I must say, it’s a far more satisfying experience to play music in a space that’s big enough for the sound. Today’s concert of unaccompanied saxophone music was at St. James United Church, and it felt very nice to play there! Especially after practicing for the past month or so in our very small spare bedroom with no acoustic at all.

Concert spaces are always a tricky thing. You want some resonance, but not too much, and it depends a lot on the instrument/ensemble that’s performing. Redpath Hall, at Mcgill University, is built a bit like many churches – it’s very resonant, and sounds great for early music. I’ve played harpsichord there more times than I can count! But saxophone can really drown in its own echoes in a space like that. I remember one unfortunate event when the McGill Wind Symphony performed there – it was almost painful to hear the amount of sound flying back at us from all corners of the room.

Louder instruments and ensembles usually sound better with a slightly less ‘live’ sound. My saxophone grad recital was in Pollack Hall, which suited the sound of the instrument much more. St. James is probably even better though – a little more live than Pollack, but not nearly so boomy as Redpath.

I did record the whole concert, though I think it was miked a little too closely, since you can hear a bit too much of the keys and other noise, and you don’t get quite as much resonance as was really present in the church. The microphones are very directional, which is usually very nice, since you can record without capturing too much of the audience sounds, but maybe a little bit more room reverb wouldn’t have hurt. That said, it doesn’t sound completely dead. This is the first time I’ve recorded saxophone – I think with the quieter baroque instruments, it makes sense to get a little closer, perhaps. I’m still learning this whole recording thing! I’ve taken these recordings down, in the interest of disk space. E-mail me if you want to hear them.

Saxophone concert

I’ve gotten pretty bad at this ‘regular update’ thing, alas. There is news to share though!

The most important thing is that I’ll be giving a concert this Tuesday, July 31, at 12:30pm. It’s at St. James United Church (Ste-Catherine corner City Councillors). Admission is free, but there will be a freewill offering.

This will be the first solo saxophone recital I’ve done in ages! I’m playing some really fun and interesting music – pieces by G.F. Telemann, H.I.F. Biber, S. Karg-Elert, G. Kulesha, E. Bozza, and P, Bonneau. It’s all unaccompanied music, which is very seldom heard. Mostly 20th century pieces written for saxophone, but with a couple of baroque transcriptions I’ve done as well (the Telemann and Biber). I hope a few people reading this are able to come!

If you miss this concert, you might be able to catch the next one: Seasons Baroque Ensemble will be performing a selection of trio sonatas in Fredericton on August 10, at Christ Church Cathedral at 12:10pm. We’ll have a few other concerts in New Brunswick that week as well, so watch this space for updates in the near future!

melty in Montreal

We’re back from Boston, and Montreal is way too hot!

BEMF went very well – all three concerts we were involved in (La Fiorenza, Les Bostonades, and then a joint concert with both groups) were well-attended and well-received. La Fiorenza managed to sell several CDs as well. (more on those in a minute!)

It was really exhausting though, starting from the week before. Sari and I had just gotten back from Fredericton, and then were plunged into rehearsals. Somewhere during the half-week or so that we were in Montreal before heading to Boston, someone came up with the idea of making CDs to bring – the group has several concerts recorded, and we figured we could at least assemble a short demo with a few tracks. So, in three days, I did a pile of editing, Sara went crazy designing a CD jacket and getting it printed, and Esteban made labels. It actually all came together, and ended up looking and sounding very good! It’d be nice to have real pressed CDs instead of burned CDRs, of course, but that’s unfeasible except in large batches (1000 is a common minimum).

Sunday came around then, and we commenced the complicated ballet of signing for the rental car, picking up everyone, and squishing all their stuff in. This was made much more complicated since everyone was scattered all over the city, Sari and Ellie had a recording session all afternoon, and I was at church all morning. Also, we didn’t reserve early enough to get a minivan, so we had a monster Ford Explorer SUV instead. That ended up working just fine, actually, though it was a little tricky to get the theorbo, lute, guitar, harp, violin, suitcases and camping beds in, along with 5 people! We finally made it to Akiko’s house in Boston at 2AM, and collapsed for a few hours’ sleep.

The next two days we rehearsed with everyone (almost – Ellie didn’t arrive until Tuesday night), and then Wednesday was concert day! Toshi picked up the cargo van first, and then we packed up Akiko’s [huge and very very heavy] harpsichord and loaded it up. Next stop was in Cambridge to meet Peter Sykes and pick up the organ we were using – it was being used in the opera the night before, so he had to transpose it from A=392Hz to A=415Hz and retune it for us. It also weighed a ton, but we got it in. Then unloaded everything at the church where we were performing.

