Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Last Friday began with another ridiculously early morning started with catching the 4.58 train into London. I wasn't alone at least, a sleepy fox kept me company on the platform:

Crofton Park Rail Station at Stupid O'Clock

Transport for London, which has been generally quite helpful in telling me how to get about, made a rookie error which could have resulted in my missing my connection to the Eurostar. It told me to turn right from Holborn Viaduct onto Farringdon - looks good on the map but then... viaduct...hmmm - Holborn Viaduct is a bridge! Unwilling to jump the eight meters onto Farringdon I found another way around and caught my bus!

Despite waking up so early, a connection of almost two hours in Brussels meant that I got to Cologne just in time to make my 2 pm rehearsal with I Fedeli. What a treat it is to take the time to try to figure out the different affects we had to get across and to play around with tempi, dynamics, phrasing, articulation, and ornaments to bring it all across. We wrote barely anything in our scores too - I think if you have enough contact (aural and visual) with the people you're playing with, you don't need to write much, you can make decisions together about how things are going to go as you play, and you even have the freedom to change it from concert to concert (which definitely happened). We also spent some time on tuning, exploiting to the maximum that we had to keyboard to play with, finding where deeply unusual F-sharp and C-sharp major chords might sit on our instruments.

The next day one of our cornettists had to go back to England so the rest of us stayed and practised without him (including some 4-part repertoire in case the volcano exploded again...you never know...). But it was very relaxing - we had to drag our cornettist maestro away from the breakfast nook where he had tucked himself in with his guitar.

Josué Jamming with Daisies

That evening we headed to Alden Biesen, where we would play the next day - also a luxury to be put up the night before when actually the drive wasn't that long. To my delight, we were put up in the same place as last time I played there - a lovely little Bed and Breakfast we all to ourselves, called Parva sed apta mihi (Latin for "small but fine for me").

the magic garden of Parva Sed Apta

As we were surrounded by fields, orchards and forest, we couldn't resist but walk the scenic route to the castle, where Capriccio Stravagante were already sampling the many fine Belgian beers at our disposal.

the way to the castle

full moon

The next day our cornettist arrived back in time for the first concert after all. Playing outside was a new experience for this ensemble, but a good one I think. It's very narcissistic to play in churches that amplify, sweeten, then echo back every note that you play, but on the other hand the echo can make individual notes get lost among a sea of echoes, so often we have to play artificially short notes. Playing outside, the sound doesn't get any natural amplification - on the other hand we can hold our notes and lines as long as we want and all our differences of articulation will carry. For three of the four concerts we played in a colonnade, giving us a tiny bit of acoustic and a very nice view:

view from the stage

waiting around to play again

Between the third and fourth concert, we had time to either watch England be trounced by Germany in the World Cup, or to go hear Capriccio Stravagante play the piece from which they take their name. The concert was fantastic, I still have the catchy bits of the Capriccio whizzing around my head, and still plot one day to take the extended techniques like hitting the strings with the wood of the bows, and the random chaotic bits with meows of cats, into a composition class and see if they can date the piece. But musically what sticks in my mind most is their simple string version of Rore's Ancor che col partire - I've not heard such attention to text on violin and viols before, and was in utter awe at the pianississimo towards the end. It seems counter-intuitive perhaps, but if you really want people to listen attentively, play as softly as you possibly can.

An idyllic evening walk and sit in the garden finished off the day - only the I Fedeli curse haunted us - we never seem to be able to enjoy a post-concert and post-rehearsal wind-down all five of us together: this time one had to rush off to Brussels, another back to Cologne.

