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 Sheetmusicplus.com, 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.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Interesting.

I’ll confess something – I don’t like the word “interesting.”

It seems to me that when a friend, acquaintance, family member, or stranger doesn’t know what to say about a person’s work – a song that person wrote, or an article, a book a drawing, etc.- they’ll say it’s “interesting.” Maybe they didn’t really enjoy the work, and they wanted to be polite. Maybe they were actually kind of bored by the work. But saying the work is “interesting” allows them to look like they were actually interested by the work.

When I’m genuinely interested by something someone has done, I’ll try to say something other than “that’s interesting.” I like to use the word “intriguing” or “exciting” instead. Or I’ll mention a particular thing about the work that I especially liked, or that caught my attention.

I hope you found this blog entry interesting.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Walk Off The Earth!

Earlier on this year, I found this video. It's a video of five people playing the same guitar at the same time! The video was made by the band Walk Off The Earth. I checked out a few of their other covers of songs, and I enjoyed them very much. I checked out the band's website, and I found out that they were coming to Montreal in September! I ordered a ticket, and the ticket came in the mail.

The Walk Off The Earth concert was September 14. What a concert!

The band played some cover songs - an up-tempo version of Adele's "Someone Like You", "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles, and, of course, the five-people-on-one-guitar song that I linked earlier in this entry. They also played many of their original songs. A few of their songs had catchy choruses that the audience could sing along to.

Most of the band members could (and did!) play multiple different instruments. When a band member was finished playing an instrument, and ready to switch to another instrument, they would toss the old instrument behind them, and a stagehand or other band member would catch it. Some unusual instruments that were played included ukulele, cigar-box guitar, and vibraslap. Also, at one point a band member played a guitar with drumsticks, and at another point in the concert, two band members played one drumset. During this song, a bunch of absolutely enormous balloons, bigger balloons than I had ever seen before, were released into the audience from the ceiling, and everyone had an amusing time batting them around. :)

Throughout the whole concert, it was very evident that both the band members and all of the audience members were having a huge amount of fun!! It was absolutely the craziest concert I have ever been to!! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The professor and the vet

A College Prof. stood on his chair and said "If GOD really exists then knock me off this chair" Nothing happened, the class was quiet he said "See!" A Marine Vet stood up, punched him in the face knocking him out and off of the chair. The Vet, then sat back down. As the Professor came to, he looked at his student and said "WHY DID YOU DO THAT" The Vet said "GOD was busy protecting my buddies still fighting for your right to say and do stupid stuff like this so, HE SENT ME"

I found the above post in the Facebook status of one of my Facebook friends this morning. I assume that it’s one of those copy-and-paste-if-you-agree types of status. I doubt it’s something that actually happened; rather I think it’s more of a message that is supposed to be inspirational, prove the existence of God, or perhaps glorify the navy.

I see several things wrong, and even disturbing, about this little story.

One of the things I don’t like about that status is the fact that the “bad guy” is supposed to be the college professor. This says to me that whoever thought up this story sees higher education as bad. This may be part of an alarming trend among some people to vilify education and knowledge. I did read recently that university-educated people are less likely to believe in God, (source?) so it’s probably not entirely a coincidence that the professor is cast as the bad guy in this story. (By the way, I don’t mean to insult or offend anyone reading this who does not have a university education.)

The second thing that bothers me is that this story paints atheists as bad people. I don’t think they’re bad people, but there are many people out there who, unfortunately, think that. I read recently that atheists are often discriminated against in certain professions – even when people no longer discriminate against others based on their sex, age, race, and so on, they look down on atheists.

What annoys me most, and what I find perhaps the most distressing about this story, is the action taken by the navy vet. This implies that it is okay to harm people in the name of God. I find this completely unacceptable. Also, I find it strange that people in the military fight wars against people who harm others in the name of religion, and yet it’s okay for the vet in this story to punch someone who doesn’t believe in God. Yes, I do understand that the people of the military fight against enemies who actually kill people in the name of religion, and that killing someone in the name of religion is much worse than punching someone out. But still, punching someone is a violent act, and shouldn’t be accepted.

Maybe I’m getting a bit too worked up about this – after all, it’s just a Facebook status, and probably not something that actually happened in real life. But still, I find it disturbing that there are people who actually like this story enough to put it as their Facebook status.

I’m a bit spiritually confused myself. I’m not sure if there is a God. And, just for the record, I don’t think religion is always (or even often) harmful. I’m fine with people believing what they want, as long as they don’t force their beliefs on others, or harm people in the name of their religion.

This blog entry doesn’t mean to insult religious people. I don’t hate religion itself, and I don’t hate religious people or those who believe in God.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Classical music in the summer

There are only a few things I don't like about Montreal. One of them is the dearth of classical music in the summer.

In winter, spring, and fall, there are many classical music concerts on the island of Montreal. In the summer, many Montreal ensembles and musicians play at summer festivals. These festivals take place in various places that are anything up to a two hours' drive from Montreal.

For classical music fans like me, who don't have cars, these festivals are impossible to get to (unless you know someone who is going to one of these festivals who does have a car.) Or maybe these festivals are for well-off people who are lucky enough to have cottages in Lanaudiere or the Eastern Townships.

I have been to concerts in the summer in Montreal which feature types of music other than classical. But you'd think that for such a world-class city, they'd be able to have at least some classical music in the summer.