Every Year, December 1

Every year has different elements & configurations, but as of December first each year I look at my calendar in wonder and love my job all over again.  Who gets to do this?  Musicians.



December 8, 12, 13, 14; Dec 16, 18, Dec 21, Dec 22  (I believe that’s 8 for 19 days?  2 years ago it was 5 for 8 days which was pushing the limits a little…)

Corelli, Popper, Bach, Handel, Mozart, misc Christmas arrangements; Jensen, sereda, Swannel/Young, Ostertag, Cobain, Sting, Eberhardt.  Youth Orchestra, Symphony, Youth Orchestra String Quartet (+ a few more to do Brandenburg 3), Georgian Bay Orchestra (Messiah), Amati at Leith Church the next day.

Rehearsals for all of them, in-between (where the belly-laughs happen).

This is what Christmas is, to me.  It has nothing to do with Malls or stores or wrapping paper – just incredible people, music, laughter and good, honest, hard work.

More to come; think I’ll go practise.


Saturday morning, 4am

Yesterday was requiem day as I worked in the studio, which seemed fitting, somehow.  Every layer of grief and joy is expressed and exposed in them – the Mozart, the Brahms, the Faure, the Rutter.  Outside my windows there raged a storm that tore hydro lines and uprooted trees – for a while my phone and my internet was dead, and I was startled that this made such a difference:  me utterly alone with my grieving, raging, joyful, impossibly beautiful requiem (Mozart at that point).  Some deep internal things happened then that were very good indeed – thank you Bruce Telecom, Mozart, and the Storm.


My work continues to go well – barring another major dharmic intervention, two very large paintings will be finished by the end of Sunday Nov 3, which is also the day of an eclipse of the sun.  We will rehearse another requiem (the Popper, for 3 celli and piano), I will get some deep practise in, and the weekly routine will dance on.  For me, though,  there will be a rich, indescribable difference, thanks to the Storm, the Requiem and Bruce Telecom.  I’m humbled by it, actually, in an empowering sort of way.

a yellow christmas cactus that I raised from a wee thing.  Blooming like mad in my eastern window...
a yellow christmas cactus that I raised from a wee thing. Blooming like mad in my eastern window…

The tectonic plates beneath us are shifting.

Can you feel it?  There is an air change, a sea change, an internal change wherever you look, if you look for it.

How wonderful it is to be alive.


I LOVE our Youth Orchestra.

I’m a big fan of binders if you’ve got a long program – the tabs are new technology by me, for which I caught a good ribbing. They worked though…

I’ve seen it time and again, but it never fails to restore my faith in humanity:  if you gather smart, hardworking teens together under a conductor every week with their chosen instruments and good music to play, magical things happen.  Add 40 degree heat inside the church, a six-week hiatus from playing and a good audience and impossible magical things happen.

I love these young people and what they can do – sometimes they know exactly what they’re capable of, more often they surprise themselves.  I’m feel honoured to bruise my fingers with them (this leads to better calluses and stronger playing).  Yesterday we began practise at 4pm, and played straight through until 10pm, with only two 20 minute breaks.  That requires a special kind of stamina, especially when playing material that even pro orchestras and soloists find challenging. My fingers are killing me this morning.

If you haven’t heard of this group, I’m happy to introduce you.  Keep an eye out for us near Christmas, and again in May of 2013.  It’s always worth it to come.

Here’s a link to the website, which only needs a little bit of updating – http://www.gbsyo.ca/

What we played last night:

Symphony #1 in C major, III – Menuetto                    L. van Beethoven

Violin Concerto #1 in G minor, I – Allegro                    Max Bruch
Samantha Orr – violin

Horn Concerto #1 in E flat major, I – Allegro                Richard Strauss
Paige Mitchell – french horn

Un Moto di Gioia (from ‘The Marriage of Figaro)           W.A. Mozart
Kathleen Chayer – soprano

Piano Concerto #2 in C minor, III – Allegro                   S. Rachmaninoff
Christine Camidge – piano


Hockey Night in Canada                                               R. Mascall

He Shall Feed His Flock (from Messiah)                         G.F. Handel

The Death of Ase (from Peer Gynt)                               E. Grieg

Pavane                                                                       G. Faure

Dreadlocks ‘n’ Dreidel                                                  R. Mascall
Rob Tite – clarinet

Symphony #9 in D minor, II – Allegro Molto                   L. van Beethoven

the trickiest bit of the Beethoven for me – I had a mental block on this passage, which appears twice. The notes aren’t difficult – just my mental block….

Encore – Ojibway Songs, IV – Allegro Vivo                      R. Mascall