After a better-connected Eurostar journey the next morning, I met up with Ricardo at The Harp near Trafalgar Square, where he reminded me that while I'm here I should think about taking the time to be a tourist now and again. I think he is very right. I'm here in England now for six weeks without trips to "the continent," so I hope to settle in a bit better and find the time to go visit the galleries and museums (many of which are completely free). Tech week started again today at the Globe though, so it won't be for another week at least.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Globe has started to feel like routine now, just in time for another tech week to get us all on our toes again starting next Tuesday. Yesterday a pervasive gloom made me think I need to adjust my mentality about playing cues. I've decided to think of them more as sound cues than as music, and somehow today was not only easier but I was much cheerier about the whole thing. It doesn't mean that I play everything soullessly - a pretty Welsh ditty that doesn't sound nostalgic just isn't right. But as a musician I'm just as interested in the space between people and music as I am in the music itself, I'm interested in how music changes depending on expectation, acoustic, personality. Some stories, like the Creation I played on Sunday, one tells more or less the same way every time, like The Night Before Christmas - they're too good the way they are to mess with, and are anyway so fixed to a time and place that you don't need to alter them to fit a situation. Other stories where there is a bit of room for interpretation, like in 16th-century music or in folk music, the story-teller's personality comes through just as much as the text. In theatre music there's no room for any of that stuff - there could be in some theatre of course, but not in this case. We're not telling a story, we're just adding a few pictures to spark the imaginations of the audience. We try to make them polished bits of ear-candy, but the relationship of the music to the audience is distant, of the music to the musicians is irrelevant, and of the music to the actors is, well, fixed in tech week as much as possible. Rather than be crushed by the creative wasteland which is playing fanfares one after the other, I'll just help Shakespeare tell his story - with this perspective in mind I approached my job with a new perspective today and it made all the difference in the world. Without wanting to put too much pressure on it, I do hope to feel like a proper musician again on Sunday, when I'll play with I Fedeli at a castle in Belgium . Num num num.

Prince Henry in a reckless moment in the tavern scene finished playing recorder (he's not bad at all) and threw it into the audience. Guess what - no one caught it. It got picked off the ground and thrown back with half a mouthpiece - the other had splintered off and stage management couldn't find it again when they searched the yard at intermission. Ow.

We had an 8:30 am call today - oh for the days when I could press the rule that anyone who called a rehearsal before 10 had to bring croissants! It makes getting up for rehearsal at 2 pm tomorrow seem utterly civilized...until I remember that the rehearsal is in Cologne. Arse. My Eurostart leaves St. Pancras tomorrow at 6.20, so I'll have to be out the door by 4.30 or so. This is getting familiar.

Having forgotten to book a TGV ticket exactly 90 days before and shelling out an extra 45 euros just a few days after this key deadline, I've been ruthless in booking trains the past few days. 15 quid from Aberdeen to London direct, and two Eurostar tickets with connecting TGV in the fall (UK: Autumn) for as cheaply as they come - or just over the price of a flight. The extra cost is worth it though: I'll be able to take all my instruments home without trusting them to baggage handlers, and can maybe even accomplish something on the train rides, not to mention avoid making my carbon footprint even worse than it already is. Now to figure out exactly when I'll need to get my trip in on the West Highland line while my laundry (UK: washing) dries on the line outside enough to pack.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Back in London.

Basel was indeed two days of lots of running around, but not as bad as I'd thought. The nice thing about Swiss bureaucracy is that you can almost always speak to someone who actually makes decisions, instead of passing notes back and forth through a stream of different office employees who hate their jobs (cf. Canada) and submitting far more paperwork than anyone will every have time to sift through. Shortly before leaving Basel, I had been mailed a list of a very large number of papers to submit to the government agency which subsidizes health insurance for non-millionaire Swiss residents like me. (Looking around for statistics, I see my flight to the Hebrides this September is no escape from overt wealth - a Swiss millionaire just bought up all the Kintyre islands). So on Monday afternoon I dropped the agency office without appointment and spoke to the soccer-jersey-sporting (UK: football-jersey-sporting) Person in Charge of My File, who helpfully went through the letter and narrowed down the list to the four most necessary and realistically obtainable papers, and then only for 2008 - they wouldn't catch up to the present for a while anyway. He shuddered as much as I did at the thought of going through copies of all the contracts or email confirmation of fees for every concert I played and every music lesson I taught: a list (which I'd prepared anyway for taxes) would be fine. Whew!

The rest of the time was spent with a lunchtime visit to the Egger Workshop to bring my slide-trumpet up 20 cents so that when I play it cold it will still be in tune, return library books (I need now to get hold of the Peter Walls Masques book here in London: I finally flipped though it on the weekend to discover plenty of sackbuttery in the antimasque after all!), and attend/play in some rehearsals for Claire and Nate's trombone recital tomorrow - toi toi toi you both! This left a short time for tea and making faces at my 1- and 3-year-old neighbours, and another enjoyable attack on whatever germs were in my throat, this time employing Springbank 10 year followed by Caol Ila 12 year, supplemented by commentary from Tobie's whisky guidebook. How do they come up with this stuff? "Nose of charred vanilla," "hints of beach embers," "crushed leaves," "a subtle hint of pappadum." Pappadum? We tried to come up with some of our own to describe the Caol Ila, but we obviously hadn't tried as much Whisky as the people writing up the book, as the best we could come up with was "fleur d'oranger with a hint of granite and fully-figured basslines." Ugh. Claire and I had a go when comparing 22 different whiskies one night thanks to the annual tasting at Paul Ullrich, and after about 14 tastes, designated the peatiness of a favourite Port Charlotte with the nose commentary "Smells like cats."