La Fiorenza was first up, at 11AM, and their concert went very well. Afterwards, though, there was only half an hour to tune the harpsichord before the Bostonades concert. This was made worse by all the people there, and especially by the crazy temperature – it was a damp and cool day outside, and stiflingly hot in the church hall that we were performing in. So I dove in and started tuning, and managed to break a string – not the end of the world, but not good either. I quickly put on a new one, only to find that I had somehow managed to put it on backwards!!! No clue how I did this – I think I’ve only done it once before, and it was at least 7 years ago. In any case, I unwound it, restrung it properly, and… it broke again. Now, at this point, it might have just been overstressed from being wound twice in opposite directions, but it was really frustrating, and we were getting really close to concert time. So the next string was put on, and a frantic tuning ensued.

At this point, my nerves were so shot that I couldn’t actually get the new string up to pitch right away – it’s so terrifying, after breaking two strings, to think how close you’re getting to breaking the next one as well… eventually I got it done though, and the harpsichord was tuned, and the concert started just a few minutes late. Because of the temperature though, it didn’t last long at all, and of course, the new string was still stretching out, so by the end of the concert, it sounded like I hadn’t done anything at all!

Then it was time to turn to the organ for the next concert – as I mentioned, Peter had already tuned it after transposing it to the pitch we were using, but after sitting in the hot room all morning, it was pretty raunchy again. So now I can say that I have tuned an organ as well! There’s a first time for everything. Another speedy assault on the harpsichord, and we were ready for the concert just in time, but without time for any sort of sound check or anything. It was a little bit nerve-wracking, since not only had we never played in that space before, but we hadn’t had a chance to rehearse with Ellie, since she just arrived late the night before (though she had no trouble at all), and we hadn’t been able to use the organ for any rehearsals! But everything seemed to go very well – it’s a really good bunch of musicians.

After the concert, the instruments had to get loaded into the van and dropped off at their respective destinations – the organ was headed back to the theatre for another opera performance that night (I hope Peter didn’t have to suffer too much with the tuning, after all the wild temperature shifts during the day!) and the harpsichord back to Akiko’s. Sushi, beer and wine ensued, and an early night – it’s funny how it feels like the same time after a concert, whether it finishes at 6 or at 11…

After that, back to Montreal with most of us, though with a cello instead of harp and lute, since Jivko came back with us, and Esteban had to use his other instruments in a concert with La Rota on Friday.

So now we’re back in Montreal, with very little coming up. I’m playing piano in church tomorrow, which is a novelty, and then next weekend is the Montreal Baroque Festival, though neither Sari nor I are too heavily involved with that. Then I have a saxophone recital at the end of July, and we’re headed back to Fredericton in August, but most of July we can relax, plan a wedding, learn music, and actually do some of the work we’ve been neglecting over the past weeks. Looking forward to it!

Summer in NB

Visiting New Brunswick to play with Seasons Baroque Ensemble.

Between festivals

Sari and I are back in Montreal again, but not for long!

The Fredericton Early Music Festival went very well, with big audiences and good performances by everyone. We’re already working on plans to make next year’s bigger and better, with a web page and everything!

We’ve been back in Montreal for just a few days, but we’re leaving again for the Boston Early Music Festival tomorrow. Busy busy! La Fiorenza has a fringe concert on Wednesday morning at 11:00AM, and then Les Bostonnades performs. Right after that both groups combine into a giant robot… er, a big ol’ baroque band, anyway, and do some great French music together. Should be fun! If anyone’s going to be in Boston next week, stop in and say hi!

Back to the sax

It’s been a while, but I’m starting to get back into the saxophone. Since finishing my B.Mus, (6 years ago, now!) I’ve hardly played at all. A real shame, since I still like the instrument, and I can play it fairly well.

A series of coincidences convinced me to pick it up again: First, in the space of a week, I had three or four different people ask me if I still played it at all, on completely different occasions. Then, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from Matt Dacso, who played in a quartet with me for several years while were were both doing our undergrads (Hi Matt!). A couple of days later, Philip, the music director at St. James mentioned that he was signing people up for Summer concerts at Church, and so I grabbed the opportunity and will be doing a recital at 12:30PM, July 31. Finally, starting this evening, I have a sax student for the first time!

Exciting developments! I have a lot of work to do to get back in shape for this concert. I can still play, of course, but I need to work on endurance, especially because I intend to do all unaccompanied music for this programme – no piano-provided rest!

With all that in mind, I’ve posted a recording of the Desenclos quartet that was made at McGill in 2000. It’s available on my music page.

Take that, form TP-80-V!!

Taxes are done and ready to be mailed. And the deadline isn’t for 36 hours!

