Sunday, December 30, 2012

Setting the Right Goal

One of the many life-altering habits that began two years ago was setting goals for myself, both long and short-term. Since I began setting them, I've managed to cross many of my original ones off, though new ones are added in time to replace the old.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Opera da Camera on Rockethub

Some of you may remember I wrote a bit on Opera da Camera last year. The quartet is busy preparing for their most ambitious project yet: Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, which will be performed at the Théatre Rialto on February 22, 23, and 24. All those details can be found here.

Part of their preparations have included a fundraising drive through Rockethub, a crowd-funding website similar to Kickstarter. In two weeks OdC has managed to raise $760 and they still have 61 days to go (as of today) to reach their goal of $3000. If you're looking for a great Christmas gift, why not donate to this great project? If you give enough, they'll even come perform a private concert for you!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A recording of Handel, from 1775?

We continue to be hard at work discovering the performance practice of the 18th century. New sources continue to be rediscovered, other known sources are reinterpreted but it is impossible to know exactly how one performed two hundred and fifty years ago - especially since recording technology hadn't yet been invented. Or had it?

The Barrel Organ: an instrument which had existed in various forms throughout Europe since the early 18th century. Wikipedia explains it best:
The basic principle is the same as a traditional pipe organ, but rather than being played by an organist, the barrel organ is activated either by a person turning a crank, or by clockwork driven by weights or springs. The pieces of music are encoded onto wooden barrels (or cylinders), which are analogous to the keyboard of the traditional pipe organ. 
Performances could be recorded using a keyboard which had needles attached to the keys, poking holes in paper which would eventually be wrapped around a barrel and serve as a guide for the 'pinning' of the metal which encoded the music. In the case of many earlier barrels, however, it is most likely that they were constructed in collaboration with a performer as the paper system described  above wasn't commonly used until the early 19th century.

The instrument in the photo was made by John Langshaw in 1790. Langshaw lived in Lancaster and was praised for his barrel organ making by Handel and others. The full story can be read here. John Christopher Smith jr., the son of Handel's secretary and Handel's student in his later years, knew Langshaw well and it is suspected that he was involved in the making of the 1775 barrel which contains two of Handel's organ concerti. Below you will see three recorded versions of concerto no.5: the first, a standard performance (skip to 2:26); the second  from the 1775 barrel, a recording of original performance practice; the third by Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam baroque orchestra, clearly under the influence of the mechanical recording.

Are you surprised by the scores of ornaments in the barrel organ? I certainly was. What this mechanical recording shows us is not just how Handel might have performed, but how contemporaries would have done as it was recorded after his death.

There is written evidence in a number of places which show the extent to which this ornamental practice from the first half of the 18th century continued all the way to the 19th (actually, this ornamental practice began much earlier, but I'm not going to dive into that). For example, take a look at Telemann's Methodical Sonatas and Ozi's Nouvelle méthode de basson. So why do we not allow ourselves more ornamental leeway today? Or is it just that we lack the skill?

There are mechanical recordings, such as the one I've discussed above, of music by C.P.E. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven by contemporaries. Maybe we should look to them to give us a better understanding of a usual performance of their works?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sad Day

I was very sad to hear yesterday that Jim Stockigt died on the 1st day of this month.

Mr. Stockigt, a physician-endocrinologist and bassoonist, has done an important survey on bassoon repertoire and is the author of the Arias with Obbligato Bassoon Database, an incredible resource for all.

Please visit his website if you haven't already.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Change of Perception

Those of you who know me must have heard me mention at least once the name Richard Taruskin. I've been making a real effort this past month to absorb his book 'Text & Act'. A collection of essays dancing around topics in early music, it seems the further I read the more he writes on how others have misinterpreted the previous essay.

A point he brings up which I continue to meditate over is that musicians are better critical thinkers if they undergo a change in musical tradition such as from mainstream classical music to historical performance. If we are forced to completely rethink our approach to music we've been playing our whole life, will that not affect how we come to make artistic decisions whether they be big or small?

This transition of perceptions seems to be a rite of passage for most, but what about those who are born into the new tradition (that being historical performance)? Will they develop the same critical thinking skills without living through such a radical change?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Can you imagine doing anything else?

A video or two for you before Trick or Treating this evening: A brief discussion between musicians and the Kronos Quartet and Wu Man at a Workshop at Carnegie Hall.

Speaking on the difficulty of reaching a measure of success, violinist John Sherba says, "It boils down to you enjoy this so much that you just have to do can't imagine not doing [it]." What an important point.

In the second video, violinist David Harrington gives a brief history of the Kronos Quartet. Pay attention to  his work as 'the manager of the group', and how often they performed in Seattle in the early days.

So,now that you've heard a little about the work involved. Can you imagine doing anything other than music?

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Make it Mean Something

A recent lecture given by Anthony Rooley (Consort of Musicke) had an important effect on me. Though the lecture centered around Monteverdi's Lamento d'Arianna (1608), as well as other works based on the same subject, an incredibly important point was raised. Artists should be engaging with their audiences on more levels than purely musical. "Give them a story," he said.

Interestingly enough, by the end of the lecture we had heard enough music to encapsulate a concert and walked away with a much deeper understanding of the circumstances surrounding the centrepiece work, as well as discovered numerous other works directly referencing Monteverdi's setting. We covered the entire myth of Arianna at Naxos as well as another, that of Leander and Hero, and covered settings of those works which were isolated from the Italian settings.

