Friday, December 12, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Orchestre Lyrique de Montréal - a new orchestra worth checking out

I always find it exciting to hear a newly-formed music ensemble, and I'm fortunate to have attended the Orchestre Lyrique de Montréal's first concert on October 23, 2014.

The concert began with Schubert's "An Die Musik," in an orchestration by Arthur Luck, conducted by Simon Rivard and sung by Aline Kutan. This tribute to the power of music was a fitting opening to the concert.

Mozart's familiar "Exsultate, jubilate" was the next piece on the program, conducted by Ben Kepes. The Andante was particularly moving and beautiful. I got chills during Aline Kutan's final phrase at the end of the last movement.

Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor followed, with Ben Kepes conducting and Olivier Godin as soloist. I found that the peppy bassoon lines in the first movement were admirably played, and in the second movement, the harmonies in the horns were pleasing. The musicians captured the fiery spirit of the last movement very well. The cadenzas used in this performance were by Raoul Sosa, and Olivier Godin was good at bringing out their varied moods.

The last piece on the program was Mahler's 4th Symphony, with Aline Kutan as soloist in the final movement. Simon Rivard took us on a thrilling ride through the symphony, bringing out the wide variety of orchestral tone colour. Mahler's 4th is a symphony with much to offer, and all the musicians gave an excellent performance of it.

I'm impressed that we have enough great musicians in Montreal to make up a whole new orchestra. The Orchestre Lyrique de Montréal is well worth hearing.

Check out their website here. Information on upcoming concerts here.

--Emily Gray

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My sheet music website

Hello all. I recently created a website where I sell sheet music. It contains links to my compositions and arrangements available for sale on

Here is the website: GrayWinds Sheet Music.

It contains music for wind instruments, mostly. I may add other sheet music at a later date.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The joys of Titipu

Once again, I have had the pleasure of playing the clarinet in the McGill Savoy Society. This season was the 50th anniversary of Savoy, and my 9th year in the society. We performed The Mikado.

Rehearsals started in the fall of 2013. I very much enjoyed working with our two conductors and my fellow orchestra musicians. Later on in the season, we rehearsed with the singers, which I always enjoy. Rehearsals could sometimes be difficult, but I didn't mind all the hard work at all.

The dress rehearsals and the peformances took place in Moyse Hall at McGill. Before each performance, I brought cookies and candies for my Savoy friends. One performance was special - it being Savoy's 50th anniversary, Robin Alder, the founder of Savoy, was invited to conduct the overture. The last performance was also special - it was "Gags Night," where the performers insert extra jokes into the peformance.

The cast party after the last performance was my favourite of all Savoy cast parties I've been to. So many of my old and my new Savoy friends were there. I enjoyed hanging out with my friends. It was a night of good times, friendship, and love - a night I'll remember forever.

Here's a link to a little film I made about our production.

Many people have said that Savoy's 50th season was the best ever. I found it both very richly rewarding and great fun!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sheet music

I've been selling some of my sheet music on, both arrangements and original compositions. Maybe when I have a few more pieces of music there, I'll organize it all on a website with links to the sheet music. In the meantime, you can have a look here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Confessions of an alto clarinetist

During my first year at McGill, I joined the McGill Clarinet Choir, in which I played the contra-alto clarinet, an instrument that I loved. It seemed that nobody in the group wanted to play the alto clarinet. People saw it as a nasty, out-of-tune, bad-sounding instrument that was unforgiving and difficult to play. Someone would always get stuck with the instrument, and they wouldn't be happy about it.

In my second year at McGill, I was at a wind symphony rehearsal. We were going to play Ingolf Dahl's "Sinfonietta", which has an alto clarinet solo in the second movement. The conductor asked me if I wanted to play the alto clarinet in that piece. I wasn't entirely sure why he'd asked me - perhaps he'd heard that I played the contra-alto clarinet, and thought it would be a good idea to ask me if I wanted to play the alto. I was aware of the instrument's bad reputation, but I agreed to play the alto clarinet - I figured that maybe if I devoted some time to the instrument, I might be able to play it somewhat well. Besides, I'd get to play a solo in wind symphony, which I wouldn't get to do if I just stuck to the B-flat clarinet.

I rented the school's alto clarinet, and started to get to know the instrument. It was indeed difficult to play in tune. But I kept working on it. I played the solo in the Dahl piece. After that concert, I continued playing the alto clarinet in the wind symphony. Occasionally I'd get other solos. One time, I had an unaccompanied quarter-tone glissando solo in a piece by Husa. That piece was broadcast on the radio.

I came to love playing the alto clarinet. I found opportunities to play it outside of the wind symphony. I played in a trio made up of two B-flat clarinets and alto. I sometimes played alto clarinet in an orchestra, substituting for bass clarinet or saxophone parts. I found that the alto clarinet could be useful for bass lines, kind of like a bass clarinet, but more portable.

I came to love the sound of the alto clarinet. I found that it could sound almost like a cross between a clarinet and a saxophone. I found that the alto clarinet could be a very expressive instrument.

In one of my later years in the clarinet choir, I was planning to play the contra-alto clarinet, as I always had in clarinet choir. The usual start-of-year argument was going on, the argument over who had to get stuck with the alto clarinet. Feeling sorry for the instrument, and getting tired of people berating an instrument that I had grown to love, I gave up my contra-alto clarinet position and offered to play the alto.

There haven't been many pieces of music written for solo alto clarinet. For some time, I worked on a concerto for solo alto clarinet, with clarinet choir accompaniment. In the piece, I tried to show the different moods that the alto was capable of expressing. When the piece of music was finished, I performed it with the McGill Clarinet Choir. Here is a recording of the performance.

The alto clarinet is a much-disliked instrument, but I think that a lot of this animosity is unjustified. I think that more people - both listeners and clarinetists - should give the alto clarinet more of a chance.