Tafelmusik violinist Thomas Georgi started a Baroque Boot Camp this summer where a bunch of musicians congregate at his house every second Monday morning and just fawn over baroque music together.
We asked two of the musicians to share their experience with us. Raha Javanfar and Kailey Richards are no strangers to Tafelmusik. Raha is Tafelmusik’s projections designer for Alison Mackay’s multimedia productions, and Kailey is enrolled in the Master’s program at University of Toronto, studying with Tafelmusik musicians. As well, both Raha and Kailey are alumni of Tafelmusik’s Baroque Summer Insititute (TBSI).
Don’t miss the Baroque Boot Camp recital on August 23 at 7pm at Heliconian Hall. It’s a Pay-What-You-Can concert and everyone is welcome.
By Raha Javanfar
Well, for a gathering that includes friends getting together, playing beautiful music, sharing a lovely meal, and having some laughs, “Boot Camp” seems like an unfair description! Thomas Georgi’s Baroque Boot Camp has got to be the most relaxed and enjoyable boot camp ever. It’s quite the casual and delightful affair: gathering around a harpsichord in Tom’s kitchen every other week, about six to eight of us eagerly attend to keep our TBSI chops in shape…not to mention our quiche chops!
Tafelmusik fans who’ve caught any of Alison Mackay’s multimedia concerts like House of Dreams, The Galileo Project, or most recently, Visions & Voyages, may have caught a glimpse of me at some point, sitting at the back of the audience, operating the lights and projections which I design for those shows. But they might be surprised to learn that I’ve been playing violin since I was four years old, and that I now play fiddle in a Western swing band, electric violin in an Afro-funk Persian band, bass and lead vocals in a blues/R&B band, and fiddle and vocals in a jazz/swing/blues/rockabilly band called Voodoo Raha & Speedy Wax (fact: Speedy Wax is none other than Tafelmusik’s own oboist, Marco Cera, disguised as a rip-roaring electric guitar player!)
So how did I get from afro-funk-blues-jazz-swing-rockabilly to Tom’s kitchen? Good question. The truth is that I grew up with very strict and disciplined classical violin training. Clearly, a little rebellion (or creative exploration, if you will!) led me down some other musical roads, but at the bottom of my heart and in the depths of my soul lies a tremendous love for classical music, and more specifically: baroque.
After almost a decade of watching the masterful members of Tafelmusik play their instruments effortlessly and hearing the beautiful pieces that they bring such gorgeous interpretations to, I finally couldn’t stand it anymore! I was dying to try my hand at a period violin, and aching to play some Telemann, Vivaldi, Purcell, and Bach. And, not just like I’d secretly been doing on my modern violin in the safe privacy of my apartment, but in ensembles with other people. Heck, maybe even on a stage!
So TBSI was the obvious answer. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to attend that marvelous program, and for two weeks, I delved into it like a kid in a candy store. I practised and practised, took notes, paid attention, got corrected, practised some more. It was incredible. I felt so fulfilled … surrounded by other keen students, desperately holding on to their violins for fear of losing them during a shift. We played in orchestras and ensembles, squeezed in extracurricular duets, had private lessons, masterclasses … it was wonderful.
But as the final days of the Institute approached, I felt a doom coming over me. All this time and practising for what!? Only to say goodbye to this period instrument until next year’s TBSI? That didn’t seem quite right. And that’s where Tom Georgi stepped in and saved the day. His bi-weekly boot camp is an opportunity for some of us to keep a foot in that baroque world and gently keep up the practice that we took on so intensely during TBSI. I’ll be honest, having returned to regular life, finding time to practise as often as I’d like it a huge challenge, but the deadline of the next boot camp approaching is a perfect kick in the butt to take the baroque violin (one of Tom’s that he’s kindly lent me!) out of the case, at least a few times between sessions.
One great thing is that the pieces we play range in difficulty. The morning usually starts with everyone reading through one of Telemann’s Concertos for 4 violins (I think this is the first thing that happens? I’m ashamed to confess I’ve been late almost every time! The early start time is the only thing remotely boot camp-ish for me…maybe Tom should be stricter and take away my quiche rights next time I’m late!). If there are more than four people, we just double up on parts (another nice thing about the casual nature of it all … people don’t ever have to ‘sit out’). Then we sometimes practise this monster piece by Reincken that I don’t think too many people know very well. Tom gets very excited about some of the rarer and obscure pieces that he discovers, and it’s a real treat witnessing his joy when something he hasn’t heard before sounds good live! After that, more casual playing of some Leclair duets or Corelli sonatas happen while Tom prepares lunch. And, of course, Boot Camp is not complete until we’ve all enjoyed a lovely quiche and salad lunch.
For me, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to meet people in a musical circle that’s quite different from the one I putter in regularly. I’ve made new friends who I could perhaps continue to play music with even after Tom’s Boot Camp comes to an end (noooo!). Speaking of the end, we are putting on a little pay-what-you-can Boot Camp concert on August 23 at 7 pm at Heliconian Hall! I’m certainly looking forward to that.
All in all, Tom Georgi’s “Summer Baroque Kitchen Boot Camp” is one of the highlights of my summer so far. I’m so grateful to Tom, and I just hope I can practice enough this week and show up on time to the next one!
By Kailey Richards
It seems to me that the purpose of Baroque Boot Camp is to explore repertoire and playing with people who are equally as excited about historical performance as I am.
In some ways it is similar to an orchestra rehearsal, but it’s all violins (and viola d’amores and maybe a harpsichord if we’re lucky) so it feels much more like a jam session (meaning many of us on the same parts). Last class, we had both Tom Georgi and Julia Wedman there, and that really made it feel like a jam session with the professionals.
Tom seems to find all sorts of music, some that Tafelmusik has played often and some that no one has ever heard of. We looked at a piece by Reincken and at Bach’s harpsichord transcription of it as well, which I think was new to all of us and really fun to explore. We have also been playing some of Tom’s own arrangements, and it is really interesting to see how he approaches and works with the music.
One of the things I have been thinking about lately is just enjoying seeing how Tom and Julia approach baroque music, especially music they have not heard before. I love watching how they delve into the harmonies and structure and then explore how composers of the time examined the music as well. With the Reincken for example, it was so interesting to see how Bach transcribed the piece and then how Tom and Julia explored it with Bach’s interpretation in mind. I think this approach to studying the music offers not only a new and interesting way to think about it, but also very creative performance possibilities, which would not have been obvious at first glance.
I want to send out a HUGE thank you to Tom for spending the time to organize this!! I feel as a music student in Toronto that I am so lucky to be surrounded by professionals who are not only excited to play themselves, but also willing to share their knowledge with us. I am incredibly grateful.