Asia Tour 2016: South Korea

By John Abberger, oboe

After two days of rehearsal we performed our first concert on the tour on Sunday, November 12 at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center. The two days of rehearsal in China were grueling but necessary for several reasons.  In the first place, we have not performed Bach: The Circle of Creation since we first mounted it in April 2015, or more than eighteen months ago, and there is general agreement that Circle of Creation is the most difficult memorization feat that we have tackled to date, owing to the complexity of Bach’s music.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir Published by Andrew Eusebio Page Liked · 14 November · On the bus heading towards Daegu, South Korea.This is how we Tetris the orchestra into a minibus. Nobody moves until the bass gets off. Photo: Beth Anderson
On the bus heading towards Daegu, South Korea. This is how we Tetris the orchestra into a minibus. Nobody moves until the bass gets off. Photo: Beth Anderson

Secondly, we had to work with the new narrator, who would be reading the script in Mandarin.  This presents several challenges of its own. The narrator must famaliarize himself with the music and the flow of the show back and forth between music and words, and we must get a feel for the narrator’s body language, since we cannot rely on understanding cues from the text itself as we normally do. All of this gave us a bit of extra adrenaline on opening night of the tour.  We were fortunate to have an excellent narrator in David Zhang, however, and the performance went well. It was warmly received by an audience of about 800, a respectable crowd, but, sadly, scattered about in a 1,600 seat concert, giving the impression of a smaller number.

On to Korea.  Monday, November 14 was a long travel day: 9:30am departure from the hotel, 10:45 arrival at the Shanghai Pudong Airport for a 2:00pm flight, which was delayed on the ground for 1 hr. and 40 minutes.  Add to this a one-hour time change, and we were on the ground at the Incheon airport in Seoul at about 8:00pm local time with still another 50-minute bus ride to the hotel in the Gangnam district of Seoul.

L-R: Marco Cera, Dominic Teresi, Hyun Chul Lim, John Abberger, and Patrick Jordan
L-R: Marco Cera, Dominic Teresi, Hyun Chul Lim, John Abberger, and Patrick Jordan

We are fortunate to have a wonderful friend in Seoul, a bassoonist named Hyun Chul Lim who was a university classmate of Dominic Teresi, and we count him as a member of an exclusive club of friends that we have in various cities around the world. We look forward to seeing them again when we return, and in addition to enjoying a wonderful friendship built upon repeated visits to their home cities, they provide invaluable guidance to local sights and dining spots. Hyun in particular never disappoints. On Wednesday he took a few of us to a beautiful spot just outside of the city where we visited a Buddhist monastery located near the top of Un-Gil-San mountain, one of the hills that surround Seoul.

Photo: Dominic Teresi
Photo: Dominic Teresi

After driving up a steep one-lane road, we park and walk the last 500 meters or so to the small monastery compound.  While listening to the monks chant in the background, we stand near a 500-year-old gingko tree, and enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. Below us we can see the point at which the North and South Han rivers join to form the Han river that runs through Seoul. There is also a commanding view from a small teahouse in the compound, and we take a moment to savour a cup of hot green tea before taking our leave of this beautiful spot. Back at the bottom of the mountain we stop for a fantastic lunch of grilled river eel, cooked at the table over charcoal embers. Once grilled and sauced, the slices of eel are rolled up in a lettuce leaf with chili sauce, slivers of fresh ginger, and slices of raw garlic. They are indescribably delicious, and we gobble as many of these morsels as we can to prepare us for the next round of rehearsals, this time with a Korean actor/narrator.


Asia Tour 2016: South Korea

Fri Nov 18, 7:30pm
Grand Concert Hall
Daegu, South Korea

Sat Nov 19, 5pm
Tongyeong Concert Hall
Tongyeong, South Korea

Sun Nov 20, 7pm
LG Centre
Seoul, South Korea

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A Chat with violinist Cristina Zacharias

Our upcoming concert series A Grand Tour of Italy, which features the Tafelmusik solo concerto debut of our own Cristina Zacharias, transports you to seventeenth century Italy, highlighting Italian composers and the violin. The Italians really embraced the violin — instrument makers, violinists, and composers: some would say this really is where the violin was born.  Cristina took some time to chat with our Marketing Associate, Andrew Eusebio.

Cristina holds a Master of Music degree from McGill University. A core member of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra since 2004, she has performed across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and can be heard on over 25 recordings for the ATMA, Analekta, CBC, BIS, Naxos, and Tafelmusik Media labels. Cristina appears annually at the Carmel Bach Festival, where she is the Assistant Principal Second Violin. Cristina is a frequent collaborator, guest soloist, and director with a diverse group of ensembles, and is equally passionate about baroque, classical, and modern repertoire.

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Cristina Zacharias, violin. Photo: Sian Richards

Andrew Eusebio: How did you and the violin cross paths and what is it about the violin that audiences love?

Cristinia Zacharias: I started playing violin when I was five. My father had played violin as a child, and it was because of his and my mother’s interest in music that they signed both my three-year-old sister and me up for lessons in a Suzuki violin program. My sister later switched to cello, but I always loved the violin. I think audiences love the same things that that violinists love – the huge variety in sounds. The violin can sing like the voice, or can thrill with speed and virtuosity.

AE: We’ll talk soon about your solo concerto of Vivaldi’s “Le Cetra” but could you shed some light on the other pieces in the program? Are there any you’re particularly looking forward to performing?

CZ: I had the chance to play the Valentini 4-violin concerto many many years ago in Vancouver, and really loved the piece for its originality. I’ve tried a few times to find a way to play it in various concerts but it hasn’t ever happened. I’m very much looking forward to hearing it played by my talented colleagues!

AE: We’re very excited for your Tafelmusik solo concerto debut of Vivaldi’s “La Cetra,” op. 9: Violin Concerto in C Major. Can you talk about this piece and how you prepare for a concerto performance?

CZ: This concerto is the first of a set of twelve in Op. 9 that are all for the violin. You often hear jokes about there being too much similarity between Vivaldi’s many concertos, and I really think these are unwarranted! The more I study Vivaldi’s huge output the more amazed I am by his inventiveness and his wide range of ideas. When I study a Vivaldi concerto closely, I  love to discover how he weaves together his musical ideas. He had the gift of making very complicated structures sound simple. When preparing a concerto performance like this, the process is very similar to how I prepare most music: start with the score and get to know how all the parts interact, then focus on my own part.

AE: What can our audiences expect and discover from this concert and its repertoire?

CZ: I think everyone who hears this concert will come away with a new appreciation for the incredible inventiveness of this period in Italy. All of the composers are so different, and their unique voices offer a vast array of ideas, soundscapes, and originality.

Hear Cristina perform in her Tafelmusik solo concerto debut and join us for A Grand Tour of Italy December 1–4 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, and December 6 at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.