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Yesterday was a bit silly. Normally one rehearses creation by rehearsing everything with the soloists first, then the next day the choir and trombones 1 & 2 come and we rehearse the rest. This time we did all the choir bits on Friday night, and theoretically had Saturday free... but we have two notes, an Ab and a G which fit in a tenor aria. So, rather than just having a free day, we had to hitch a ride into town (we're being put up in a country house and none of us trombonists has a car), wait an hour and a half, play our two notes, then wait another four hours to get a ride back. So I wandered about Bad Nauheim, a beautiful town with lots of parks, and took some pictures before sitting in the church and started my taxes.

The plan after was to take my trombone when I got back to the country house and do some proper practice (2 notes isn't much after all), but on the way over I felt a sudden sore throat, achy joints, fatigue and a temperature, and looking in the mirror I was utterly pale. So much for that then. After an hour of stillness, not feeling very much better but definitely needing food, I hiked 40 minutes through field and forest to the nearest restaurant in the company of Gregor Antony, a cellist who was a founding member of the orchestra years ago, who lives in a castle just over the German border from Basel. Then I ate goulash soup and fried mushrooms on spätzle - part of my indulgence of German food these past days which has included coffee with ice-cream in it, apple juice soda, and the white asparagus of which they're very proud.

The walk back was gorgeous - a near midsummer's night sunset:

the nearest restaurant was at the next left

sunset with poppy field

the house next door

On return, a schnapps nightcap to try to kill whatever was making my throat sore and off to bed early. There was a random unopened 1.5 L bottle of lemon-soda (and a half-empty one which I left alone) in my room so, hoping it was a leftover from a previous guest, I unceremoniously emptied most of it into the sink and filled the bottle with water and brought it to bed. Whenever I feel sick I drink uncomfortable amounts of water, but the three litres over the course of the night did result in my fever breaking towards dawn and my feeling a bit more alive when I finally got up and went off to breakfast to switch to drinking vast quantities of orange juice.

Now I feel well enough to play a bit of trombone again, so I'd better do that.


The concert went well despite a bit of stress beforehand - the local café taking 45 minutes to serve a bowl of soup and cup of coffee - they probably thought we should relax, given it was a Sunday afternoon. The atmosphere in the orchestra was very positive, and the choir excellent, it was an easy concert to enjoy.

Now I'm at Helen's in Freiburg with a bit of insomnia. I was upset that my plane ticket to go back to Basel for a Bach Cantata had gone up significantly in price last week while I was waiting to be paid for something so that I could buy it, so I went to bed without buying anything. Couldn't sleep though - a little voice said I should just just suck it up and buy it now. And guess what? Kayak had failed to notice a seat sale. I went onto swiss.com to book it and it was on sale for less than the easyjet flight. I scooped it up. And the kind people in Basel said even though I normally live there, they'll pitch into the cost of the flight since I'm basically living in London. And I get to play a Bach Cantata too?

the Black Forest from the train outside Freiburg

The next two days will be administrative mayhem. Thank goodness for a couple of rehearsals of my favourite music with some of my favourite people tomorrow afternoon!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Frankfurt: the silent city. At least, this afternoon it is, as the stations, subways, streets are bare, and the Germans are all crammed into bars and cafés watching Germany play Serbia. It's tense too - 6 minutes to go now and the Serbians still lead 1-0. I'd almost thought I'd escaped the fever by flying out of London the day of the England-Algeria match... I've been avoiding the crowds and the rowdyness of the games but I imagine I'll start watching towards the end. I do think the FIFA is important to the world: I share the theory that it redirects some of the instincts and hormones which used to cause bloody conquests into a more peaceful activity.

Yesterday evening, I went to the first UK concert of the Magdalena Consort, a singer-based ensemble founded by Peter Harvey. The experience of hearing Bach Cantatas has changed completely since I moved to Basel and learned German - after reading through the texts and translations for words I don't know (in this case difficult as the translations were poetic - completely different from the German in meaning and flavour), it was a luxury to put down the programme and just listen to the four sensitive singers deliver the text. After playing and hearing only the short bits of incidental music for Henry IV, or maybe it was (is it possible?) a bit of homesickness for German culture, I was more sensitive than usual to the cathartic elements and tears came to my eyes during the simple quartet with organ and the text "Welt, Gute Nacht."