Though, of course, it was presented in a manner befitting a classroom, it wouldn't be difficult to convert it for a concert-going public. Indeed, I assume this lecture came about from the Lamento D'Arianna project by the Consort of Musicke c.1990.

Crucial is it for us at this moment to make a concert 'relevant', what better way than this? Create a narrative, appealing to both the intellectual and the emotional, providing an event with an inherent cultural value beyond just another broadly-themed concert.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New Performer's Visa Basics out!

Musical America just released a PDF titled "Securing U.S. Visas for Visiting Artists". I highly recommend it. Interesting to see just how complex the system there has become.

The most relevant story for me, was that of the Chicago Opera Theater on page 17. Here the up-and-coming Irish singer Claudia Boyle was to take the role of the Queen of the Night in a production of The Magic Flute. Unfortunately, the process dragged on so long that she ended up missing the show. The U.S. Consulate in Dublin "was inclined to send her application back to the USCIS and request revocation because the reviews weren't good enough, the awards not international enough, and the artist was too provincial."

What a Debbie Downer.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What Were Your Early Experiences With Baroque Music?

As young musicians, we learn quite a bit about music history, theory, as well as style and taste from our teachers. We read as well, of course, but I would say that the majority of my musical knowledge has been imparted to me orally, rather than through writing.

What I am curious to know is what sort of general impression you were given early on about baroque music.

For example:
Though I had listened to Bach's organ works as a child (one of the CDs the family would listen to on the road), I had not had that much exposure to baroque music. Before entering university I may have been able to name five composers of the period - certainly Bach, Telemann, and Handel were three of them.

Given that most of the examples of chorales that I was given to analyze by my composition teacher were by Bach, it became quite clear to me that his works were very well crafted.

In terms of musical performance, I had been given a few sonatas in high school to work on. In these pieces I learned that I should always begin a trill with the top note, and that I should always be a little quieter when resolving a dissonance (obviously there was more to it than that, but these rules seem to sit the clearest in my mind as I look back). I remember being told that there was a relationship between dance and music during the baroque era. I also remember being told that there were elements of improvisation in the music, though it was never explicitly outlined what those were.

What do you remember about your early experience with baroque music?

Let us know below

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Heckeler is Moving

Though many of us long for summer to continue, the increasing variety in colour across the capital's foliage betrays the coming season. For many Autumn signals the beginning of the long night, another year of school, the start of an orchestra's concert season; for others it can denote a new chapter in ones life.

Beginning this fall, I will be living in Basel, Switzerland. In a week's time I will commence my MA in Specialized Performance of Early Music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and I look forward to the change of scenery.

This move, however, begs a few questions. The most relevant to the blog is whether continuing to confine the scope of The Heckeler to early music in North America while living abroad is the best way to proceed, especially when I will be coming into contact with so many musicians and groups which, I hope, will be worth sharing here. My decision, therefore, is to expand the reach of to include the European early music scene as well as the North American.

As I complete my transition into Swiss life I will a bit sparse in my writings, so look out for more at The Heckeler a little further into the season.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Westboro Bookstore Calling for Classical Music

Following a number of successful open-mic nights at a Westboro bookstore, which included classical music acts, the owners have decided to take a step further. Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeebar, on the Southwest corner of Wellington and Holland, is hoping to put on a series of genre-specific concerts, including those of classical music.

"We're looking for musicians to hold events here who would be the primary promoters and organizers," says Craig Poile of CW, "although we can add to the organization and promotion, I don't know if we have the resources at this point." Being a classical music lover himself, Craig looks forward to working with local musicians.

The call for events comes as a great opportunity for musicians to get their feet wet at organizing and promoting a show. "We would provide the venue and a staff person... [and leave it up] to the musicians to decide the format [of the evening]," says Craig.

Thank you Craig!

Serious enquiries can be sent to

Monday, June 25, 2012

Upon reflection sur la montagne

With the celebrations of the baroque and the sun which shone brightly over it now complete, our hemisphere has now begun to darken, though only slightly, day by day.

Always a display of the highest-quality, the Festival montréal baroque is never short of energetic, fun programming ideas. Over the past two years, I have been very fortunate to have been included as part of its own ensemble, la bande Montréal baroque. My work with them has demanded much from me, yet it is the most fulfilling work I have done.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Horsing around in Montreal

The Festival montréal baroque is celebrating its tenth anniversary this weekend with quite the program. Titled "Apocalypse", in line with the Mayan predictions, the festival lineup was inspired by the themes of revelation and transformation.

One of the main attractions this year is a reproduction of an equestrian ballet first performed in 1612. That's right, horses will be dancing.

The four horses (representing war, pestilence, famine, and death), along with four dancers from the baroque dance troupe Les Jardins chorégraphiques, will be accompanied by a 21-strong band of oboes, bassoons, sackbuts, cornets, fifes, drums, and trumpets as they dance in the open air.

This past Wednesday, the band got its first chance to run with the horses. Not a common gig, the rehearsal was quite the show in itself. With mosquitos flying, barn smells, dogs barking, and plenty of dust, if one were to have been driving by the farm a band of historical musicians would have been the least likely sight to expect to see.

