Thursday, December 12, 2013

Freezing My Buns Off

The view from Arlanda
After spending only one year in Basel, a surprisingly temperate place, I have gone soft. When EUBO arrived in Copenhagen a few days ago we were greeted by high winds, fog, and it was hailing sideways. Already Bojan and I had caught a cold, but after walking just 15 minutes to the Black Diamond, our conditions deteriorated. Surprisingly, we put on a very good performance (this was confirmed by listening to the Danish radio broadcast of the concert that aired last night).

From windy Copenhagen we trekked to Stockholm. Only a few hundred kilometres to the north, the Swedish capital was noticeably colder. What surprised me about the city was the landskape in the surrounding area. Just travelling between Arlanda, the airport, and the hotel in the centre of the old town it was clear to me that the ecology and geology were relatively similar to that of the Ottawa valley. In fact, if it weren't for the signs on the highway being printed in Swedish, one could easily make the mistake of thinking they were travelling from downtown Ottawa to Kanata, the city's western suburb. 

Within this familiar context, it was telling how I reacted to the sub-zero temperature. Ottawa's average winter temperature is -10 degrees Celsius and our day in Stockholm was spent in -12. Not only was I wearing two sweaters under my coat, but it didn't seem like my mittens and hat were doing enough. If this were two years ago, I wouldn'tve flinched going out in this weather. Now, however, it's a different story. 

I write this as we travel to Manchester, where we will perform our penultimate concert as Eubo 2013 for BBC radio 3's Early Music Show tomorrow. The concert will be broadcast on January 19, 2014.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New Angle

About a month ago I read an article on the Ottawa Citizen blog about an upcoming concert series spearheaded by Ottawa New Music Creators board member Curtis Perry. Curtis and I both went to the same high school and were classmates in university as well so I was eager to read. 

The series hopes to present new music at a local coffee shop during store hours. In the discussion with Interviewer .... Curtis very eloquently lined out the broader dilemma facing new music, and indeed classical music. When posed the question regarding the abundance of recordings and what made a live concert relevant anymore, though Curtis' answer was fine, I felt that he missed a crucial argument. This got me thinking. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Not Exactly According to Plan

A few weeks ago I made a bold move. By announcing to the world my intentions to practice 2.5 hours a day, everyday, until the end of the year I hoped to make it seem more official. Really it was a mind game, but it worked for the month I wasn't on tour. Now, as I settle in from my travels, I see that my time away is putting me well behind of my practice goal. On top of that I've noticed an interesting divergence in the material I'm practicing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bibliotheque Solvay Interior

On Monday EUBO performed in a private concert for officials in the European Government as well as other supporters of the orchestra. Held in the Bibliotheque Solvay, were we delighted to see a full house in the evening. Take a look at the 19th century interior below.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The White Witch

Stepping out of the airport in Istanbul, I was made immediately aware of our foreignness. Swarming with people, the buzzing sound of turkish, taxis whooshing by, and the aircraft overhead was only drowned out by the sound of the call to prayer from the closest minaret. After contemplating our mortality on the highway, our bus bobbed and weaved up a small road in the middle of the city to our hotel. There I was met with a dilemma.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

From the solitary north to the gateway to the east

Eubo came together last Thursday to rehearse our fourth program, The Dresden Network. Five days and six nights of rehearsing with our guest conductor Gottfried von der Goltz at Kloster Michaelstein, near Blankenburg, and we're on fire.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And so it begins, again.

By now, school has begun again for most. In Basel, the Musik-Akademie is buzzing with new and returning students trying to get their timetables sorted out.

For me things seem to look much brighter than they did 12 months ago. There's a certain comfort level which wasn't present when I had just moved to the city and only knew a few people. A year later I can't seem to walk ten paces without running into a familiar face on campus, something I wasn't expecting even now.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Utrecht Concert Online

Eubo's concert with the choir of Clare College, Cambridge, in Utrecht was broadcast live on Dutch radio and it turns out they made a proper video recording of the concert as well. You can watch the whole spectacle below.