(Oooh, Serbia won - Frankfurt is waking up again.)

After the concert, over an unlimited supply of Madeleines, I had the chance to catch up with Charles Daniels (who is about to head to Montreal to participate in the Montreal Baroque Festival) before attempting to head back into Southeast in the company of Alison McGillivray and Claire Salaman, the latter whom I met for the first time last night. An incident on the tracks meant that there were no trains at all, so we went out to find some supper before taking the bus home. Interesting discussions ensued about all sorts of music-related topics. All of them will eventually weave their way into this blog (some already have), so I'll focus on one question for now, thoughtfully posed by Alison: "Why don't musicians warm up together?" Actors and dancers warm up together all the time (at the Globe it's a set regime), but musicians almost never. I've had the experience that in my studies, we trombonists would often get together and tune a few chords before going onto the stage, maybe practise a few tricky sections, and as a result went into concerts more confident and - crucially - better listeners. We still do it occasionally, but while it still usually makes the performance better, I do sometimes get the feeling that we feel a bit embarrassed by it, as though we shouldn't need the help of our colleagues to play our best. What a pity... Maybe attitudes could change if someone could prove that listening is a skill that also needs to be "warmed up" - then who could argue that you can do it properly alone?

I had nice experiences in both airports this morning - the smallness and calm of London City was a relief given I hadn't slept a wink the night before. Near the gates, there was also this enlightened sign, which though looked-for, I think I saw today for the first time in my life:

We landed around 10:30 in Frankfurt and got off the aeroplane bus into a deserted hall full of reclined chairs. I couldn't imagine what people would wait for in this arrival area, but as I was completely exhausted at this point, I didn't care, and sat in one of them, closing my eyes in the more-or-less peace and quiet and waiting for sleep. Funnily enough, there was no lineup (UK: queue) when I moved to passport control quite refreshed two hours later. It's a good thing I hadn't checked any bags, I'm sure they would have been taken and destroyed.

Last night wasn't the only social night of the week: on Tuesday I met up with Maeve, the other Concerto Caledonia roadie, who I met in Scotland almost two years ago and who is studying cognitive science in London. She's promised to hijack me when some Celidhs roll around, and elucidated her dream of living in a narrow boat on the canals near Paddington station - a part of London culture I'd never known but I'll have to make a trip up to see for myself.

Maeve with Old Speckled Hen

I've biked to and from London Bridge twice now - getting quite lost each time thanks to construction and a distinct lack of street signs on major roads, rendering my London A-Z somewhat useless. But the main point was anyway to get some exercise, and as a welcome side effect, pummeling along on my mountain bike on the left seems to have startled me out of a lethargy which three weeks without cardiovascular exercise brought on. I sometimes forget just how much more alive I feel if I can get my heartbeat up every so often.

Time to head back to Frankfurt central station: the gig's not here, it's in Bad Nauheim, a half hour North of here. I came here though, because having been told originally that the rehearsal would be at 2, I organized for someone to bring me a classical tenor trombone from Basel - now I'll meet them at the station and recover it. It turns out we don't have rehearsal until 7 after all - but the time has flown by and I'm pleased that I'll have a good hour to warm up and get used to A=430. I'm quite far from the station because the station was boring. With memories of the bustling marketplace I hopped on the U-bahn (subway; UK: underground) to Konstablerwache, only to find desolation and a single solitary stall. A good one though. When I pass by it now, I'll buy some fresh German black-cherries to tide me over through the rehearsal.

Here, by the way, the view from my bedroom window in London:

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Somehow I knew I was jinxing myself when I wrote that tickets to Scotland would be cheap as chips before checking for myself. They are - mostly - at 13 quid, except for the day that I'm going, which is a civic (UK: bank) holiday and has no sale seats - they start at 99! But I didn't want to wait a day, so I've booked myself a berth on the Caledonian Sleeper after my 6:30 show the night before. I'll arrive in Glasgow an hour and 5 minutes after sunrise on said holiday. Smug though I appear to be, I do regret not joining Claire (who taught me the phrase "cheap as chips" in the first place) on the drive up from Stockton; and also I almost never sleep more than 2 hours on night trains so the next day will be a bit groggy. But both things will be made up for by our daily road trips and accommodation in a great big Edwardian house in Paisley.