The event looks to be quite the spectacle and I am told that it has been completely sold out for a while now. If you have a ticket, Good on You!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Breaking Winds Crowd-Funding First Album

The Breaking Winds, the world's most famous bassoon quartet (I'm making that up, or am I?), have decided to fund their upcoming debut CD, 'Breaking In', through Kickstarter. They plan for their disk to include both original arrangements and compositions. Check out all the details HERE. Or take a look at the video below... or both.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Andy's Handy Hints: Take a Load Off

Producing a concert takes a ton of effort. We can all do it if we set our minds to it, but the more we wear the manager hat, the more difficult it becomes to perform our best come concert time. I've produced six concerts in which I've performed in over the past two years, each demanding a different workload. Unsurprisingly, the more I have been involved behind the scenes, the less impressed I was with my own musical performance.

So, in preparation for the OVO's concert on the 1st of June, I made sure that I could hand off as much work as possible to others. Firstly, I sought out a sponsorship with the Austrian Embassy in Ottawa. Their work towards the event was excellent as they promoted the event on their mailing list and website, as well as provide a wine & cheese reception following the show. Secondly, I managed to get us back on a local concert series called Ars Nova. Ars Nova handled all ticket purchases, stage set-up and take-down, program printing, as well as promotion on their website and mailing list. Without Ars Nova's help, the concert wouldn't have been possible.

Sometimes we want our concerts to go exactly the way we see it in our mind's eye, but if we were to control every part of the production, we would most likely end up like Colin in the High School drama below (skip to 2:00 if it doesn't already do so). The more work you hand off to another, the better your chances for a good performance.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Andy's Handy Hints: Living Arrangements

If there's a gig worth remembering, it's certainly not the one where the organizer left you hanging when it came to finding you a place to stay. Unfortunately, bad adventures such as those often come to mind much quicker than others. Coincidentally, the bad gigs are what you likely talk about the most with your musical friends.

Our concert on the 1st of June had two out-of-town guests, Roseen and Alice, who stayed with my parents and, upon the arrival of my English grandparents, their neighbors over two weeks. They didn't have to worry about meals, most transit around town was covered, they had constant access to computers/WiFi, and they could practice during daytime hours at their leisure (when not at a rehearsal, of course).

Though they had to put up with my dubious bassooning and my head in the clouds (being the chief behind the scenes, I was working on all aspects of the concert extra-musical), I trust they enjoyed themselves.

Bad news spreads quickly in the music world and you don't want to be the subject of that conversation. So when you have a few friends in town for your show, treat them better than you'd expect to be treated yourself. You might be surprised what comes your way later.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Andy's Handy Hints: Scheduling Rehearsals

In preparation for our concert on the 1st of June, the OVO rehearsed over 10 days. Though we were comforted by the ample rehearsal time (we only gave ourselves three days to prep for our concert in October), there were many pieces with varying instrumentation and scheduling was difficult. In order, then, to be as efficient as possible, I decided it might be best to go digital when making a calendar.

After collecting rough timeframes from the six members, I used a Google calendar to input a draft schedule. Once an ensemble schedule is created, members can either be invited to specific events as 'guests' (which would then be added to their own google calendar) or to view the entire calendar. Google calendars can record any details that might be needed for a rehearsal, not just time and location (integrated with Google maps), as there is a 'description' box in the event details panel. Events can be color-coded if need be.

Google calendars are compatible with Apple's iphone, ipod touch, and ipad calendar app and any changes made from either end (website or device) are updated immediately. The calendar can also be embedded into a website. Embedding comes with a catch, however. If not every member of the group has a google account that has been authorized by you to see the calendar, it must be made public in order to be visible. Public calendars are visible in Google searches and by anyone who stumbles onto the webpage you embedded the calendar into.

With a technologically-savvy ensemble, Google calendars could be extremely useful. Unfortunately, however, not all of the ensemble adjusted to it as quickly as I had hoped. Despite this, it was easy to update, and notifications of scheduling changes could be done with a link to the calendar without any reiterating.

Alice, our violinist for the show, also recommended Doodle, a service which focuses on scheduling problems such as those encountered by a chamber ensemble. Though I have never used Doodle, my friends have found it very useful in creating schedules as it includes a poll which asks those involved about their availability.

So take a look at both websites, or the one you're the least familiar with, and let me know which one might work best for you!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Andy's Handy Hints: Concert Prep, Introduction

This past Friday, Ensemble Our Very Own performed a concert of baroque music centering around Vienna. The concert was sponsored by the Austrian Cultural Forum and was our second on the Ars Nova concert series. 

A few weeks ago, I decided to keep a log of my activities leading up to the event which I thought might prove useful to others. Those activities will appear over the course of the next week under the tag "Andy's Handy Hints".

Keep an eye out for them.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oooh'ing and Aaah'ing over The OAE

Just one example of the many techniques to create a 'buzz' with potential audiences, The Orchestra of The Age of Enlightenment is always open to new ideas. One of the plethora of classical institutions in London, and relatively small in comparison with the modern orchestras in the city, the OAE has done much to "cut through the noise," as Communications Director William Norris puts it.

"We're one of many orchestras who live in the center of London," says William, "and we've had to be innovative in order to attract as much attention as the others with a large budget. We've always been a little bit rebellious in our strategies." The OAE's emphasis in their media strategy has always been on the orchestra members, as they have no principal conductor.