Friday, September 6, 2013

We Had a Golden Moment Last Night

Following our live recording of the Coronation Anthems program on tuesday night, the orchestra wasted no time in turning to the stage to do some small patching in three bars of the birthday ode for Queen Anne, as well as the first movement of the concert grosso, op. 3/no.2.

In the final bars of the trumpet/alto duet which opens the ode, the trumpet climbs to a stratospheric high d before the final cadence. Not an easy task for someone who hasn't had much sleep, spent the entire morning traveling and afternoon rehearsing. Naturally Lars wanted to get another take of this spot.

Once the hall was emptied the orchestra began. Three times we played the final few bars, but Seb couldn't get it the way he wanted it. Lars suggested we do something else for a second to give Seb a break. Upon returning to Seb's bit he still had trouble and there was a moment where we didn't know what to do. "Let's play the first movement of the concerto grosso once more and then we'll have one more go at it after," said Lars. We played the concerto. Turning around to Seb, we asked if he was ready for one more go. "I'm ready," he said.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Jubilating in Utrecht

On Saturday Eubo performed the Peace of Utrecht program in the very city which the peace was agreed upon in 1713. Live to broadcast, the orchestra and choir had what we agreed to be our first real go at the program. Though we had performed it in Milan on Thursday we had had so little time to get everything prepared that the concert, which was jam packed by the way, ended up as more of a serious general rehearsal.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

EUBO's Back, and This Time We've Got Nametags

So after three weeks of downtime (or 'up' time for some), EUBO is back at it, this time in Milano. Though much shorter than our tour in July/August, this one will see us performing three separate programs in six concerts(!). The new program, centered around Handel's Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate, is currently 'under construction' in Santa maria della passione, Milan. After four concerts of this program, we're then off to debut the season at St. John Smith's Square in London. We'll then say our goodbyes to the choir of Clare College Cambridge before heading to Logroño to finish off the Lure of London program.

Doubtless it will be a bit hectic. I'm sure well make it happen.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Absolutely Ridiculous Approach by Management

The article quoted below, which I highly recommend you read, has to do with the continuing dispute following a lockout of the musicians at the Minnesota Orchestra. Though I've never seen this before in Arts-related disputes, I do remember seeing this technique used when Vancouver was bidding for the 2010 Olympic games. At that time, the city purchased hundreds of domain names which might otherwise be used for those protesting the bid. I can't seem to find an article online about it, but while I look for it take a look at Emily Hogstad's post.
"So. While you were attending the last show in the old Orchestra Hall – earnestly cutting checks for the Building for the Future campaign – flipping through your shiny brochures for the 2012-13 season – the Minnesota Orchestra was spending money (presumably, your money) in a concerted attempt to buy a domain name relating to “saving the orchestra.” (Implication: they knew a big persuasive chunk of people in the future would view their actions as destructive, and they knew they had to guard against those people.)
Oh, but wait, you say. Yes, this sounds awful, initially, but maybe the MOA wanted to keep the name on hand for a fundraising effort!
Nope. Wasn’t done for a fundraising effort. Want to know why I know?" Read More
Emily's most important accusation, in my mind, is that the management's move to purchase possible pro-labour web domains might have come from discussions with the Detroit Symphony management in the spring of 2012. Although impossible to prove, even the possibility of a cabal of executives within arts organizations willing to conspire to get the upper hand in labour disputes is shocking to me.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dulcian Gold

Thanks to Martin Chiang for this great video.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Practific in Review

Since returning home a few weeks ago I decided that it was time to catch up on my practicing. By the beginning of the month I had tracked 253 hours of individual practice time in 2013 - far less than I had this time last year. Therefore I made a vow to practice a minimum of 2.5 hours a day everyday that I was't on tour until the end of the year in order to beat 2012's record of 480 hours. How have I been keeping track of all this, anyway?

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Eubo Playlist

Our first tour has involved quite a bit of time on the road. Over the course of the past week we have travelled to various places in Catalonia, Andorra, and Croatia and we are now on the highway to Bruges from Köln airport. Naturally, one has to find some distraction to pass the time and therefore I have compiled a playlist of Eubo's music picks for July/August 2013. Unfortunately, I couldn't find everything on YouTube, but you can see the full list below. Take a look.