West Scotland and The Hebrides
(well, most of them)

Much of yesterday, when not practising or getting through emails and dirty laundry, was devoted to figuring out how to make the best of my time in Scotland. Aside from hiking (UK: hill walking) with Claire and an appointment to go horsebackriding (UK: horseriding) in Aberdeen, I'll still have a few days to myself. I think I'll take the West-Highland line (do click, it's gorgeous!) up to Mallaig (right in the middle of the map), hop on a ferry, and go sea-kayaking in the Hebrides.

I hope it's a bit like lake kayaking (on a proper Canadian lake) but with bigger waves and salt spray... and never a distillery far away unless you venture out to St. Kilda (off the map to the NW) which probably won't happen until I get a bit more experience. Even now, I think I'll go to Dorset first in July to take the three-hour course in learning to capsize with elegance and grace.

Points to My Mom for noticing that last Monday's post was written in iambic pentameter.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Oh the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it's rather safe to say
That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It sounds that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day today
- Richard & Robert Sherman

And a good thing too! This weekend was the annual Blackheath Kite and Bike Festival and I just rode my bike (!) over to Blackheath with my host family to check it out. There were some interesting kites about - this one you probably wouldn't see in the sky in Canada:

but the most impressive thing by far was the formation kite flying:

two all decked out in tails

these three were all flown by the same person

these four won the world championships

these four wiggled their tails
as they flew

these 16 never got tangled up!

My suspicion that bike repair would prove a reasonable alternative to nesting has proven true. Getting out with the tools and reconnecting and adjusting brakes, putting myself in a good front gear (the derailer is bust but London's flat so the back 5 should do), installing a mirror and pumping up the tires were very satisfying indeed. And today I donned my helmet and rode it up to the Festival - following the family along and taking mental notes on how things go when you're driving on the left.

The last two Globe shows went rather well - we're settling into a routine and switching instruments is getting easier since I finally had some time to spend with George's alto (which is smaller than mine and a bit less taxing for the extremely high bit at the end). The moment which annoyed me last post also got better - we were brought in again after the song with an agreeable bit of hand-waving and no whispered numbers, which made playing calmly much easier. Of course I still get riled up in principle on overconducting, but in this case I'll have to accept it here and move on. It helps that it's clear there are no silly power-games going on, just a desire to get it right which is zealous enough to get in the way of making us players feel trusted. But as the only thing more difficult than playing when you feel that you're not trusted to do your part is to play in a situation you don't accept, I'll at least remedy the latter myself.

Feeling quite exhausted most of the time when not at the Globe, I've indulged this week in beginning to watch Doctor Who from the beginning of the new series. I remember when I was about four, settling down to watch Polka Dot Door and having to endure the terrifying last few minutes of the old Doctor Who and scary theme song. Now I'm ever-so-slightly addicted. If you tune in (you can find them all, 72 minutes a day, at ninjavideo.net), let me know what you think of Murray Gold's soundtracks. I usually find the unimaginativeness of television soundtracks to be a crushing bastion of missed opportunities - but his, when I notice them coming out of the woodwork, are very refreshing displays of inventiveness and cheeky retro commentary. Nice that he has the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at his disposal too.

Oh, and thanks to Claire for clearing up the Coal Tar Soap issue, and for pointing out that it used to be made around the corner from where the Globe stands today. Off to book my rail tickets for my September jaunt to Bonnie Scotland - I'll have a ten-day break from the Globe so I'll head for the hills. Right now the tickets are cheap as chips.

Did anyone notice anything odd about last Monday's post, by the way?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

I thought that this soap was some kind of joke when I read "Sainsbury's coal tar fragranced soap" on the package. Is it like Berty Bots every-flavoured soap? Is it for nostalgic Northerners, pining for the mines? (Is that comment going to get me into trouble, Claire?) I had to buy some, of course. It left yellow goo on the tiles but it smelled fine if not exactly what I expected from coal tar. And I feel quite clean now.

Today I bought a bicycle from the online classifieds at gumtree.co.uk, and went on an excursion to Bethnal Green to pick it up. Finding the person I was to buy it from not home (miscommunication), I went off to find Shoreditch Cycles, and failed - only to find an abandoned warehouse at the address. I suppose that's why their website was offline too. So I found a stray wireless signal (yey iPod touch!) and it told me Brick Lane Bikes was not far away. I meandered back along Bethnal Green road, passing a great multitude of colourful and glittery sari shops and Indian food shops - couldn't resist buying a box of ripe-to-perfection mangos...might bring some to the Globe tomorrow. The people at Brick Lane bikes were not very nice or helpful, but anyway I left with a matte white new helmet (flat-backed so my trombone case doesn't push it over my eyes), heavy lock and front and rear lights. Then I went back to the Gumtree advert address and picked up the bike itself. One of the gear shifts is on with duct tape and the brakes were disconnected. Oh well, a bit of bike repair might feel like nesting, I thought. I managed even to connect one of the brakes without any tools and ride it on the left of some deserted sidestreets pointing in the direction of London Bridge station.

