Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Tour to Date

This year's new line up of players in the Winter Harp ensemble received a crash course in touring. After an afternoon show in Gibsons Nov. 27, we flew to Winnipeg and played at the Pantages Theatre. Amazingly this year, the temperature was actually above freezing and there was not a trace of snow to be seen. After checking into our rooms, we loaded into the theatre for the concert the next day and had a brief rehearsal. As we ran over the show, snowflakes started to fall, and by the time we were done, the ground had a beautiful light dusting of snow.

Later, we drove to Janelle's parent's grain farm just outside Winnipeg where Janelle had the opportunity to reunite with her pet cat.

We all had a fabulous dinner of light curry with rice and broccoli. Of particular interest was a new grain which is grown in the prairies and which blended wonderfully with the basmati rice. It's little discoveries such as this which make touring so much fun. After dinner, we gathered round the fire and Winter Harp's narrator Ron Halder did a dramatic recitation of a heart warming and very funny piece of fiction which he had written. Afterwards we had a decadent chocolate cake for dessert, and Bruce and I entered into a joke competition; we each alternated telling jokes, and amidst all the laughter we quickly lost track of how late it was, so bidding everyone a fond goodnight we retraced our tracks back to Winnipeg and enjoyed the amenities of the first rate hotel.

The next day we arrived at the theatre early to get the sound and lights set up, and as always, the crew at the Pantages Theatre and Janelle's parents did a fabulous job creating a magical back drop for us to play against.

We flew back to Vancouver and the next day Lori, Janelle and I rehearsed with the Vancouver Welshman's Choir in preparation for our show in New Westminster's Massey Theatre. Playing with the choir is always a treat -- 90 enthusiastic voices really adds a spectacular dimension to the show. In some cases just the humming of so many voices adds a beautiful rich depth to a piece which is transcendent.

A few days later was the start of the Vancouver Island tour. Packing all the gear for our shows is often a challenge, as well as doing the logistics of what goes in which van, and maintaining temperature and humidity control for the various instruments. Hats off to the Mazda corporation for their design of the Mazda 5, which is a hybrid of a passenger car/mini van, but amazingly will seat three people and carry a full sized concert harp, a Celtic harp, a harp dolly, and all the luggage for the three passengers. Here is a picture of how it all fits!

We sailed to Nanaimo where I did a quick television interview, and off we went to Courtenay for two concerts. Courtenay is a really lovely town and the staff at the Sid Williams Theatre is very professional and always makes us feel welcome.

A special highlight of playing in Courtenay is that they always set up a table in the lobby after the show where we can autograph CDs and meet audience members.

After Courtenay we had a long drive ahead of us to Victoria so we started out early and made excellent time without a trace of snow. All along the way there were beautiful displays of thousands of icicles coming of the rock cliffs and embankments on the highway. After setup and sound check we walked across the street for a Japanese dinner, and our percussionist Bruce did a quick rhythm tutorial while we waited for our food. This is how percussionists pass the time.
Here he demonstrates playing 11 against 4.

And here is a demonstration of a Brazilian rhythm.

The Alix Goolden Hall in Victoria is particularly lively, and very little amplification is required.

The two shows in Nanaimo are always a real pleasure to play. Bruce and I did a preconcert lecture before the afternoon show as is the long-standing tradition. The technicians at the Port Theatre are some of the best I have ever met, and kudos to them for making this venue so fantastic and ideal for our performances. Add to this the catering from Modern Cafe for lunch and dinner and it makes playing there a real treat.

Because we play two concerts back to back, the couches backstage are very much appreciated, since after driving up from Victoria, setting up and sound check, and doing a lecture and show, it's easy to feel a bit drained. A short rest revives everyone and we're quickly energized for the second show.

We often get into interesting discussions while back stage in the change rooms, and it turns out that both Bruce and Mark have a keen interest in Chinese music. Here is Mark demonstrating how he imitates the traditional Chinese violin on his classical Western violin.

Afterwards, we all relaxed at the Minnows Lounge at the Coast Bastion where we stayed and had a celebratory gathering where many of the people who had been to our concert also met up with us. Nanaimo is a friendly town and I look forward to returning soon for bathtub racing season. After a good night's sleep at the Bastion we took a morning ferry back to the mainland and are looking forward to the rest of the tour.

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