Andrew: Christophe Rousset plays Louis Couperin
Roldán: Ella Fitzgerald
Hilla: Comedian Harmonists' Schöne Lisa
Yotam: Groundation
Guillermo: El partido de las 12 (sports podcast)
Nicola: Per quail he Dollarp In Più (film)
Lars Ulrik: Keith Jarrett
Ala, Clara, and Jamiang prefer silence
Daphne: Joao Gilberto (eu vim da Bahia)
Rafael: Soundtrack of "The Boat That Rocked", some of you may know the film as "Pirate Radio"
Antonio: Sigur Rós, Takk (Saeglopur)
Sarina: Rachel Podger plays Vivaldi Opus 4
Saron: She forgot her Music
Andrea: Swedish radio programs including "The High Price of Cheap Clothes".
Paul: "The joyful chatter of Young Musicians"
Emma: "Just enjoying the music that Eubo makes!" 
Johannes: J.S Bach Bwv 10 no. 6. "It's a beautiful tenor recitativo."
Lisa: "World music, African music, something other than Baroque music."
Marianna: Melody Gardot

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Following our concert last Saturday in Brugge, Eubo dispersed. After 21 days in tour the group was in desperate need of a rest as well as a fresh change of clothes. Fortunately, this tour was our longest one and, since we all managed to make it through, the following ones will be a piece of cake. Or so I am told.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Eubo's Big Bash in Bruges

After completing our second full day of rehearsals in Bruges towards our biggest program of the year, Handel: A Royal Celebration, the hotels in Bruges are especially full. The program includes Handel's four coronation anthems (1727), the Birthday ode for Queen Anne (1713), as well as the Op. 3, no. 2 concerto grosso. To perform with us comes the Choir of Clare College Cambridge and the Eubo brass and percussionist, who arrived yesterday. To see the whole group performing together is quite an impressive sight, especially in Sint Warburgakerk.

The church where we will be performing tomorrow night is an impressive display of baroque architecture. With a white and black marble floor, the interior masonry is beautifully ornamented from floor to ceiling and the walls are covered in various 17th and 18th century oil paintings depicting biblical scenes. You can take a look at the facade and the east end interior below.

Early in our first rehearsal with the choir this morning we worked on The King Shall Rejoice, the third of Handel's 1727 coronation anthems. In the beginning of the second fugal movement, the orchestra plays the first note and then leaves the choir to sing four and a half bars before returning, guns a'blazing. For the orchestra, this was our first moment where we gave the singers our full attention. As the introduction progressed, a couple of heads turned towards the choir and smiles appeared on other's faces. I remember my first thought being "Shit, these guys can sing." The Clare College choir is, hands down, the best choir I've ever worked with and I look forward to seeing our polished performances together.

As you may have noticed, to the right of this column (on the proper webpage, not the mobile site) I've added the kickstarter widget. If you're reading this blog then it is 98% likely you know we've been fundraising to record the above-mentioned program September at St. John Smith's square, London. We're now only 9 days away and still have about £400 to go and I heartily encourage you to help out. I'm not usually very bothered about these sorts of things, but we're so close as it is (the total goal is £2,800) that it would be quite disappointing if we were not to make our target.

For those of you who don't know about kickstarter you can read all about it on a previous post I wrote about the dynamic bassoon quartet, the Breaking Winds. Essentially though, if we don't make our target by the deadline, all of the money pledged does not get transferred to EUBO. We can only collect if we have met or exceeded the target. Think about it!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Walking through the streets of Zadar one gets the distinct feeling that the city has had a rather mixed history. For over twenty-five hundred years Zadar has existed under threat from the outside interests. From the Romans, to various barbarians, the Venetian Republic, the Kingdom of Italy, and most recently to the Yugoslavian People's Army this ancient city wears its scars well.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Through the Pyrenees