Rotweiler Bike lock: £27
White Bell Helmet: £25
Froggy Lights: £22
Ladies' Mountain Bike: £20
8 Mangoes (2 varieties): £4.50

That's about right, I reckon.

Life at the Globe feels like it's cooled down a lot. On Tuesday it felt like all the momentum we'd built up the week before had vanished into thin air... it was pretty hard for everyone, actors and musicians included, and we weren't as on top of things as in the first show. Effective, yes. Fantastic, no. On Wednesday we had a matinee and this went better - a bit of momentum and a bit of feeling like we actually knew how it went, which was nice.

Yesterday there was a moment of backstage where I wanted to change how we picked up the instrumental tune of a Welsh ditty that an actor has been singing very freely (and very well if I may say). I hoped I might, when he got to the last note, simply breathe and pick the tempo back up again with my lone upbeat. Apparently this is very risky behaviour. Oh. So the director is going to give it the way he did yesterday, by beating anew and whispering "2!" in order to assist me finding the perfect millisecond to place beat three. It will be an extra bit of work on my part to come in pp and make it not sound alarmed.

But this moment accounts for just 1/3 of a second or so. The rest is still pretty fun.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

See, I told you I wouldn't be long!

Fading a bit as the morning came to a close, I was rescued by the one-cup espresso pot I bought at a Milan Market. You would have thought it was for a doll-house until you heard it gurgle and seen that inside the grinds and water have indeed brewed to form a very small and very perfect shot of espresso.

Among the things weighing on my mental list of items to blog about, a key one this week has been regarding the compromises involved in combining music with other disciplines. Not that it always has to be a compromise, but it depends on the priorities of the production.

For instance, I was involved in a dance show last year, a fascinating and touching exploration the lives of cloistered nuns in the 17th Century. There was gorgeous music dug up by Candace Smith and amazing dancing going on, but the music was constantly being compromised for the sake of the "dramatic flow." Logistical problems like having to be at the other end of the room at the end of a piece I was playing in meant not playing the (climactic, forte) last three measures, leaving it for the harpsichord alone. Or having the gamba, which had been lying on a cold stone floor for half an hour, tune loudly during an otherwise tender piece, so as not to have to stop and tune between. Or once, having it simply not tune at all (I was almost in tears playing in duo with it). And so on. Over the course of the project I found myself slowly having to disconnect from the idea that I had been brought there to contribute from my years of specialization in playing early music. If fitting it into "the big picture" of that show meant crushing it into a tiny box, it wasn't for me, I felt depressed about it for weeks after. I felt like I'd prepared a big meal all week and right when it was on the table, in all its glory, all my guests stayed outside to watch a pretty sunset and by the time they got back it was cold and congealed, dried out, wilted. And then afterwards, slightly guiltily, they all told me how great it was, though none of us actually experienced what it could have been.

I hesitate to write that story in the midst of all this Globe fluster - it's not been the same experience by any stretch, but a few times I've been haunted slightly by memories of last year's dance show by a couple of short-term compromises we've made to solve one logistical problem or another in the context of a stage rehearsal. If something was too long or too short, we'd cut or repeat bars on the spot; someone standing in the wrong place resulted in a key trumpet line simply missing. The difference here though is that seconds later, our composer (and at the Globe there is a composer assigned to every show, with authority close to that of the director), jumped up and off to the office to rewrite the bit or solve the placing problem, restoring integrity to the cue that had just been trampled on a wee bit by dramatic necessity - whew! The result in the end is that the music is effective and perfectly tailored to the show, the tailoring so well done that the stitches don't show.

In between though, in those moments when we're asked to fix something before she's jumped up, I have held my breath a bit, wondering what music would result from a last-minute alteration, which I would then have to repeat 35 times in the course of a run. But these fears have been subsiding, knowing that whatever we get, while it might be short, it will be the most effective music for the moment at hand, i.e. we'll always feel good about being there and playing it. On Sunday though, shortly before the premier started, we the band were told from the director's scrawled notes that a certain cue was too loud, so in a pinch the musical director cut my high slide trumpet line with military articulation. I wanted to just take out some of the harsh articulation and bring the high notes down into a quieter register, but as none of us in the room were the composer: we didn't have the authority to change notes around, we could only play or not play, and the line was cut. Had she been standing there, I'm sure she would have been open to suggestion - she realizes how important it is for us to be involved in the creative process in order to invest ourselves in the show - but in this case it was important to keep the hierarchy intact in her absence. It was frustrating, but I'll be the first to argue that ultimately, people are more important than music - rewriting notes as she listened from the audience might have inadvertently conveyed a harmful message. I have no doubt that she'll bring us a brilliant modified cue for today, but in that show, this last minute pinch resulted in the two trombones coming out and playing their empty harmonies to my non-existent fanfare while I awkwardly stood by, clutching my slide trumpet and thinking of England.

