Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Grateful Reminder

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of playing once again with Bande Montréal Baroque. This time Tage Alter Musik Regensburg. Our first performance there was the European première of Bruce Haynes' Nouveaux concerts Brandenbourgeois, which was received very well. Performing again with the ensemble brought back many memories and helped me understand a few feelings I've been having recently.
performing two concerts at the

Rehearsing in Regensburg
It was with BMB that I had my first real professional experience in early music. Of course, I had played a few chamber concerts and a few Messiahs for money, but playing the Brandenburg project 3 years ago not only opened my eyes to the Montréal scene, it confirmed to me that I was on the right path. In that first rehearsal, as we read through the third movement of no. 7 Grace was present. Rehearsing it again years later compounded the effect.

What really makes BMB unique is the fact that everyone (minus this young bassoonist) are real leaders for their instruments. Watching them come together and incorporate their personalities into the ensemble makes for a very enlightening experience. What I failed to appreciate years ago, due mainly to my amazement of being included into the ensemble in the first place, was that there is so much more to learn. Not in the classroom, however. 

Bande Bavaria Baroque?
What makes early music, and the Montréal scene in general, unique is the fact that there is such a variety in instruments, tempi, reed construction, tone colour, instrumentation, etc. Partly this is because  the most recognizable ensembles today pioneered the performance of an ancient and unknown repertoire. Today conservatories and universities alike have taken on the task of training the next generation, but there is a downside. When it comes to performing in post-secondary education, there are always judgments to be made. Judgments that may, intentionally or unintentionally, lead to the stifling of creative energies. Of course there is plenty to learn from these institutions but there will always be a right or wrong and, depending on who is teaching, room for creative thinking can vary to a great degree. I don't deny the quality of early music performance has increased since the pioneer years, in combination with more opportunities for musicians to learn the craft, but so has a homogeneity in many aspects of the movement. At some point, performing is the natural next step.

Sitting in with some of early music's heavyweights made it clear that that next step is on its way.

But don't be fooled. 

Education is a lifelong activity. 

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