Encompassing the largest staff for a period orchestra in the country, the organization is never short of new initiatives and projects. In January, a video was put out asking people who don't look like the average classical music concert-goer to enter to become a poster-boy (or girl) for the upcoming season. Next Friday, we'll see the results of that contest. A unique approach which has generated quite a bit of buzz, the campaign displays the importance the orchestra puts on developing new audiences. Take a look at the teaser video:

Their website, also a unique design, puts its blog, vigorously updated, with material on a vast array of subjects, front and center. From composer biographies, tour updates, to videos such as the ones above, there is more material there than most in-house orchestra blogs put together. "We're in the process of updating our blogging system," says William, "right now it's a little complicated for orchestra members to blog. They write it, then send it to a staff member who then puts it up." An interesting concern for the communications office, I wonder if giving performers easy access to blogging software is on the top of other orchestras' to-do lists?

Apart from its regular concert series, the orchestra runs three others: The Night Shift, The Works, and OAE TOTS (for toddlers). Focusing on younger audiences (17 to mid 30s), The Night Shift has been very successful, both filling their concerts and receiving a lot of media attention. This past January, The Night Shift took a pub-tour which saw great success. Interestingly, in a post explaining that the pub-tour was in development, the author openly asked for suggestions. That's the first time I've ever seen that in an official communication from an orchestra.

The Works, OAE's most recent series, is targeted towards adults new to, or skeptical of, classical music. An excellent explanation can be found on the initial blog post about the series:
The concept is not rocket science. The heart of it is a concert at 8pm that lasts around 80 minutes, with no interval. In the first part of the concert the presenter and conductor or soloist will give the audience a ‘guided tour’ of the featured piece of music, movement by movement. Then there’s time for a Q+A and then a full performance of it. Drinks will be allowed in and we hope some of the informal atmosphere of the Night Shift will ensue. Before the concert, from 7pm we have some jazz in the bar as a way to start people’s evening off and then after the concert our Education Director, Cherry, will lead a ‘speed-date-the-OAE’ session, which is basically a flash way of enabling the audience to meet the Orchestra (all will be explained on the night)! 
Into its 26th year, the orchestra seems to be putting more emphasis on projects related to audience development than on its regular performances. Their consistent use of high-quality video and photography also compliment their blog-heavy website design.

Take a look at their website, then take a look at the website of your local orchestra. Are there many similarities?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Tempest in a Teapot Turns 10

Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Philadelphia, second largest city on the eastern sea board and home to a busy music scene.

Though most of the attention has recently been drawn towards the Philadelphia Orchestra, the local baroque orchestra has some news of its own.  Celebrating its tenth birthday this season, Tempesta di Mare will be offering four concerts over two weekends in March as part of its "opus 10" celebrations. The concerts will feature works which have been catalogued by the number 10, such as Vivaldi's op. 10, Bach's BWV 1010, Leclair's op. 10, and so on.

One of the youngest period orchestras in North America today, the little tempest in a tea pot has developed a strong following in the city, seeing a budget increase of 1000% since its conception. The two directors, flutist Gwyn Robinson and Lutenist Richard Stone, have worked hard to see their project successful. "For a number of years," says Gwyn, "Robert and I volunteered our time to get all of the work done behind the scenes." Today, the orchestra has a full-time staff member and four other part-timers (of which two are the directors) who do all of the administrative work. "It's nice to have people we can trust [with this work]!" notes Gwyn. It must also be nice being paid for it, too.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The PdK Eichentopf, first half of the 18th C.

This post is the sixth in a series under the tag "Baroque Bassoon". Click here to see all of the posts under this tag.

The PdK/Eichentopf
An instrument which has been in high demand for the past few years, the waiting list for the Peter de Koningh Eichentopf has been a long one. Though few baroque bassoons have survived in good condition, the two J.H. Eichentopf instruments in Nuremberg and Prague have weathered the ages better than most. Interestingly, a few have mentioned to me that the two originals "weren't that great", but the copy produced from the workshop in Hall shows no sign of any possible defects in the originals.

The instrument's walls are quite thick which give it a bit more of the 'cannon' feel common to those trying new Heckel instruments. This instrument, like the HKICW and Prudent, also features an 'innie' low Eb key.

This instrument is probably the most recognizable as the original has been copied by many makers. Also, this particular model is used heavily by one of the most visible bassoonists, Sergio Azzolini. This video features him and Ensemble L'aura soave in a performance of the Fasch Sonata in C Major.

*Since June 2012 this has been my primary instrument.
The 'innie' low Eb key

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Wolf/HKICW, c.1700

This post is the fifth in a series under the tag "Baroque Bassoon". Click here to see all of the posts under this tag.

Wolf/HKICW a415
Photo courtesy of
Hayley Pullen
A widely popular instrument, the HKICW is in use by most North American bassoonists. The original, a typical  'fancy table leg' design of late 17th century bassoons, survives in only three parts: the boot, the bell, and the long joint.  Found in former East Germany by William Waterhouse, the instrument was copied by Guntram Wolf Holsblasinstrumente in Kronach. The copy features a wing joint and bocal designed by Mr. Wolf which settles the instrument at a415. There is also an a392 version.

Unlike most baroque bassoon workshops, the Wolf shop keeps a continuous production of the instrument, almost eliminating wait times on orders. *2013: It should be noted that Guntram Wolf has, sadly, passed away. However, his factory continues to produce the instrument.

The recording below is of American bassoonist Dominic Teresi performing a concerto by fasch for two oboes and bassoon with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

Stay tuned for the next instrument, a copy by Peter de Koningh of an instrument by J.H. Eichentopf.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The W. Milhouse, c.1800

This post is the fourth in a series under the tag "Baroque Bassoon". Click here to see all of the posts under this tag.