Now to write an email saying yes to a Bach Cantata in August which will bring me almost no money at all... But its hard to say no to a fugue and a cantus firmus going along all at the same time, not to mention a chance to say hello to Basel friends and indulge in a swim in the Rhine. Also this week I've been invited to play for the first time with His Majesty's Sagbutts & Cornetts in what looks like a very fun concert indeed.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Before the story starts, a few more signs:

this one inspired me to buy two cups
(the both of which were nicked that very day)

and this one had more to it, but I read
it from the bottom. This one here below:

shows that MacBeth is winding to a close -
and they've begun to party quite a bit:
On Friday was their yearly midnight show,
the cast stayed up til five to watch the sun
before the Globe chipped in a cab ride home.
We're very well attended here indeed:
on Tuesday I was stuck in costume when
I had to mail* a letter urgently -
a member of the staff was at my call
and sent it for me off to Amsterdam.

The atmosphere in London has been great,
especially on both the weekend nights:

but nothing could compare to yesterday,
which was the Preview of our Henry IV -
the first time, with a (sold-out!) audience.
Adrenaline would have been through the roof
...had there but been a roof above our heads!

To my delight I'm on stage half a scene:
a tavern-whore who first jams with the band
then crouches on the steps and listens in -
not much, but cool I get to see a bit
of Falstaff and Prince Henry at their game,
and giggle at the jesting going on.
A couple times, up in the tiring house
another sackbut player said to me:
"can you believe we're really getting paid
for this? I know that it's a lot of hours,
a lot of concentration too, but then
its such a treat to be a part of this."

But as I'm sure you've figured out by now
six days of Shakespeare does get in one's skin!
I'll post here some more stories as we go,
we're out of tech so I've got time to throw
at this again - to my joy and relief -
but as I'm tired, tonight will still be brief.


*(UK: post)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

There are many notes posted around the Globe to remind us constantly of health and safety regulations, which rooms we mustn't bring our coffee into, who to call if we forget the codes to the doors, and, crucially, reminders to mentally prepare for the times ahead. This was posted backstage on a pillar:

I presume it refers to the Scottish Play, as I have yet to see a non-bloodied up member of the cast walking around backstage.

Tech rehearsals have been full-on, we're to remain in costume even over lunch breaks the rest of the week for the cause of efficiency, wearing massive white rags to protect our costumes. We're also being treated to plenty of goodies:
offering on the table at tea time

Tomorrow we end rehearsal at 5 pm, meaning I will have the chance to cook myself a proper supper. London has lots to offer in terms of value takeout (UK: take-away) and I quite enjoyed my cheap but good sushi by the Thames in the sun this evening, but I quite look forward to sitting in the back garden here with a hot piping home-made something tomorrow (haven't decided what yet). The packaging involved in buying a ready-made salad is crushing - I'm not as green as I probably should be, but since the discovery of the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, I have a hard time throwing out plastic: perhaps the plastic bowl I used for 8 minutes to eat my chicken and spinach salad will end up lodged in the digestive system of an albatross? Or never quite decomposing for the next 1000 years? So I've been buying my sandwiches at EAT. rather than M & S, since they have recyclable packaging, and have been hoarding some of the plastic until I find out more about alternative ways of getting rid of them.

It's been hitting home in the past couple of days that in the months of July and August, I could easily not play anything which lasts longer than 16 measures. I must try to remedy this.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

At last a bit of time to write again. I tried last night, but I was so knackered I could barely string a sentence together, and I got distracted by a BBC costume drama (this is apparently a common distraction in this country). Anyway, thanks for checking back: I've made an extra effort with the pictures today to compensate, and I apologize in advance for the length - it's been a packed few days.

