Friday, 28 May 2010

Yesterday morning I had a typical London public transit experience: I got caught in traffic on the way to Woking train station, and then the next train that I caught itself was also late. Not by much, but enough that I ran to the Globe from Waterloo station (thanks, shiny new London A-Z!) and came in all ready to apologize for being 6 minutes late... when I realized there was no one there to apologize to...yet. I had arrived first. I'm not sure exactly what lesson I've learned yet, but I'm taking the pre-train bus connection to St. Pancras tomorrow to give myself an extra 20 minutes to catch the Eurostar.

After my Globe rehearsal, I walked around the vibrant Borough Market - what a lovely atmosphere (if a bit posh). I thought, looking at all the fresh items,

New Oysters anyone?

...that if this is the closest source of lunch food to the Globe, then I may wind up fulfilling my hope to eat healthily this summer.

...But then again, maybe not:

num num num

Then I met Alex and Henrik for souvlaki by the Thames and sauntered around London, dropping into St. Martin-in-the-Fields only to see the ABO concertmaster rehearsal for a concert that evening. Funny how the Early Music world is so small that, in a city with more people than all of Switzerland you can bump into someone you worked with last week in Northern Italy.

I finally achieved the small goal of acquiring new slide-o-mix (without which a trombone practise can get very miserable, if not utterly pointless) and despite walking through a dense jungle of tourist hotspots, failed to find a Union Jack sticker to distinguish my twin cell (UK: mobile) phones from each other. I didn't get twin phones on purpose; Zoe had an extra one which she very kindly gave me (thanks Zoe!), complete with UK charger - already I've swapped the batteries twice when the important one was dying. So today I bought some coloured electrical tape and did the job myself, with the added advantage that I have a Swiss flag too and can even distinguish them by feel:



Walking down Oxford street I had a perhaps-too-rare experience of suddenly needing desperately to play my trombone. I'm not showing off. Rather, I needed desperately to take some deep breaths and think of just one thing at a time, and I was not going to achieve this on my own. In fact, I never really learned how to do this on my own (I can sometimes manage one or the other now that I'm 30), which is one of the main reasons I stuck with the trombone in the first place. So I hopped on the tube back to the Globe and played and played, and when I left (passing a man who had just been shot with arrows in the hallway), I felt fantastic.

London over the Thames looked like this:

and also like this:

Today, by contrast, after staying put, seeing I've been paid for something, achieving the appointment I've been trying to get, successfully opening a bank account, buying a gorgeous leather pair of hiking boots very cheaply, and discovering 2 pounds 50 ($4) hummus and vegetable pita wraps on the corner, I was so contented that I had to haul myself grumpily downstairs to bother my brain with the myriad little exercises which should make tomorrow's Vespers easier than if I'd not done them.

I'm off to "the continent" at stupid o'clock tomorrow, and I think I'll leave this massive computer at home, so if I update this before Tuesday, it might be a lame sentence or two tapped out on my iPod touch. Does anyone else attempt to right-click by tapping the screen with their middle finger instead of their index?

Someone asked me today what my favourite word is, and I told them without hesitation: "with." Ignore its (indispensable!) meaning for a moment; Say it out loud and try to disagree that its a word of acoustic genius. Say it again, milking the quirky shapes it coaxes effortlessly from your lips and tongue. Despite its one quick vowel, you can start to say it very slowly... you can also keep saying it long after you think its over... With.

...Il me dit des mots d'amour,
Des mots de tous les jours,
Et ├ža m'fait quelque chose...ose

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

I just came back from a visit to the people I'll be staying with in Lewisham starting next week: lovely people and I'm going to have access to back garden with a huge lawn, vegetable garden, a plum tree and a cat, and permission to share the above with "my mates". And a massive bathtub (not in the garden, not to share). Heaven.