W. Milhouse a415
An instrument with a very interesting history, it landed into my lap soon after I took my first course in the baroque bassoon three years ago. Though it was originally intended to play at a higher pitch, somewhere around a425, the instrument was modified and given a long bocal made by Guntram Wolf settling it at a415. The instrument was owned by Robin Howell, who restored the instrument, before it came into my hands.

Though it is an instrument of the 'classical' era, Milhouse was modeling it on an older instrument, as attested to by graphs produced by Matthew Dart of several English bassoons by the Stanesby and Milhouse families. Though William had made advancements in the design of the wing joint, my instrument came with a copy of a Stanesby Sr. wing which suits the instrument quite nicely.

The original wing and boot joint show markings of keys which were once placed on the instrument. The original holes have been sealed with wax and the posts stripped, their seats glued up.

To many, the instrument looks like it came out of a Mary Shelley novel, but, take it from me, it doesn't play the way it looks.

Note the heavy usage of the E hole
and the markings of what used to be
an F# key
The 'outie' low Eb key

Stay tuned for the next instrument, a copy by Guntram Wolf of a bassoon marked "HKICW".

Monday, April 23, 2012

Concert Review: Ottawa's Best Kept Secret?

The Ottawa Baroque Consort with special guest Liv Nordskog

"The North Star"

Southminster United Church, 15 Aylmer Avenue, Ottawa

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday night's performance by The Ottawa Baroque Consort was quite the evening's entertainment.

The quartet was joined by Norwegian soprano Liv Nordskog who sang works by Handel, Purcell, and Pergolesi, in addition to works by Telemann and Bertouch performed by the Consort.

The Orriols/Wietfeld, first half of the 18th C.

This post is the third in a series under the tag "Baroque Bassoon". Click here to see all of the posts under this tag.

Orriols/Wietfeld a415 
An instrument which has only been in production a few years, the Orriols/Wietfeld instrument is in high demand across Europe. Having recently been found in the back of a church in Poland, the instrument quickly made its way to Spain, where it has remained in the hands of the Bonair workshop.

Though much information about the maker is unknown, the instrument is of a design very similar to those German instruments which have survived from the second quarter of the 18th century (Eichentopf, Scherer, etc.). Interestingly, the instrument has an Eb key which is placed on the other side of the long joint, to be used by the left hand little finger (uncommon for bassoons at the time).

It being a new instrument, the Orriols/Wietfeld hasn't appeared in a major recording yet (to my knowledge), but I have found a live performance of Carles Cristobal (who discovered the original instrument) playing a Vivaldi concerto for bassoon. It is very likely he's playing the Wietfeld.

The little finger Eb key

Stay tuned for the next instrument, an original W. Milhouse, c.1800.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Cottet/Bizey, first half of 18th C.

This post is the second in a series under the tag "Baroque Bassoon". Click here to see all of the posts under this tag.

Cottet/Bizey a415
Photo courtesy of
Karim Nasr
Also originating in Paris, Charles Bizey was the master to Prudent, who eventually took over the shop at the rue Daulphine. Both master and apprentice used the fleur-de-lis to stamp their instruments. Some two hundred and fifty years later, the workshop of Olivier Cottet continues the Parisian instrument-making tradition.

A popular instrument in France today, the Bizey instrument seems to be more or less confined there. However, two instruments have crossed the pond and have settled in the Montreal area. These instruments, owned by Karim Nasr and Mathieu Lussier, haven't yet been in heavy use, though they are making their way onto the scene. I will be playing Mathieu's instrument at the Festival International de Musique Baroque de Lamèque this summer.

The video below features Laurent Le Chenadec on the Cottet/Bizey

Cottet/Bizey a392

Stay tuned for the next instrument, a copy by Pau Orriols of an instrument by Wietfeld.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The PdK/Prudent Thierrot, c.1770

This post is the first in a series under the tag "Baroque Bassoon". Click here to see all of the posts under this tag.

PdK/Prudent a415
Photo courtesy of
 Mathieu Lussier
One of the most popular instruments of the early music revival, the Peter de Koningh/Prudent instrument has been featured on countless recordings and was the instrument of choice during the '80s and '90s. The original hailing from 1760s/70s Paris, more and more bassoonists are switching off the instrument in favour of other, more 'authentic' (their words, not mine!), instruments. Despite this, the instrument is still a hot commodity.

Though it hasn't much of a foothold in North America, there are still a few scattered across the continent. Lucky for me, my teacher Mathieu owns one and was able to easily provide me with a picture.

Though the clip I am linking to doesn't really feature the instrument, it has such an all-star cast that I couldn't pass it up.

Stay tuned for the next instrument, a copy by Olivier Cottet of an instrument by Bizey.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Popular Baroque Bassoons

Over the next few weeks, I will be doing individual posts about baroque bassoons which are being played both in Europe and North America. Each post will have at least one photo, a description of its owner, and some areas in which you'll find it. The series will be tagged "Baroque Bassoon".

To those baroque bassoonists out there:

If you play an instrument other than the ones listed below and are interested in taking part, I would be happy to do a post on your model, so long as it isn't one of those old Levin Stanesbys or an original. I apologize to those Levin/Stanesby lovers out there.