I must say, the whole tax system seems a little … off, to me. Especially here in Quebec, where we have the Quebec versions of everything on top of (or beside…) all the federal taxes and pensions and deductions and all the rest, things get so complicated that many people – probably most of the people I know, actually – just don’t bother at all. It’s particularly a shame since those people are the ones that would actually be benefiting from filling out the forms – us poor musician and student folk usually get more money back from the taxman than we’d ever have to pay! I’ve been doing my taxes for a few years now, and there are still things that I leave out that could potentially make me more money – I’m not registered to collect GST, for example, and I don’t claim any deduction on rent money or the phone/network connections, even though I do a lot of work at home these days.

The other interesting thing is how so much of it is based on the honor system, especially when declaring self-employment income. I could stick any numbers down there at all! I know this year’s isn’t all that accurate, either, because it’s the first year I’ve considered myself self-employed, and I wasn’t keeping the best of records to begin with. But who could ever know? If I can’t keep track of it, how could an auditor have any hope of finding inaccuracies over a year after the fact?

Anyway, I’m glad all the forms are done, and I’m glad I have a better accounting system in place for next year! This was the last year that I have any significant real ’employment income’ at all (i.e. ‘income that’s easy to manage taxes for’)- from now on, it’s almost all self-employment income. And if you have a problem with that, talk to my boss.

New recordings

I told you I had been busy doing things! And this time I have evidence!

The first few tracks that were recorded in my solo recitals in New Brunswick in mid-March. These concerts mostly went very well, except that attendance in St. Andrews and Saint John was lacklustre, to put it mildly. The final concert, in Fredericton, more than tripled the audience of the first two put together! In hindsight, the concert date was probably not ideal: Spring Break meant that many people were away, especially in St. Andrews. When the available concert-going population is so small (St. Andrews is a tiny town) an event like this can make a huge impact. In Saint John, it turned out there was a Gilbert and Sullivan show the same night, so again, any potential audience members already had plans. I think that concerts like this may work better in the afternoon rather than the evening, as well.

In any case, musically they were a success, and we are better prepared for next time. I probably won’t be doing another series of solo recitals in New Brunswick until next Fall, but hopefully we’ll be able to bring in more people.

The other recordings I’ve uploaded are from the La Fiorenza concert from the end of March. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to record the whole thing (let’s just call it a technical error…), but I was very pleased with how the Froberger turned out. La Fiorenza will be performing again in May (date TBA) and then the band is travelling to Boston in June for the Early Music Festival. As well, if you’re really quick, you might be able to hear the ensemble on CBC Radio 2 tonight – between 8:00 and 10:00 PM. The concert they performed as part of the prize package for Montreal Baroque‘s competition is being broadcast on Canada Live.

You may have noticed that these recordings sound a lot better than most of the previous ones. I finally caved and shelled out for some decent microphones, and it makes a HUGE difference. With the advice of several people on the harpsichord mailing list, I got a pair of Oktava MK-012’s from Oktava Canada. I’m still experimenting with how best to use them – the best results so far have been with quite close miking, though it still sounds decent even from about 15 feet away from the harpsichord, though you lose some detail from the sound.

Finally, I’m looking for a better way to organize the recordings page on this site. I’m finding that it’s surprisingly difficult to organize the recordings in an intuitive, useful way. Currently, I’m using a variant of my photo gallery script, but I think I’ll try to find something else. I toyed with the idea of just using wordpress to rig something together, but it’s not really ideal. Sometimes I want to have the recordings sorted chronologically, sometimes arranged in categories, sometimes in lists, sometimes in ‘albums’, like the photos. It’s hard to decide on any one thing. Any suggestions are welcome! In the meantime, I think I’ll keep using basically the same scheme as before, but I intend to get rid of most of the old sound files that used to be there. A 5+ year old recording to minidisc just isn’t representative of how I can play now, or the kind of technical quality I can manage.

Happy Easter

I’m a bad bad bad bad bad blogger. I have done things this month! Really! I just didn’t write about them here.

I was delaying posting about the concerts in New Brunswick, and the performance with La Fiorenza until I had some of the recordings from them assembled and ready to go. But that’s taking a while, as you can see. There are also a pile of photos needing sorting and organizing. I’ve gotten a good start on both those tasks, but they always seem to take longer than they should.

With Sari’s help, I’ve been rethinking the way I organize all my .. data, for lack of a better word – mainly photos and recordings. I think I need to divide ‘public stuff on the web page’ a bit more from the ‘archived stuff for myself’. I can be a lot more choosy about public stuff, and be a lot less organized and ‘spiffed up’ with the archived stuff, since no one will see it but me. But I’m not entirely sure exactly how I’ll manage it yet. I definitely plan on getting rid of most of the recordings that are currently available on the site, since most are over 5 years old now, and, really, I can play a lot better now!

Consider this post to be rich with new content, but with a big ‘under construction’ sign on it. Eventually I’ll upload things. No, really!

March in Keswick Ridge

Cats frolicking in the last gasp of Winter