Australia Tour 2018: Improvising on the Road

by Patrick Jordan, viola

Patrick Jordan, viola. Image: Sian Richards

One of the most civilized things about touring in Australia is that about half the time, we are put up in apartment hotels. Australians travel a great deal both internationally and domestically and so have worked some of these things out very well. The basic idea is this: in each accommodation there are two separate bedrooms which share a small living area and kitchen, most often with laundry facilities. The laundry facilities are most welcome on a three week tour when you only have 23 kg of luggage space!

 

One of the least civilized things about touring in general is that I am away from my kitchen, where I spend an inordinate amount of time cooking. I’m sure you see where this is headed. Apartment hotel with a modestly appointed kitchen, check! An evening off in Melbourne, check! The fantastic Queen Victoria Market a 20-minute walk away, check!

Queen Victoria Market. Photo: slowenglish.wordpress.com

What might not be so obvious is what I decided to cook. My treasured friend and colleague, oboist Marco Cera, has introduced me to several specialties of the Italian region of Veneto, where he grew up. Under his watchful gaze and with access to his mother’s recipes, I have learned several dishes, including baccala alla vicentina (salt cod braised in milk) and bigoli col anatra (a sort of fat spaghetti with duck ragu). Many years ago, as we were walking down the street in Seoul, Marco asked me, with his very dry sense of humour, “Patrizio, do you think we’re gonna find bigoli col anatra here?” To which I blandly replied, “Absolutely …” This has become something of a running joke, asked when we’re in some very unlikely place, “Patrizio, do you think we’re gonna find bigoli col anatra here?”

Nifra Poultry

Knowing we had time and opportunity, I decided that yes, in Melbourne, if possible, we were going to find bigoli col anatra. Or more accurately, I was going to find the ingredients and prepare it. I just love the challenge of trying to do something very specific in a very different locale, in part because it forces one to overcome some limitations, but also offers the opportunity to engage with local people in a way that one might not otherwise.

Patrick in his hotel kitchen with kangaroo sausages (kangah-bangahs)

Job one was to figure out what was practical in our very small kitchen (on this tour, Brandon Chui and I have shared accommodation). Of course, if you’re going to cook, why just make pasta? How about a second course as well? And you’ll need a little antipasto, too, to be properly welcoming. It is late autumn here, so we needed a menu that reflected the season as well. With the limited battery of pots and pans (and an eye to NOT setting off the smoke alarms), I could see doing the pasta and sauce, poached-then-browned kangaroo sausages (kangah-bangahs) with garlicky mashed potatoes along with some appropriate vegetable, and an antipasto to be named when at the market. Market, here I come!

The lynchpin of the meal was the duck, and if I couldn’t swing that, the whole meal would require a rethink. I had two sharp, but small knives, and I had decided that if I couldn’t find ground duck, I was not going to spend 45 minutes (and risk tendinitis) cutting it up myself; every challenge does have it’s limits. From previous tours, I remembered a nice butcher shop that deals in game, and when I got there, there was lovely duck breast to be had. I asked the young man serving me if he was set up to grind it, and he looked at me quizzically and said “I’m gonna have to work out what you mean by grind…” when a tiny, septuagenarian fellow-shopper in the queue next to me chirped, “MINCED!!” Yes he could mince it, problem solved. I also picked up the kangah-bangahs as I remembered them from our last trip to Melbourne — slightly garlicky with a hint of sun-dried tomato and basil. As he handed over my purchases, he asked, “Mind if I ask what you’re making with the duck?” I described both the dish and the friend who had asked for it, and he asked if I was a chef. I said no, just a devoted amateur. “A VERY devoted amateur with a very lucky friend I’d say,” he replied. Flattery will get you everywhere, mate; I’m sure I’ll be back to that shop if I’m lucky enough to revisit Melbourne!

 

The vegetable vendors were heavy with potatoes (all the ones I’ve seen in Australia have been squeaky clean, interestingly enough), and I got the rundown on which one would be best to mash: largish beautiful pink ones. It is autumn, again, and one of the veg dealers had the cutest, most tender looking broccolini, not cheap, but hey, you get what you pay for or a little less. Another part of this challenge is to minimize waste, and buy precisely what one needs. Butter came in bulk at one of the cheese shops so I could buy the 200g I needed. I picked up a half a head of garlic nobody else would likely buy, dropped 20 cents on a carrot and found a slightly mangled half a stalk of celery (it was headed for the sauce, so I was only going to mangle it further). One misstep was the pancetta required for the duck sauce; I asked twice to be sure it wasn’t smoked, but when I got back to the apartment I discovered it was (Marco said in the end that he didn’t mind). Olives looked good: one variety from Australia, a second from Sicily. I normally travel with both salt and pepper mills — the gods of improvisation smile on the man who is prepared.