From the material I have, there will definitely be posts on the:

PdK Eichentopf
PdK Prudent
Orriols Wietfeld
Cottet Bizey
My W. Milhouse Original

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tafelmusik Goes Independent

Over the past month, the folks behind the scenes at Tafelmusik have begun the initial stages of running their own music label. Giving the organization total control over the production and direction of new recordings, as well as all of the profit, Tafelmusik is just one of many orchestras, both modern and baroque, who are switching to the independent model. Two orchestras running their own label which immediately spring to mind are Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco as well as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Though Tafelmusik hails their creation, Tafelmusik Media, as 'cutting-edge', I would argue it is more a symbol of the times. With major label contracts costing artists too much money and giving them a slim chance of return on investment, performance organizations with the proper infrastructure are making a go of it themselves. Thanks to the internet, anything is possible these days.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I saw the Angel in the Marble...

Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme

New baroque opera company to present inaugural performance April 13 and 14, at the Rialto Theatre, Montreal.

...and carved until I set it free.

It seems Montreal is never short of enterprising artists. 

Next week, the Collectif Baroque Mont-Royal will present its first production, complete with baroque orchestra: Rameau's acte de ballet, Pygmalion. An ambitious undertaking for the two directors, David Menzies and Susan Toman, who have been chipping away since the summer; Pygmalion will be fully-staged and will be accompanied by its own baroque orchestra.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Quite the Journey

The bassoonists relax after a long day of auditions. 
Those of you who are going through, or have gone through, their final year of their undergrad will certainly understand my life at this time of year. Assignments piling high, a graduation recital looming, and, to wrap it all up, preparing for graduate school auditions. Needless to say, the past few months have been quite difficult for me.

Since my trip to the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis this past August, I have done my upmost to secure a place at the school next year. I've begun learning the piano, bought an ear training app, sight-sung through 6 chapters of a textbook, and sat in a practice room for far too long.

Last weekend, I made my long-anticipated return to Basel, Switzerland, for the audition.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Inside Out: Rediscovering Forgotten ‘Early Music’ Pioneers

The next article in the 'Inside Out' series, Bert Shudi, author of  The Early Music Pioneers Archive, guest blogs.

The time is ripe for a revival of the early music revival. The pioneers of today’s flourishing early music movement – the people who put Baroque and earlier music back on the map – are fading into obscurity.

A new blog, The Early Music Pioneers Archive, combines research with documents, video interviews, photographs and digitalized clips (from LPs, 78s and private recordings), to refocus attention on a host of musicians, scholars and instrument makers who deserve to be remembered.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Heard of 'Thing a Week'?

In September of 2005, Jonathan Coulton, a computer programmer and part time musician, decided he was going to quit his day job and become a full-time professional musician. Wondering how to break into the scene and create work for himself immediately after the switch, Coulton decided he was going to start a project called 'Thing a Week', where he would write and record a new song every week for a year.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Reflecting on Pinchas Zukerman's Announcement

This week, world-renowned violinist and music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Pinchas Zukerman announced that he will retire from his position with NACO as of 2015.

While it comes as no surprise to many of us - he is 63 this year -, the announcement jumpstarts the process that will have a very great effect upon the entire musical community in Ottawa: hiring the next musical director.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Prisme Dreaming in Technicolor

Support for artists in the province of Quebec has been strong for generations. With generous, though competitive, grant possibilities from agencies such as CALQSODEC, regional arts councils, and municipal governments, combined with the only government-administered regional conservatory system in the nation, it's no surprise some of Canada's best-known artists live and work there. Naturally, la petite Ville de Gatineau, just a stone's throw from downtown Ottawa, has drawn a musical establishment to rival its southern counterpart.

Sitting on the north shore of the Ottawa river, Gatineau, with population of just over 250,000, is home to four important musical institutions; Le Conservatoire de GatineauL'Orchestre symphonique de GatineauPlaisirs du Clavecin  and Ensemble Prisme. Interestingly, all apart from the Conservatoire are rather recent additions to the city. The orchestra and Prisme held their first subscription series' in 2006-2007 with Plaisirs du Clavecin following in 2009. Although their establishment has certainly been greatly aided by granting agencies and corporate sponsors, the ultimate challenge, as with all arts institutions these days, remains: attracting an audience.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Aradia performs 'Cappricio Stravagante' in Old Ottawa South

Toronto Baroque Ensemble performs inaugural concert in Old Ottawa South concert series.

The newly-refurbished Ottawa South Firehall Community Centre is about to become the venue to a new concert series in town. Beginning this Saturday, the 25th, Sirens of Firehall will have three concerts this season, each a month apart. 

Toronto's Aradia Baroque Ensemble, directed by Kevin Mallon, will kick off the series with a program entitled Cappriccio Stavagante. The program will include the title work by Farina, as well as works by Strozzi, Vivaldi, Castello, and, notably, two commissioned works for period instruments by Rose Bolton and Chris Meyer. 

Aradia, since its creation in 1996, has recorded 50 CDs under the Naxos label and performs regularly in Toronto. The period-instrument ensemble has toured both nationally and internationally and has a regular summer residency in Italy.

Mallon, also the new director of Ottawa's Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, is "extremely interested in exploring the idea of Aradia having a series in Ottawa," and this concert looks to give him a good feel for things to come. Mallon says he's pleased with "having a relationship with a specific community like Old Ottawa South," as it would help develop a following for Aradia within the city. 

Full details on the concert can be read here.

