I’m getting settled back into life in Ontario after a crazy few weeks of musical activity. In the 2nd half of May I was fortunate enough to get some time off to travel to Bangalore, India to participate in the Canadian Indian Youth Orchestra (CIYO), a joint venture between the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the Bangalore School of Music. Over the course of two weeks we rehearsed and performed a variety of orchestral and chamber music, culminating in a performance at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Bangalore. The complete session was a sort of microcosm of what NYOC does each summer, although the logistical challenges of the endeavour resulted in a rehearsal schedule was not as intense as our usual summer session. Our rehearsal space had no overhead lighting, limiting rehearsal to daylight hours. Daytime temperature highs regularly hit 40 degrees Celsius (feels like 50 with humidity!) and the rehearsal space also lacked AC, so afternoon rehearsal was sometimes cut to give us some time to rest and recover. Temperature swings resulted in an exciting time trying to keep pitch under control – the reed that was too flat to play the morning rehearsal became too sharp to play by the afternoon rehearsal. When I came back to Canada every reed was more than a quarter tone flat on the tuner.
Bassoon is not the most popular instrument for young people to take up in India (I can’t imagine why! =P) so we didn’t have as much direct musical interaction with our Indian colleagues as some in the orchestra did. Faculty members, and many of my colleagues, participated in sectional rehearsals and masterclasses, and (IMHO) these were probably the most important aspect of the trip. In Canada, aspiring orchestral musicians benefit from a well established training infrastructure made up of hundreds of youth orchestras, community orchestras, post-secondary institutions and summer training institutes like the NYOC. Together, these institutions instruct young musicians on the skills that go into being an orchestral musician, which range from the subtlest artistic touches (possible interpretations of the word dolce in Beethoven) to the most inane details (always bring a pencil to rehearsal). India is developing this training infrastructure, but there are many challenges to be faced in doing so, particularly that teachers for some instruments are in scarce supply. There are of course some excellent teachers producing wonderful students but opportunities vary widely from region to region, city to city. Any contact between musicians helps spread new ideas and fill in gaps both in terms of artistry and technical craft, and I am sure all of us will spread the ideas we’ve picked up in our future collaborations and teaching.
I should give a special mention to our four colleagues from India who traveled to London last summer to take part in the NYOC summer session – it was great to see them again, and the trip couldn’t have happened without their leadership and their phenomenally hard work to make this project come together. Our hosts also performed countless acts of generosity for which I’m truly grateful. Some were mundane (like teaching us to cross streets without being killed, which is much more difficult than it sounds) and others were tremendously comforting. Early in the trip I got sick (no surprise there, I was going to be amazed if I got through the trip without coming down with something) and a doctor who played in the orchestra awoke early in the morning to come visit and confirm I didn’t have anything serious. A local doctor visited later in the day and prescribed me some medicines which were delivered a couple hours later, paid for by one of our hosts. Thank you!!!
These are all the memories of the trip my brain can conjure up right now. I’m sure more will trickle out in the next few days.