I woke up with a long to do list but when I checked my Swiss bank account online (yes, I've got two but they're not the numbered ones), I found that I haven't been paid for quite a few concerts, so I couldn't tick buying a bicycle or a new computer off my list quite yet. I cross my fingers that the massive vintage Raleigh folding bike on just down the street will still be there when I can. I also couldn't open a bank account today as I had no proof of address until tonight. About to head out into the sunset, I realize I'm probably quite lucky to have had such a stagnant schedule forced upon me: I think I quite needed it. I did play some very high alto trombone in preparation for covering the third cornetto part in an untransposed Vespers Magnificat this weekend though.

Now I'm off to Woking to enjoy the hospitality of a Norwegian cornettist friend before the madness strikes again tomorrow.

Oh, and I have "la vie en rose" stuck in my head, which I suppose I'll have to get used to as I'm to play it on my sackbut with loads of slide vibrato towards the beginning of Henry IV. I should learn the words so that I can sing it out loud as I change trains in Paris' Gare du Nord on Sunday morning.
I see my blog is making it out into the world rather quickly. Thanks to David McGuinness for the link - the pressure is on to keep it up to date now!

Today I faffed about until it was time to go to rehearsal. I have no regrets for the lack of productivity, I was very energized when rehearsal started, despite the repeat sensory overload which resulted in walking from London Bridge station through Borough Market, past a very impressive replica of the Golden Hind (!) and then through myriad cafes in red brick before finally making it to the Globe, where I had to pass by a table covered in little bags of fake blood before getting to the band room to set down my instruments. Then I got a costume fitting: "Take off your shirt, luv," and they slapped a corset on me. Thank goodness I'm not playing any bass parts.

In case you were wondering, yes, it's impossible not to feel pretty in a corset, especially since hiking your boobs right up to the top is a must for comfort, otherwise they just get squished back against you and you can breathe even less. A lot gets squished downwards too though: I was a bit surprised poked through my skirts and my hips were sticking out about an inch more than usual. Apparently I'll have buttock extensions too.

I wanted to take a picture, but decided to wait until I can show the costume in all its finished and tailored glory. In the meantime, a few shots from the ABO tour:

Amsterdam on the last day of the Netherlands part of the tour: the sun came out and everyone was in a good mood.

This is Cremona, as seen from the medieval tower which looms above it. One of my very first jobs in Europe was playing with the ABO in Cremona in May 2005, Mozart Mass in C minor, and climbing the tower again was an unexpectedly emotional experience, reflecting back on the five years since. Having just sublet my flat and gotten ready to move to England, I had a lot of sympathy for the uprootedness I felt back then.

Both times climbing the tower I had Verdelot's "Italia Mia" stuck in my head. One of the lines is:
Il Po, dove doglioso et grave hor' seggio
(The Po, where sorrowful and sad I now sit).
The Po is the river flowing in the background here. In 2005 I ran down to the shore and stuck my hand in too.
Monteverdi was born here.

Here were my two views playing Vespers from the balconies of the Basilica di Santa Barbara, where Monteverdi was working in 1610. The organ he used was just restored a few years ago, and we played from the opposite balcony, right in front of the pipes. In the Magnificat of the Vespers, Monteverdi writes in specific organ registrations. Apparently though, when our organist tried to follow his instructions and use the Sifara (a vox humana stop - with vibrato added), Maestro said "Oh, don't use that! I hate that stop!" Oh well.

(Yes, I tied my slide to my hand.
Yes, it was an extra effort in the concert not to empty my "water" onto the heads of the priests sitting below.)

And last but not least, on our travels home we had an extra hour changing trains in Mestre, which is just over the lagoon from Venice. It seemed a bit sad to pass up, so I hopped on the train over the bridge and spent my last half hour in the sunshine by the grand canal:

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

I woke up this morning realizing that almost none of the things which prompted me to start an online diary actually made it into my first post. I wanted the opportunity to be smug about managing to fit 7 kg worth of stuff in my pockets so as to avoid paying 12 Euros per kilo over 20. Actually that's a bit boring but there you go.