8pm, Saturday, February 25th, 2012, Ottawa South Firehall Community Centre, 260 Sunnyside Ave.

Tickets for this OSCA event ($25/15s&s) are available at the Firehall,, & at The Leading Note, 370 Elgin.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bourbon Baroque Drinking the Kool-Aid?

Louisville Baroque ensemble to perform one act Entrée in collaboration with local puppet troupe.

Louisville, Kentucky - a town whose has been holding its breath recently when it comes to its classical music scene can breath easy next weekend. Its first 18th century French opera experience in quite some time, Louisville will be in for quite a show.

If puppets and music excite you, read on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Concert Review: "I think, I can" Says the Little Opera That Could, and Did

Dido and Aeneas

Knox Presbyterian Church, 155 Lisgar St., Ottawa

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What was an excellent performance at Knox Presbyterian yesterday evening; Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas nonetheless contained one or two quirks throughout, in the spirit of the work's already peculiar characteristics.

The lofty acoustic was both a blessing and a curse for the seven-strong orchestra, with finite articulations easily lost, but the ‘boom’ from the stone-walled sanctuary giving the illusion of a much larger ensemble. Fortunately for the TEM choir, who sang frequently in the Opera as well as three other selections by Purcell and Tallis, the hall could only make their clear, almost angelic, voices and, consequently, the spirits of their audience; soar even higher.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Baroque Week in Ottawa Feb 15-19

The Theatre of Early Music, Arion Baroque Orchestra, Ottawa Baroque Consort perform on Feb. 15th, 16th, and 19th.

If there are other crows out there squawking about Ottawa's non-existent early music scene, their beaks will be shut come the 15th of February. Between next Wednesday and Sunday, three concerts featuring great canadian early music ensembles will showcase the great variety of style and instrumentation to be found in baroque music.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Inside Out: People Power

In this first article in's "Inside Out" series, Marion Harrington, clarinetist, guest blogs.

People Power: The Reasons Why Marketing is an Ensemble’s Collective Responsibility - No Exceptions!

Should you care to trawl through history, you’ll find numerous examples of the importance of connection:

  • English poet John Donne (1572-1631) wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”
  • The Russian revolution in the early 20th century did not come about as the result of the actions of  an individual
  • And since the invention of the Internet, no lasting change has ever been achieved by a single web site orbiting alone in cyber-space
Similarly, deciding to leave all public relations and marketing to one person, you may be a member of the the most talented classical music groups this side of the Orion Nebula but you’ll find that the ensemble’s opportunities and, ultimately, its success is going to be severely limited.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Across Sea and Land Walk the Wayward Sisters, Violin in Hand

If the Wayward Sisters are linked with a kind of mythical being, their audiences would undoubtably agree that they share more in common with sirens than the three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth, from whom the ensemble takes its name.

Anne Timberlake, recorders; Anna Steinhoff, cello;
Beth Wenstrom, violin; John Lenti, theorbo and guitar
Making waves recently, the Wayward Sisters won Early Music America's Naxos Recording Competition of 2011 not long after snatching the Newberry Consort's title of Emerging Artist for 2010-2011. The quartet, formed in 2009, is made up of violinist Beth Wenstrom, flute-à-bec-ist Anne Timberlake, cellist Anna Steinhoff, and lutenist John Lenti.

With a name that rather cogently hints at an unfortunate reality, the Wayward Sisters have been living in separate cities since they began. With busy freelance schedules in Seattle, WA; New York, NY; Chicago, IL; and Richmond, VA; it's almost miraculous they've managed to find the time to rehearse and perform together. Luckily, I managed to talk to them in New York while they took a break from rehearsing some of the material for their upcoming CD, Musick for Severall Friends.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Breaking Trail (and Wind) for Classical Music in the 21st Century

Every year, the Internet takes a larger role in our lives.  This 'series of tubes', as then-United States Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) once called it, has had an incalculable influence over the general public's taste in the past decade, as well as the marketing strategy of arts organizations. These days, many online businesses build their brand in the hopes to go 'viral', a very recent development in the history of marketing. This week, we meet one of the first classical music ensembles to have gone viral in North American social media, The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet.

(From left to right)
Yuki Katayama
Brittany Harrington
Kara LaMoure
Lauren Yu

Though they had planned to put it on their YouTube channel, as they had done with a previous concert, BWBQ never thought the video would catch so much attention. Two weeks after publishing the Lady Gaga Saga, over 100,000 people had viewed it. The next few weeks saw news websites, blogs, radio and television stations carrying the story. "We had hoped for 1,000 views," explains Brittany, "after the first night we had a few thousand."

Since their rise to stardom, the four girls have taken their roles very seriously, each taking a particular task in the administration. Today, they operate a website, Facebook pagetwitter feed, and a YouTube channel, which are regularly updated. For an ensemble with an average age of 23, this is quite extraordinary. The girls have been steadily posting new videos on their YouTube channel, keeping up with their fans. "It's nice to think that people might be watching our progress who aren't able to see us live [yet]," says Kara, "though [putting videos up] was more for our friends at first." Though their other videos haven't had as many views as the Gaga video, they still have a few thousand each.