Patrick and Dominic working in the kitchen

Everyone offered to help, but the kitchen was so small only one other bum would fit in it. With the able assistance of Dominic Teresi, dinner was served, savoured, and devoured. Among the limitations I couldn’t easily overcome in this case were serving space and capacity. To actually have a place to sit at the small table and have cutlery to use in our apartment, I had to limit the guest list to five, and I don’t think the pots and pans could have handled much more. All of which is to acknowledge that if my colleagues read this I may be in some hot water! On the other hand, after two weeks on the road I should be careful about presupposing that anyone would be looking for my company!

 


For the full Australia tour schedule, visit tafelmusik.org/Tours

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Australia Tour 2018: A Day in the Life of a Tafelmusik Technician

By Patrick Lavender, touring video operator

Patrick joins us on our 2018 Australia tour for his first tour with the orchestra. As the video operator, Patrick runs the projections during a live performance, which includes still images and video, timing it perfectly with musical and speaking cues while following a score of the music. When the orchestra was in Canberra, Patrick gave us a look in a day in the life of a technician on the road.

Video operator Patrick Lavender and this partner, lighting associate Kaitlin at the zero-kilometre mark.

8:00am – Wake up, hit snooze.

8:10am – Wake up, drink instant coffee.  This is the standard in Australian hotels. In a country steeped in coffee culture, I was a little surprised.  Note to self: next time, bring a press.

9:30am – After a nice breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt, served in my hotel room coffee cup, I venture into the outside world for a proper cup of coffee.  A couple cappuccinos later and I’m ready for the day!

9:45am – Most mornings we walk to the venue. Today in Canberra we are a few blocks further and are picked up by our wonderful Musica Viva Tour Manager, Rebecca.  It is 5˚ C, and I can see my breath outside. This is the furthest south we will stop on the entire tour.

10:00am – We arrive at Llewellyn Hall, Canberra, and unload the 50’ tour transport truck.  This might be slightly overkill for a harpsichord, double bass, and 6 video cases.  The crew here is lovely, and we begin the “bump in” (Australian for Load In).

Bumping in at 10am

11:45am – Break, time for a Tim Tam Slam, a proper Australian sugar treat initiation.  Please see the video below!

12:30pm – After finishing my video focus and setup, I retire to the greenroom for a few more Tim Tams (an Australian delicacy in my opinion), another cup of coffee, and some gummy candies (my weakness).  Time to head back to the hotel.

1:00pm – On my walk back to the hotel, I stop at a small Indonesian take-away joint and order a Nasi Goreng. I’m realizing this blog could also be titled: A Day in the Life of a Tafelmusik Technician / A Culinary Cruise of Canberra / I’m Basically Blogging About Food. I get back to the hotel, take a bath, and change into my show clothes.

2:45pm – Meet in the lobby and hitch a ride back to the venue. Time for more gummies and Tim Tams (Tim Tam daily count 5 … okay 7).

View of Llewellyn Hall, ANU School of Music at 3:30pm

4:00pm – Alison Mackay and I look through the video images and make a few adjustments to brightness and contrast.

5:15pm – Following music rehearsal, Blair and I run through some of the challenging video sequences. After a few passes of each section, we are ready for tonight’s performance.

5:45pm – Dinner is served in the backstage greenroom.  Tonight is a selection of curries, green salad, and of course a table of sweets. Time for one more Tim Tam Slam, and I’m ready for my final preshow checks.

6:15pm – I chat with the venue stage manager, Rachel, to go over the top of show and intermission procedures.  We check to ensure our communication system is functioning correctly, execute our preshow lighting and video cues, turn the house lights up, and then we are ready for the audience to enter the hall.

6:30pm – I dart back to the greenroom to continue writing this blog.  There is a flurry of action, musicians tuning, children playing [Cristina Zacharias and Elisa Citterio are travelling with their toddlers], some final preshow snacks, and one last chance for the musicians to practise a few of the more challenging phrases of music.  Glenn comments that all the musical chaos forms a sort of perfect musical storm, a cacophonous ensemble of pre-performance sounds.

6:50pm – Time to take my place at the back of the hall.

7:00pm – The audience takes their seats.  I take a few deep breaths, the musicians enter the stage, and away we go!

9:00pm – The musicians take their final bow. It has been an excellent show for everyone. I have executed all 250 video cues and 60 lighting cues without error – my best show yet!

10:00pm –The last case is loaded onto the oversized truck, and the bump out is complete.

