a pizzicato (pizzicato means to play with the fingers instead of the bow) note, and it was very obviously heard because the basses cue the whole orchestra on the pizzicato note. This happened twice, with my stand partner becoming angry with me, and I didn't understand why I was making this mistake. The third time, it happened again, and the conductor turned angrily at us and yelled "What are you doing! Stop making mistakes!" Charles, my stand partner looked at me, and I yelled back "It was him!", with my finger pointing at him. Charles' face turned red, and the conductor angrily yelled back "It's not my problem! Sort it out!", but as he was turning away from us, he started to laugh and stopped conducting. We were laughing about it, and most of the symphony didn't seem to understand what had happened.

Recently, I have decided to attend University. I had been out of a job, and I really wanted a job that would pay me, but I'd still be able to focus on music. I realized that I should just go back to school. Coincidentally, a few of my friends have been attending a university in Lennoxville called Bishop's. Another one of my best friends has started going to Champlain, located on the same campus. Also, to further the coincidence, this is the original University I wanted to attend (for Education). I decided that I would attend there, and now I have an audition in October. I am auditioning Simandl's 11th Etude, and half of Vivaldi's 5th Sonata - the first and second movements. I'm confident about my audition because I can already play both of these pieces well, and I still have a month to prepare. Last Friday (the 16th) I auditioned Simandl's 11th Etude for Quebec Wind Ensemble, and I feel quite confident about the piece. However, when I went to my lesson today, I played it for my teacher. He said that I played it perfectly, in perfect time, perfect pitch, no issues what so ever. However, he started to laugh, and crack up. He said "I just have one question.." he starts to laugh again, "what timing is the piece in?" I replied, "it's in 6/8, why?" and alas, he replied "you played it in 4/4!". This isn't much of a problem, but it took a while to fix the rhythm issue I had created for myself.

Here are some links to pieces of music that I am playing in the coming months:

Dvorak's 9th Symphony mov. 4:
Paul Dukas - The Sorceror's Apprentice:
Camille St-Saens - Danse Macabre:

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Lesson on Tuesday, September 6th, 2011.

On Tuesday I had another lesson with my long-term professor, Reuven Rothman. I brought my bass to the lesson, and of course, there were funny things that happened on the way.

While I was walking out of Rosemont Metro, there was this drunken lady that walked past me, and said 'Hey!', while winking and making a kissing face at me. Some of my friends have jokingly said that carrying my bass around must make women interested in me, and I suppose that that's been proven to me now.

Back in the metro, on the way back home, there was a guido-Jersey-Shore girl that saw me, and mimicked playing the double bass while laughing with her friend. Actually, this happens quite a bit. And of course, there is the always 'Whoa! Big guitar!' comment.

I realized that since this is a bit of a boring post, that I'll share one of my favourite stories that have happened to me.

Last Season (2010-2011), I was doing a concert for a friend at H.S. Billings High School in Chateauguay. Initially, I was to only play two sets with the tutti ensemble. I ended up doing four sets, two jazz trios, and two tutti ensemble. However, during the second tutti ensemble (the last set), there was this alarm that started going off! No one knew what it was, and the conductor was still going, so we kept playing.

After the tune ended, the Principal came on stage and told everyone to evacuate! We were told to leave our instruments on stage, or in the classroom, and of course, I'm not going to do that. I never leave my bass anywhere if I don't know if it's safe or not. So, I run outside carrying my bass, and all of the doors get locked behind us.

After an hour or so, we're informed that we won't be able to get back inside that night. During then, I was standing outside with my bass, bow, and my suit. My cellphone, keys, wallet, transportation card (Opus), bass case, and other set of clothes were all locked inside the school! I couldn't go home because I was in a different city, so I was stuck.

Luckily, I knew the percussionist and I stayed at his house. I had to call my job and tell them that I'd be late because there was a fire at the gig I was at last night (they thought that I meant that my instrument and everything was caught in fire). So, the next day I eventually get home and make it to work. It was a heck of a concert, and one of the most memorable so far.

Here's a link to the article about the fire:

And here's a link to the concert review (which mentions our two jazz trios!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

New Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal concert hall.

 A while ago I was invited to the new Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal concert hall, on behalf of MSO. They intended this concert to showcase and preview the material that they will play for students in High School and Elementary.

The played Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev, and Carnival des Animaux by Camille St Saens. I don't partciularly like Prokofiev, but it was nice to hear the parts of Carnival. I was wishing that they were did more meaty material, but of course, the concert was meant to showcase music they'd play for young students.

A conductor friend of mine, Debi, took some pictures of the new concert hall. Here are two of them.

The front of the hall.
The Orchestre wasn't full.

The pipe organ close up.
Can't wait to hear how it sounds.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The new season coming.

It's official; time to be overwhelmed. Season hasn't even started yet. That's not a good sign. Uh-oh.

I had a good look at the material for Orchestre Symphonique de L'Isle today, and realized how much work it will be playing for them this season. I am feeling confused about whether I should play with them this season, simply because of the material and amount of dedication.

The other group I play full-time in, Quebec Wind Ensemble; their material isn't nearly as difficult and time consuming. I like this because it means I can do other gigs, and not need to practice that material very often, and in some cases, ever. However, on another end, this has many downsides. It means that the material doesn't challenge me enough, and that I will not become technically proficient as fast as I would like to.

The first concert of OSI's does not have very hard material. Paul Dukas, Camille Saint Saens, Carl Maria von Weber, and Dvorak's ninth. I won't need to worry about the Dukas and Saint Saens, but Dvorak's ninth is a beast in some parts. I'm thinking that I'll do the first concert, and see if I want to do the Mahler, Tchaikovsky and the material afterwards.

Currently, my poor bass is in the shop. Usually, during season, I'm so busy that I can't bring it to the shop and have a check up. Fortunately, I have the time now, and it is at a luthier's getting seams repaired, an endpin switch (the one I received cracked after a few months, so it is being replaced for free), and I'm refining the length of my laborie endpin. I also need to get my bow rehaired, and have the fingerboard planed, but that will come in September. Hopefully, that will happen in September.

The last few bars of Dvorak's Ninth,
"New World Symphony".

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A story from my travels.

I have had many interesting conversations with people on the metro about my instrument. This includes children's comments, adults, hobos, construction workers, drunks, fellow musicians, and more. Some of the stories are ridiculous, and some of them are cute. Here are some of the things that people have said to me before.

A middle aged man on the metro: "Hey, I bet that if you put that into a dryer, you'd get a Suzuki violin!".
My reply: "Would you get a double bass if you put it into a washer?"

Random guy on the street: "Whoa man, that's a big cello!"

A bus driver from Chateauguay (never travel there with a double bass - WARNING): "You know, I may have to charge you double for that, eh?"
My reply: I tap the case hard enough to hit the wood. "Why? There isn't another body in there."

And my favourite so far, on the way back from an Orchestre Symphonique de L'isle practice,

Young girl, probably 6 or 7: "Look Mommy, a double bass!"
Her mother: "No, that's a cello!"
Me: Walking away and smiling.

Taken around December,
A concert I played in for

Evangel Pentecostal Church.