Today I would like to find a bicycle. Freedom of mobility is a must, and if I'm late I much prefer to pedal harder and arrive to play with my breathing at least warmed up than to run up and down stairs to train and tube platforms only to wait 12 minutes more, just waiting. A bike with a helmet and a mirror: seeing how buses and trucks (UK: lorries) charge past the curb around 20 cm from the sidewalk (UK: pavement), a mirror is a must. And I must start on the side streets - stepped out onto a moderately busy street this morning after having only looked left. Look Right!

Tonight is my first musical rehearsal for the Globe. My face is in decent shape, but a bit confused... making a good sound and tonguing clearly on slide trumpet is completely different from trombone - given I'd been playing high A's last week in the ABO vespers tour I was a bit surprised to feel that I was using different, less-trained muscles yesterday. We'll see how it goes.

The ABO tour - before I forget. At the beginning I was appalled in many ways: organizationally, there were no notes for us to read from for movements 2, 4, 6 or 9, which we in the end wound up playing most of. Our fearless leader asked us to play along in the ritornelli in the Dixit Dominus, so I swiped the score from a singer next to me, asking at first but then came the down beat so I just threw it on my stand and started playing, only to find out in the second soprano solo which immediately followed that I'd nicked the score from the second soprano soloist. Oopsies. She was kind about it. Even carried my slide trumpet onto an easyjet flight a few days later.

Musically at the beginning I thought a lot about the differences in taste between me and our Maestro - he played really a lot of counterpoint during the soli, even during the already active Duo Seraphim and plowing through the otherwise ethereal "unum sunt" bit. But after one concert in Varese where I got to sit right next to the (trembling) harpsichord, I realized that even though it was concert no. 5, I hadn't been bored yet. Indeed, I was thankful that Ton Koopman was being a) inventive - playing different things every night, and b) completely convinced as to what he was doing. And also very musical, even if a bit mad. It was very good listening and I found myself looking forward to it.

I also thought about a conversation I had had the week before about whether or not it's a good thing if you can tell who is playing which line in an ensemble piece. In the trombone section none of us are blank slates by any stretch, we all have a lot of personality and I think it shows in our playing. Last week, regarding some articulations of the same phrases, we were night and day though (with and against the conductor's requests in some cases). It made me think that while it's important not to smooth over your individuality, as an audient I like to hear that musicians on stage are listening to each other: if they imitate each other, that's a form of dialogue, if they're all doing their own thing, they're being self-indulgent, which gets old fast.

A tour like this ABO tour was also fantastic for my playing - I had a few tension issues and seized opportunity to experiment with finding ways to relax over the course of 9 concerts in 9 days (and 9 cities!). Learning not to freeze my face into a polite Canadian smile in the concerti was useful. After months of being a control freak about exactly how my face should be, I began to just trust that if I just blew freely and thought of what I wanted to come out the end of the trombone, the right parts of my lips would fall into place. It worked beautifully. It has been 18 years after all.

Monday, 24 May 2010

off we go then

First day in London, the perfect time to start my online diary. Despite 6 years in Montreal, I was completely floored by the sensory overload. Look Right. Met Caroline at the Royal Academy of Music, where she delivered to me my trombones and a suitcase with the rest of my dear belongings she brought from Basel this morning. We bought some healthy fresh items at Waitrose and sat in the park to eat them in the sunshine. A perfect first London meal.

The sunset was absolutely gorgeous - also reminded me of Montreal: the smog settling over the city turns the sun unnaturally deep shades of orange, the distance glows purple. My hosts here assure me it's the volcanic ash and not smog.

And now I'm writing my first diary entry, indulging self-consciously in what seems a typical 21st-century social situation: three women in a South London flat, sitting in front of a tv doing our separate tasks on our three laptops. But at least we're giving priority to what we say to each other over whatever is absorbing us, even making eye-contact. As I write, I am remembering back five years when I failed in my first attempt to start an online diary, unwilling to accept that the whole thing is a work in progress and wanting to set down instead little polished pearls and winding up with drivel. As you do.