Thursday, September 8, 2011


My trip to Basel wasn't the simplest one. I decided to go on the cheap, which meant I bought an air ticket from Montreal to Paris and had to complete the journey on land. My journey started on Sunday the 21st when I bussed to Montreal and flew out.

 I arrived in Paris on Monday morning, and spent the day there walking from my hotel down le rue Strasbourg to notre dame cathedral. It was my first time in Paris, so I took as much as I could in an afternoon before I walked back to my hotel a tired wreck.

That night I slept close to sixteen hours. I did the best I could in order to adjust to the new time zone as quickly as possible. It worked. Tuesday morning I woke up with plenty of time to eat a healthy breakfast and get to Gare de l'Est with time to spare.

The trip by rail, although three and a half hours long, was quite pleasant the view of the French countryside to be seen along the way. I did have a bit of trouble finding my seat initially - I wonder if only the tgv operators understand the seat numbering system.

Donna met me at Basel sbb and took me to her office at the Schola Cantorum to put our things down. From there, she showed parts of the old city close to the school (including a street filled with houses dating from the 1400s) as well as the whole Musik Akademie der Stadt Basel. It is a very interesting place with newly-renovated buildings and a cool library as well. Apparently all of the practice rooms and studios have harpsichords. Take that.

After returning to her office, Donna tried my Wietfeld (or bazinga, as I have called it before) and, to my surprise (at the time) played it in tune. Her reeds are played with an embouchure more akin to the modern bassoon embouchure. She stays very relaxed and plays on reeds which are five mms shorter than any reed I have ever played on in North America. This style of reed really brought out the great qualities of the bazinga which I had heard so much about.

After chatting and trying out reeds and instruments, Donna took me back to her house, where her husband had cooked an incredible quiche. Dinner was excellent and was followed by a walk through the countryside nearby. Once the sun fell, I phoned home to let my mother know I was still alive (when I arrived in Paris, I discovered that my cell phone had no service on the continent) and Donna showed me her collection of bassoons - incredible!

       The next morning, I took a lesson in how to profile cane by hand - not an easy thing to do. My two pieces ended up in the bin, unfortunately, but my resolve held firm. We formed a tube on two pieces of cane, both of which I took home with me afterwards. We then packed up, and headed back into town to hold a gathering of local baroque bassoonists, of which there are 25!

Only five came by for cake and reeds, but events which include seven baroque Bassoonists - five bazingas were present - are few and far between in North America. It was surreal. We all tried each others instrument, reeds; we played les delices de la solitude, we ate cake.

After this eye-opening experience, Donna, Melodie, Harim and I took a walk through the old city, the conversation never making a dull moment. At quarter-past five,  it was time for me to head to the station to catch my six o'clock train and harim was very kind in taking me there. Whether or not I return to Basel, I will always be grateful for the kindness I received from the city's baroque bassoonists (I hear they have formed the Basel Baroque Bassoon Society?). I especially thank Donna for putting me up, feeding me, and basically vomiting her knowledge on me (although i was asking for it).

      After leaving the train at quarter to ten, I returned to my hotel filled with energy. It was hard for me to sleep that night, but with a full day of traveling ahead of me I hit the sack.

Waking up at six am was a bit of a challenge, but I didn't want to miss my flight. I arrived at the airport four hours before my flight was to depart only to find that it had been delayed by two. Once I went through security, there was a scare that over my bocals, however everything turned out fine. I stepped into the door of my house unscathed at nine pm Ottawa time after having woken up in Paris twenty-one hours before. What a trip.

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