I left the house in Lewisham at 5 am on Saturday morning, when the sky looked like this:and was in Echternach, on the Luxemburg-German border, in time for lunch, traveling by land the whole way. Another Monteverdi Vespers, but when I log it in my little black book of Vespers, the stats will look entirely different from the ABO one. The vocal forces, instrumentation, pitch, keys and tempi were all completely different, the tempi being so drastic that while ABO lasted an hour and a half, Cantus Cölln lasted a full two hours. Behind the stand, things looked different too:
Rehearsal in Echternach Basilica

in that while two weeks ago I was playing Tenor II in tenor clef, now I was playing Tenor I in alto clef, the amusing but dangerous result being that sometimes the positions of the notes on lines were exactly the same, but actually the notes were different. So it was a lot of concentrating from beginning to end. In the concert, when I got to the bit where I had to switch to alto and play the third cornetto part, I looked at it and thought to myself "well, I suppose if I don't play it, no one else will." The dull high note training last week paid off: all the Ds came out without fuss, though I wish I'd been able to move them around a bit more. Gerd Turk's Nigra Sum was disarming by being unassuming: it was nice to hear it more like a love song and less like an opportunity for stardom. It was a privilege to play with Concerto Palatino again, too. They strike a remarkably fine balance in their ensemble playing: while every note and gesture has its own identity and no musical opportunities are passed up or skimmed over, yet nothing sticks out enough to draw attention away from the wholesome collective sound.

The festival kindly provided me with a hotel room in a small town next to Echternach (but in Germany): a lovely place for a post-travel shower and nap. Nevertheless, I was still exhausted by the concert. Somehow as a musician, one learns how to find advantages in every state of mind. With exhaustion, of course I have to make more of an effort to concentrate; on the other hand I tend to be too tired to get nervous, a nice reprieve.

After the concert I got a ride to Aachen with Cantus Cölln's alto, Elisabeth Popien, who very kindly put me up for the night so that I could get the next morning's Thalys to Paris. That afternoon, you see, an hour north of Paris in Beauvais, was a concert of the Concerto Caledonia. A quick aside to say why I've become a roadie for this particular band:

In the summer of 2004, when I was helping organize the Montreal Baroque Festival, I was sitting in the corner of Susie Napper's music room in Montreal, working on a computer, while something very special happened behind me: this CD and concert was being rehearsed. There was a tossing around of ideas both playful and intrepid, an intense amount of listening going on and very quickly, despite the fact they'd not worked together before, some of the most musical moments I'd ever been exposed to. I think I proofread the same document about fourteen times.

That group wasn't the Concerto Caledonia, but I decided anyway to keep my ears open for more of the same, and as David Greenberg and Chris Norman have both collaborated with David McGuinness in the context of C.C., it was an obvious choice. Then when I started buying their CDs I thought I could hear in them a kind of journey to find relevant and human ways of making music. Or maybe it was just a phase I was going through at the time which made me hear this? Anyway, bits were serious, fun, clever, cheeky, nostalgic, and at some point listening to it I remembered why I wanted to be a musician again. And so even if Beauvais wasn't directly on the way back to London from Echternach, it was close enough. In fact, now that I've heard Sunday's concert, I think Copenhagen also would have been somehow "on the way."

The concert involved the two Davids + Alison McGillivray and Greg Lawson, as well as the return of that same kind of intrepid music making I first heard six years ago in Montreal. And some very virtuosic cello playing from Alison. I was pleased at being utterly gripped for the hour and a half, if a bit taken aback at the visceral level of my own empathy as an audeince member: when Alison successfully navigated a post-fingerboard foray with flair, I looked down and my own hands were sweating.

The next day I headed back to London only to find the tube system a maze of engineering works, and had to double back on myself to find a line and station which was both open and would take me to London Bridge. I got to the Globe and was very pleased that my colleagues were willing to entertain my level of tiredness given I'd just been to five countries. Also very pleased that we finished the rehearsal when we got through all the cues once, knowing we would get chances to polish them throughout the week - so we went home at 7 instead of 10 and I got a good night's sleep.

Today was the first day of tech rehearsals. One (1) picture of me in my corset-dress... from the back. Another to follow when the costume is complete.

I let out a little laugh when I walked into the actual theatre portion of the Globe for the first time today. Sort of an "wow, this is Shakespeare's Globe and here I see it for the first time by walking onto the stage to perform on trombone in a corset" sort of a laugh.

I won't write too much about the rehearsals because they will probably take up the stroytelling of the next days, except to say that while I'm sure they'll get more stressful, so far we're having a blast. And my high D's from last week turn out to be nothing in comparison for what the summer's got in store.

It rained all day, and when I left, the darkness of the sky was very impressive.
Southwark Cathedral