By Christopher Verrette, violin
Will noted in his first post for this tour how remarkable it was to him that he could fly 5 hours from Toronto and land in the same country. We had a similar experience at ground level travelling by bus and ferry from Victoria to Kelowna for several hours without leaving the province of B.C. In Europe, one might have passed through three countries in the same time and distance. We had good weather again for the ferry crossing Tuesday morning. A bald eagle conveniently posed for us in a tree by the docks. I find the combination of fresh air on the open deck and hot chocolate particularly satisfying.
Our lunch break was scheduled, appropriately, for Chilliwack, which is also the name of a band, as I learned last fall when we were composing an all-Canadian playlist for the benefit of Will, who had only recently joined us from England. B.C. is full of sights of natural beauty, and the otherwise mundane shopping plaza we stopped at was surrounded by mountains, and the sun was shining. When I got back on the bus I had links to Chilliwack songs waiting for me on my email, (as well as a tangential King Crimson one.) We finished up the film Roman Holiday, and Allen also showed us a brief clip of Blair Williams, our narrator for House of Dreams, playing a waiter in American Psycho (2000.) (He similarly embarrassed me years ago by showing The Witches of Eastwick, in which I appear briefly on screen.)
One of the pieces we are playing is a beautiful aria from Bach’s Cantata 42 on the biblical text “Whenever two or three are gathered together…” which is an extremely timely text to reflect on, because “play date” season for the Leipzig and Damascus show has officially begun! Play dates are what we call anytime players get together to practise the music we need to know from memory, either on-book, off-book, or somewhere in between. Attendance is completely voluntary, so the particular combination of instruments can be odd at times. For example, playing only the three viola parts of a Lully piece, without either bass or treble line can be bizarre. (One guest conductor called these parts “the stuffing” of the orchestra, but I prefer another’s “cream.”) Some play dates are announced in advance, or are predictable (i.e. half an hour before showtime), but others can flare up unexpectedly, whenever two or more are gathered. They can happen onstage, backstage, in the gym at Trinity St.-Paul’s (our home venue), or in hotel conference rooms. I don’t think we have done one in an airport yet, but I could totally imagine that happening. These gatherings are an important part of the memorization process for us, and a positive indicator of the remarkable spirit of this orchestra, as well. The process is greatly assisted by the little personalized books pictured in an earlier post, to which the details of choreography will be added later. I personally have done a huge amount of memorization work on buses in B.C. over the past few years.
There has been a constant sense of family reunion surrounding this trip. Nanaimo is Aisslinn Nosky‘s hometown, so it is always special for us to play there. (Could there be something in the water there that fosters musical talent? It is also the hometown of Diana Krall and Allison Crowe.) Julie Wedman‘s dad lives in Victoria and was personally responsible for at least 30 ticket sales. Julie was also reunited in Kelowna with her Aunt Alanna, whom she hadn’t seen since she was 8, and I had the pleasure of taking their photo in the lobby after the show. Another happy reunion in Kelowna was with violinist Liz Enns, both a friend of mine and Cristina Zacharias‘ first teacher. (I have fond memories of being able to play for my first teacher in my hometown of Durham, New Hampshire with Tafelmusik back in 1999.)
For the Kelowna-Edmonton leg of the journey, our production gear and large instruments were shipped by ground, but the people and smaller instruments flew. Beth Anderson was out at the airport early, going through a tense but ultimately successful negotiation to get all our instruments safely in the cabin of the plane. I had intended to finish writing this on the plane, but was distracted by the beautiful scenery. Edmonton is surprisingly warm, markedly different from the last time we were here, and there is great excitement and a bit of competition over the laundry room in our hotel.