Tom Georgi’s “Baroque Bootcamp”

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.

Julia Wedman, Gretchen Abberger, Molly Evans, Andrew Dicker, Kailey Richards, Raha Javanfar, and Elena Spanu

By Raha Javanfar

Raha Javanfar. Photo credit: Jen Squires

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!

Kailey Richards

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.

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Get-to-know TBSI alum, Matt Antal

Our annual Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute is at the halfway point of an intense two weeks of rehearsals, lectures, masterclasses and more. We recently introduced you to TBSI alum and violinist Michelle Odorico. Today, we would like you to meet violist Matt Antal, who is not only a TBSI alum from 2013, 2014 and 2015, but is a current TBSI participant in the first ever Viola d’Amore workshop with Tafelmusik’s Thomas Georgi.

Matt Antal in the 2017 TBSI Viola d’Amore workshop. Photo credit: Lysiane Boulva

Matt first applied to attend TBSI in 2013 on a bit of a whim just before starting his Masters, and it opened up a whole new perspective towards learning for him. Today, both Michelle and Matt are enjoying successful careers as musicians, including performing with Tafelmusik, and we feel privileged to have been able to play a large part in forming those careers. Matt has written about his experiences at TBSI and TWI below.

Matt Antal, viola (far right), performing with Music Director Designate Elisa Citterio and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Handel Water Music, September 2016. Photo credit: Trevor Haldenby
Matt Antal

I first attended TBSI during the summer before starting my masters in modern viola performance. I had always enjoyed early music, but had never had the opportunity to play a period instrument before, so I really did not know what to expect. Upon arriving, I was immediately immersed into a world full of intelligent people who were friendly and enthusiastic about music — something that is all too rare in my experience.

There is no better feeling than playing music with people that love music just as much as you do. Every single day featured several “mind- blowing” moments, when something I believed to be true my whole life would be disproved, in the best possible way. These moments made me realize how much there is to know and sparked my own desire to discover new topics of my own.

I attended TBSI the following two summers and subsequently TWI the two winters after that, and always looked forward to it as my favourite time of the entire year. I enjoyed not only the music but working with such fantastic teachers and fellow students. So I decided to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts in early music at the University of Toronto, studying with members of Tafelmusik while gigging around town playing baroque viola almost exclusively.

Join us as we continue to build “baroque for the future” with a charitable gift towards the Artist Training Fund. Your contribution today ensures that musicians like Matt and Michelle have the opportunity to develop into the musicians they are destined to be: well equipped to share their gifts with appreciative audiences everywhere. If you wish to make a charitable gift, please give here.


Matt Antal’s appearances with Tafelmusik

Handel Water Music, September 2016
The Baroque Diva, March 2017

Upcoming Tafelmusik appearances

Mozart’s Piano with Kristian Bezuidenhout, November 2017
Handel Messiah, December 2017

Get-to-Know TBSI alum Michelle Odorico

The sixteenth year of the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute (TBSI) and the sixth year of the Tafelmusik Winter Institute (TWI) are upon us. TBSI and TWI are world-renowned training programs for advanced students, pre-professional, and professional musicians in instrumental and vocal baroque performance practice, led by some of the world’s finest musicians in the field. It is inspiring to look back at a very long list of musicians who have participated in the Institutes over the years. The learning and music-making has enriched the musical lives of students and faculty alike on a level we could barely imagine fifteen years ago.

A baroque dance lesson with TBSI participants led by Opera Atelier’s Co-Artistic Director Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, 2013. Credit: Mariana Dempster

There are so many stories to share about our alumni. We remember Alberto from Costa Rica, who worked so hard to bring several members of his ensemble to TBSI, taking back what they learned to a culture where opportunities to study baroque music are almost non-existent. Our Australian tours have inspired numerous young musicians to journey to Toronto to work with us at both TBSI and TWI in a cultural exchange that is energizing for all of us. Violist Elmarie came from South Africa in order to take what she learned back to her students, with the aim of creating a period ensemble there.

There are also many participants who have gone on to appear on the Tafelmusik stage, both singers and instrumentalists, including violinist Michelle Odorico. We would like to introduce you to Michelle who has recently done just that, and was compelled to take up a career as a period performer because of her experience at TBSI and TWI.

Michelle Odorico, violin

Growing up in Pickering, my aunt and uncle would occasionally take me to see Tafelmusik performances. I loved going to these concerts and I believe they gave me a strong attraction to baroque music growing up.

After completing my Bachelor of Music from the University of Ottawa in 2012, a friend and I attended TBSI, thinking it would be a fun thing to do. Little did I know that it would be an intensive university course, jam-packed into two weeks. I was overwhelmed with the depth and amount of information, but was completely hooked. What stood out was how the faculty fostered a safe, encouraging, and inspiring environment — their enthusiasm and patience eased the transition to learning a new style of playing. I loved meeting people from all over the world, and being surrounded by the unique playing styles of my peers and mentors.

I knew after TBSI that this was what I wanted to do, and thanks to Jeanne Lamon and Charlotte Nediger, I was able to begin a Master’s degree in baroque performance at the University of Toronto that fall. I returned to TBSI the following summer, and attended TWI from 2013–2016.

I believe that every musician should go to TBSI. Having this groundwork in place helps bring the music to life. I try to teach these principles of baroque playing to my own students, and I see how much they enjoy learning about them.

My ultimate goal as a musician is to be able to use the baroque violin as a way to communicate and connect to others. Because of TBSI and TWI, I have been able to do this much more than I ever could have anticipated.

Join us as we continue to build “baroque for the future” with a charitable gift towards the Artist Training Fund. Your contribution today ensures that musicians like Matt and Michelle have the opportunity to develop into the musicians they are destined to be: well equipped to share their gifts with appreciative audiences everywhere. If you wish to make a charitable gift, please give here.


Appearances with Tafelmusik

Purcell Dido & Aeneas, October 2016
Let Us All Sing!, November 2016
Asia Tour, November 2016
Toronto Education Concerts, January 2017
Visions and Voyages, February 2017
Ontario Tour, March 2017
U.S. Tour, Feb/Mar, 2017
Mozart Mass in C Minor, May 2017

Upcoming Tafelmusik appearances
Handel Alexander’s Feast, February 2018
Beethoven Pastoral Symphony, May 2018
Australia Tour, May/June 2018

Michelle Odorico (violin) with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and  Chamber Choir in Let Us All Sing, November 2016. Credit: Trevor Haldenby