An ensemble with a clear understanding of modern marketing techniques, the Breaking Winds have had their fingers in the digital pie for years. Formed in 2008 by four young bassoonists (Eryn Bauer, Brittany Harrington, Kara LaMoure, and Lauren Yu), the quartet called the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, home. Originally conceived as more of a social activity, the girls took much enjoyment out of the few performances they had together, while focusing on their studies. By their senior year the membership had regularized (Yuki Katayama replaced Eryn) and the group began looking towards new, 'out there', programming ideas, when it dawned on Kara to do a Lady Gaga tribute. "We had all wanted pop music in our next show," explains Kara, "the other girls seem to remember me as being super enthusiastic about [Lady Gaga], I don't think I was... but getting them to warm to the idea was like pulling teeth... Maybe it was a bit odd at the time, but she was everywhere." Fortunately, the other three jumped on board with what had the potential to be quite an embarrassing affair.

After graduating from Eastman, the quartet branched apart for grad school, and expect to be performing quite a --bit together in-between term-time. "We're sort of doing our own thing right now,"says Kara, "we all want to work on being the best bassoonists we can be before making a big commitment." Their heart looks to be in the right place, as the demand for the BWBQ has increased dramatically.

This past summer, the Breaking Winds tooted over to Texas and performed, to great success, in schools and retirement homes. The tour, their third geared towards schools, came into being thanks to Jennifer Auerbach, a popular bassoon teacher in Dallas, who acted as an intermediary with the local band teachers and principals, before handing off the legwork to Brittany. Ironically, it wasn't the Texas natives, Kara and Brittany, who got the ball rolling with Jennifer, it was Lauren."Lauren was a musical education major," says Kara, "and her [former] teachers go to conferences across the United States...They've been very good with connecting us with [music educators] all over." Lauren introduced the idea of touring school districts, which, in turn, targeted the quartet towards a niche market. What made the pitch to principles so successful, admits Kara, was their strong web presence. "Their reaction was usually a little hesitant [or skeptical], but once they saw [our videos] and their popularity, they immediately signed on."

Over three weeks the quartet performed 40 concerts, with 7(!) on the first day. Talk about a day's work. "It was a lot, but we work really well in schools," explains Kara, "we talk a lot with them [in between works], and most band kids think of us as heroes. It's very gratifyingto have fans." What made them so successful for the presenters (band teachers, school staff, etc.) was their flexibility in programming."Every concert was a little different," notes Kara, "because of the timetables, the age of the kids, or special requests from the teachers we had to adapt."

What makes the BWBQ stand out, as you can see in a few of their videos online, is the use of humour throughout their programs. When making the audience laugh, "we find that they become much more willing to listen to everything on the program," says Kara. "It's important for our audience to see that we're people too, and, so far, we're really getting a positive reaction from [the audience]." Unsurprisingly, most walk out of a BWBQ concert thoroughly entertained.

This coming March, the quartet will be performing their first 'concerti' with Lauren's old high school concert band, an interesting instrumentation, but one that looks to become familiar with them. They have commissioned a work from Scott Switzer, a friend of theirs from Eastman, for 4 bassoons and concert band to be performed with the Yale Concert Band next fall.

In another first for the group, Breaking Winds will be performing in the 'International Competition for Bassoon Ensemble' in Strasbourg, France organized by the French 'Association Bassons'. The competition, being held from the 20th-22nd of April, will focus on more 'serious' works, which will be a fresh turn for the group, whose repertoire has, until recently, focused more along 'classic' American bassoon quartet repertoire and arrangements of popular works.

Though what may have been more of a happy accident for the Breaking Winds, we see that viral marketing can be just as successful for classical music ensembles as for online businesses. With their massive exposure and clear online presence, it appears that they have gained a sort of credibility among concert presenters, who may not have taken a risk on them otherwise. Finally, thanks to social media, what was once looked upon by its members as more of a hobby, has transformed into a real career opportunity almost overnight.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1729 Reasons to Watch Out for this Ensemble

If you are ever faced with a problem which you feel that, having reviewed all the data, you cannot solve, one might tell you that the answer could be staring right at you. To a certain extent we have all had that experience, for example, my most recent excursion around the house to find my glasses ended up in their discovery upon my nose. 

Ensemble 1729 (From left to right)
Estelí Gomez, soprano
Mark Edwards, harpsichord and organ
Vincent Lauzer, recorder
Joanna Marsden, traverso
Meet Ensemble 1729, a dynamic new group "forged in the fire of Mount-Royal," which focuses on presenting music of the baroque and galant. 

As students of McGill's Schulich School of Music, Joanna Marsen, traverso; Mark Edwards, harpsichord and organ; Vincent Lauzer, recorder; Kate Bennett Haynes, baroque cello; and Estelí Gomez, soprano; began sharing their love for music in 2009. Since then, their performances of thoughtfully-crafted programs have been heard across North America and Europe. 

"We think out our programs with a clear idea of who will be performing with us," says Joanna, whose deep investment in the group is clear from the instant I sat down with her, "once we know who is available, we find the music most suited to them [which fits with the theme of the program]." Though the group has a core of five members, 1729 has been performing this season with quite a variable instrumentation, from three to seven on stage in any given concert.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Change is Natural

Happy New Year from! 
January 1st, 2012. In my mind, the first day of the transition which faces the classical music industry. Over the past few seasons, we have seen a slew of north american orchestras apply for chapter 7 bankruptcy (Syracuse, Honolulu, New Mexico) as well as chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization (Philadelphia, Louisville), and, more recently, onlookers as well as active participants in the industry have spent their time asking the question, is there a crisis in classical music

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).