10:30pm – Back at the hotel I convince my partner Kaitlin Hickey, (also on tour, as the lighting associate) to head out for some late night food and drink. This proved more difficult than we imagined. Does no one eat after 6pm?! After trying 3 or 4 establishments we end up at a Japanese bar.  I’m already planning my next meals once we to return to Melbourne, where the culinary options seem limitless, and delicious.  Perhaps some Italian for lunch at Pellegrini’s and Szechuan for dinner at Dainty’s?

11:30pm – We head back to the hotel and retire for the night.  10am tour bus departure tomorrow for our 1pm flight back to Melbourne.  So far we have flown  22,311 km since leaving Toronto. That’s the equivalent of driving from St. John’s to Victoria over 4 times.  Kaitlin and I are keeping a tally this season.  Over the next 5 months we will travel to 4 different continents, touring with Tafelmusik and Volcano Theatre.

What a great way to see the world!

Behind the booth with Patrick

For the full Australia tour schedule, visit tafelmusik.org/Tours

Australia Tour 2018: Perth

By Brandon Chui, viola

I remember receiving the email from Tafelmusik Operations Manager Beth Anderson with the invitation to go to Australia to perform Alison McKay’s memorized program Bach and His World (aka J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation). It was a cold afternoon in January 2017, and I was hanging out in the men’s dressing room at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts, home of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra with whom I was previously a member. Having already done a Tafelmusik memorized program in the past (The Galileo Project, Japan/Korea tour 2013), I was thrilled to take on the challenge of doing another one of these projects. And in Australia? Aw hell yeah, sign me up! And here I am, a year-and-a-bit later, hanging out at the Sensory Lab cafe in Melbourne on a dreary Monday morning, two days after our concert in Perth, the first on an 6-city, 8-concert run in the land down under.

Perth ConcertHall. Photo: Brandon Chui

People who know me know that I am a big consumer of food. I have been known to drive across the city, out to Markham, during a snow storm just to get a Mango Saigo at our favourite Chinese dessert spot. And while I may not be quite as extreme as that while on tour, a lot of time is spent thinking about what will satisfy the belly. It was about a year ago that I spent three weeks playing out in Kuala Lumpur, and you can ask my wife — I’ve been talking about Malaysian food non-stop for the last month. I miss everything about it — the smells, tastes, flavours, spices, the sense of family that goes into a simple looking Nasi Lemak. I can’t tell you how happy and excited I was to see the number of hits after Googling, “Malaysian restaurant Perth” (try the same for Toronto … not many, though special mention to One2Snacks for making a mean Hokkien Mee!), with the highly rated Insan’s Cafe being a 4-minute walk from our hotel! I’m embarrassed to report that your Tafelmusik viola section, Patrick G. Jordan and myself, ate at Insan’s Cafe three times in 36 hours. I mean, hey, why not? Amazing food, relatively cheap, close by — no need to even think about it! The memories it brought back were amazing, minus the heat, humidity and depending on where you choose to get your Nasi Campur in KL, the scooter exhaust!

And while food is the tour side-show, music is the real reason we’re here. The music of Bach is a source of spiritual uplift and the embodiment of why we do what we do, and to play this program featuring exclusively the music of this music god with my friends and colleagues of Tafelmusik leaves me in awe. As I sit there listening to Elisa, Chris, Christina, and Olivier play the second movement to Bach’s Trio Sonata BWV1039, I always think that I’m the luckiest person alive.

(L-R) Christopher Verrette (violin), Christina Mahler (violincello), Elisa Citterio (violin), and Olivier Fortin (harpsichord). Photo: Brandon Chui

What you and our audiences the world over hear are the fruits of hundreds of hard individual and collective work. From the individual memory work we all have to put in,  to the “play dates” where any number of players will get together (before a rehearsal or concert of a completely unrelated program at home) to run through music — these are all seeds that give way to the beautiful harvest of Bach and His World. And just to take you behind the curtain a little bit more, the parts that the violinists of Tafelmusik play in this program are always fluid, meaning each player often plays different parts with each run. For example, because Chris Verrette was not on the East Coast Canadian Tour in November 2017, parts were re-distributed among the other violinists to make up for his absence. Tricia Ahern broke her arm before the March 2018 run in Toronto, and now Genevieve Gillardeau is not able to join us in Australia, so people have to learn different parts to fill in. Add to that the different stages and their geographical layouts (which call for adjustments to where people walk and stand), acoustics (how do we balance, articulate, and pull our sounds differently?) and ever-evolving musical concepts, what you get is a product in constant change, ever growing and changing with each performance.

And just like my food – I LIKE THAT.


The orchestra has now performed in Perth and Melbourne. For the full Australia tour schedule, visit tafelmusik.org/Tours