As we take the long and winding road to Andorra from Puigcerdà I can't help but feel a strong sense of nostalgia. The route through the Pyrenees is one surrounded by hills below tree line, and it is only occasionaly that we get a glimpse of the great rocky peaks carving out the horizon. Though there are many differences in vegetation and soil, I can't help but see the Pyrenees through a lens.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Lying near the top of a mountain, Puigcerdà's old city centre overlooks a vast valley in Catalonia. The air is fresh, the temperature perfect. The inner city is a mix of old and new; the narrow streets carve themselves out from the mass of edifices so tightly knit that one gets the feeling as they walk through the town that they will soon turn the corner and find themselves on Diagon alley. The new parts of the city spill out down into the valley to the east and west. The division is met by elevators to help those who wish to avoid the sharp incline up to the shops.

EUBO Takes to the Skies

Zefira passing time at the gate.

Wednesday morning. An early breakfast, a quick double-check of our hotel rooms and then the orchestra headed to the bus for Luxembourg airport. Leaving exactly on time at 8:15 (something, I gather, worth noting) we have had an uneventful ride to Barcelona. Except for Hilla being caught at airport security with a knife in her bag. She said she wanted to be prepared for anything...

As we passed Cadaqués in our Luxair Bombardier Q400 (a Canadian aircraft!), Roldán exclaimed that Cadaqués was the birthplace of the Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. Roldán might be wrong, he says, but he's 100% sure I spelled Dalí's name correctly.

From Barcelona we took a rather long bus ride to Puigcerdà but we were happy to be welcomed by a swimming pool at the hotel.(!)

Wheels Down in Barcelona

Monday, July 22, 2013

2 Guys, 3 Sandals

Guillermo, cello, and Roldán, violin, went down to the river yesterday evening for a swim. We had all learned from previous trips to the banks of the river that the rocky bed wasn't very comfortable to walk on barefoot so the dynamic duo decided to wear their flip flops into the river with them. Guillermo's sandals have a slippery lining on the inside and he was worried that they might fall off in the water. So, he asked Roldán if he could borrow one of his.

Picture two guys in their bathing trunks hopping on one foot into the water. Right.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Missing in Action

Rafael, one of Eubo's three violists, came to Luxembourg by plane this past Monday. Unfortunately for him, his luggage was lost and he had to cope for the first day of rehearsals with what he managed to carry with him on the plane. Yesterday, Wednesday, a suitcase appeared for him at the Hotel des Ardennes with someone else's name on it. No one was registered at the hotel under the name on the delivered suitcase and the airline didn't seem to be able know what was going on when Raf called them. Lucky for him, he will be reimbursed for up to 50€ worth of clothing per day until his luggage is delivered.

To add to the airline troubles, our principal second violinist, Roldán, had his first flight of the day cancelled yesterday in Lannion, Brittany. After taking a taxi to Brest, he managed to get an evening flight to Paris and then took the train the rest of the way. Arriving to Echternach on the last bus of the day, Roldán looked pretty pooped when he waltzed into the hotel bar close to midnight.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rehearsing in Full

After a full day of strings-only rehearsals, the orchestra was joined Wednesday evening by its three reed players. Lucky for me, I managed to arrive to listen to the tail-end of the final rehearsal and meet the group as they headed out for a picnic by a picturesque lake not far from town. Though the distance between the Trifolion and our destination was not, as we discovered on the return journey, very far, the gang's team-building exercise in geography (map and compass frequently changing hands) may have extended the trip enough to warrant a leap at the food and drink upon arrival.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Packing for EUBO

Basel, July 14, 2013.

Packing for a three-week tour takes quite a bit of planning, especially if it's your first. This Monday will see the first assembling of The European Union Baroque Orchestra of 2013 at Echternach, a village in the Duchy of Luxembourg. Following six days of rehearsal, the orchestra will head off to Spain, Andorra, Croatia, and Belgium clocking 6 performances by the 4th of August.

Though tours are a fact of life for the large majority professional musicians in popular genres, by comparison orchestra tours are much more of a case for celebration to classical musicians. More so for the gang at EUBO as many of us will be on tour for the first time. Despite our keenness, however, I fear the honeymoon will soon be over.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

EUBO and The Heckeler on Tour

On the 16th of July I will take up my position as bassoonist for the European Union Baroque Orchestra with which I will be going on a series of five tours across the continent. Over six months, the ensemble will take on a number of different programs for a variety of forces (from concerti grossi for strings to a full orchestra and choir for Handel's Coronation Anthems) and present public performances from London to Istanbul. Some concerts will be broadcast by local radio and others we hope to record for posterity.
Look for the Flying Saucer for articles on EUBO on Tour
During the weeks I will be on tour, The Heckeler will be publishing a travel diary with behind-the-scenes bits as well as a few other gems like this doodle. You'll be able to keep track of us through the EUBO FB Page,'s FB Page, or through the tag EUBO on Tour.

So get a lot of sleep this weekend because I'm sure you'll be awake for the rest of July waiting for the next update from the European Union Baroque Orchestra.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Hornettes to do Ottawa Jazz Festival

Tomorrow (Saturday, June 29) afternoon will be the Jazzfest premier for Ottawa's own The Hornettes. At 14:00 the group will take to the OLG Stage performing a mix of Motown, Soul, and R&B. Formed in 2010, The Hornettes have been making waves in the club scene and have recently released their debut EP. I managed to speak to Jeff deValk, the band's guitarist and main organizer, this week to ask him a few questions...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Following up to my previous post titled EUBO Auditions I thought I should mention that I did, in fact, get chosen as the sole bassoonist for the 2013 tours. The audition process was absolutely grueling and I have spent the past month waiting for the nostalgia to set in before writing anything about it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Unique Opportunity

To me, a concert is an opportunity to shape discussion. I want my audience to talk about context, the performance itself, or how they felt during the event but absolutely not about my equipment. As early musicians, we seem to get carried away often enough about what is historical or not: instrument, pitch, temperament, etc., and we shouldn't allow that to bleed into the concert itself as it only invites unwanted judgement and discussion.

An Hypothetical Concert Introduction

Cicero wrote that there were three apparent goals which an orator must aspire to achieve in speaking: to instruct, to please, and to move the passions.

What you will listen to this evening comes from a time when two media were inextricably linked. Inspired by the writings of Cicero and Quintillian, musicians strived to model music from speech itself. Within decades their dialects had helped develop national musical styles. Since, of course, the swan cannot sing as the nightingale, his song will be his own.

This special link is of great benefit to my peers and I, as we all speak and can use our understanding of the voice, and its proper use, to direct us to better comprehend the mechanics of our calling. Unfortunately, though we musicians use speech to transmit, we rarely use it as a source of comparison.

Thoughts and inspiration manifest in us through language and the passions which composers hoped to invoke in their audiences were definable. Unlike the music of later generations, this evening's entertainment is a true attempt at communication with its audience.

I hope that this evening sees you informed, pleased, and moved.

Je vous souhaite un bon concert.

Monday, April 1, 2013

EUBO Auditions

Next weekend I'll be off to audition with 9 other bassoonists for a place in the European Union Baroque Orchestra 2013. Over the past few months I've been very busy in preparation for this event and I hope that my hard work pays off.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Question of Substitution

The other day I saw an interview on TVO of author and journalist Chris Hedges about his book, Empire of Illusion. Mr. Hedges is a thought-provoking speaker and his take on all of the topics which the interview touched upon hit home with me. Most relevant was his description of the changing of narratives in professional wrestling. The increasing drive towards a narrative which made wrestling personas relate to their audience, says Hedges, led them to be perceived as real in everyday life. Moreover, the constant spectacle of the media we consume today (television, films, the Internet, etc.) leads us to substitute rational judgments for emotional ones when making decisions in our lives.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Don't mess with M

If there's a term which musicians have been throwing around lately when theorizing on attracting audiences, it's "Multimedia".

"We should be using multimedia! There should be something for people to look at!" Yes, but remember that all of this adds all sorts of extra crazy. I am all for making a concert more than the norm but I am tired of hearing people throwing this word around.

If you're going to slip this neat little word into your next conversation, take a look at these few points first.
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