Archive for January, 2012

Jitter Bugs…

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We were asked to do our first concert here at The Banff Centre for the Midweek Medley Concert and as much as I’d like to say that I was really excited to be playing, I wasn’t! I have a bit of a problem with my steroids at the moment and have uncontrollable hand jitters, shakes, wibbles and wobbles. It’s not good. Now that I’m well, the dosage of Prednisolone is too high for my body to cope with, plus the added bonus of nerves and adrenaline, I was a wreck! Any violinist out there will know the feeling of bow shakes, it creeps up on you when you’re on stage and trying to play with a long smooth bow suddenly seems to be the most impossible thing on earth. It’s totally terrifying and I am very fortunate to say that it has only happened to me a couple of times in my life. So, here I am in Canada making my first impressions to a room full of musicians and I could barely hold my violin let alone play it, but the show must go on. I hold my head up high, smile, and try to breath slowly and calmly as I play. Alas this was not my night and the demons were let into my mind and like creepy crawlies all over my body I had no hope of taming these horrible jitter bugs. People were lovely about our playing, our musicianship and a general feeling of success was almost felt. It’s important for me to rationalise this awful experience and know that there was simply nothing I could do and that this was not my fault. However this is far easier said than done! I was so upset, angry and even had to endure conversations and inquisitive remarks about the shaking bow incident, re-living it was almost worse than the actual event.

My first week here was a slightly odd one and it definitely took me a little while to feel settled. I have absolutely loved my little practise hut and have found myself doing the most incredible work with wonderful focus. I don’t have to worry about anything, dinner, the washing, people to call, bills to pay, bliss! The cold temperature went down to -38 which was unlike anything I have ever experienced, a thousand tiny burning needles in your skin if left uncovered to the wind. Icicles in your nose and at one point I actually heard my hair freezing, a sound similar to rice crispies popping! We were selected to play at the Midweek Concert where we performed Dvorak Four Romantic Pieces and again at the Friday night’s concert also in the gorgeous Rolston Hall. We did Janacek for the Friday night concert and it went down really well and luckily I felt much more comfortable than the first concert. Nick has totally fallen in love with the Steinway in Rolston and has plans to steal it, perhaps slightly too big to fit in his suitcase!

This is Farrally, our Halls.

Kinnear Centre (on the right)- where the amazing Library is and also Maclab Bar :)

The amazing and awesome Marimba Duo – Greg and Ben who gave an incredible concert including an Israeli piece I shall never forget. I was so fascinated by the way they breathed together, had crucial eye contact and created sounds I never knew possible on a Marimba.

Gorgeous mountains!

A fellow resident said to me, ‘Don’t think of this place like an institution, we are all just a bunch of hillbillies thrown together exploring our creativity taking inspiration from the nature and people that cross our pathways.’ This has totally transformed my way of thinking about my time here and I am now feeling wonderfully motivated, exhilarated and yet also very peaceful. This place is filled with the most wonderful people, poets, painters, photographers, dancers, musicians and although it took me a while to feel comfortable I can safely say that I know already it will be hard to leave.

Ode to a Puppeteer.

Monday, January 16th, 2012

We saw the most amazing display of Puppets tonight presented by a group that have been working here together over the last 2 weeks. Some of the puppets were completely enchanting and the skill involved in the craftsmanship of these miniature paper maché people really made me believe their emotions were changing and faces moving. The Puppeteers, a very lovely bunch who we shared breakfast with on our first morning demonstrated so many different skills in their performance, balance, poise, attention to detail and they all had an amazing awareness, a kind of magic thread that connected their bodies to their puppets. It was wonderful and nothing like your average Punch and Judy show!

We along with a few other new comers were introduced to all the other music residents in a meeting that began our first Monday here and to be honest it felt a bit strange being back in an institution. So many new people, new place, new everything and all I really wanted to do was get our practice hut! Don’t get me wrong, I know I haven’t come all this way just to shut myself away for 24 hours a day but we have 3 whole weeks to chat to people and by now I was practically bursting to play!

And so we got our Steinberg Duo hut in the woods and I also managed to get a separate hut of my own to finally shut myself away in…. Bliss!

We have signed up to perform in Wednesday’s Mid-Week Medley Concert and we’re also hoping to be selected to play in Friday evening’s recital series in Rolston Hall. Bring it on!


Raring to go!

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

An enforced day off, woo hoo I hear you say but I am gagging to get my skates on and get stuck into some playing! We unfortunately don’t get the key to our hut until tomorrow and so I take my jet-lagged body back to bed in the morning as I try desperately to adjust to the 7 hours I have gained. Feeling very odd, perhaps it’s the altitude and the thin air but I am exhausted and am even nursing what feels like a bad hang over!

Temperatures are dropping this week to -32 which oddly I’m quite intrigued about, so far it’s reached -17 and we have only managed to stay outside for a maximum of about 15 minutes! We took the short 10 minute walk from The Banff Centre through the woods to Downtown Banff. Every single street name is an animal, Caribou, Elk, Moose, Grizzly, Wolverine, they have them all, Squirrel, Beaver!

As we wondered along the main high street, Banff Avenue we stumbled across a lovely family who invited us to join them by the fire, drink some hot tea and try traditional Canadian Bannock, a bread dough cooked like marshmallows on the fire. They told us stories of their ancestors and explained about the traditional clothing and how best to stay warm.

These people were obviously true pros at being outside for so long and although the fire was lovely and warm, we bid our farewells and headed for home.

Tomorrow we begin the immersion into our music making journey here and I am so excited! We have a busy schedule mapped out for the next 3 weeks with concerts to perform, concerts to go and listen to, (including African Guitar playing and a Puppet Show tonight!) notes to learn and we are recording in our final week. We plan to do some exercise every day (we kick started today with a swim, although it nearly killed me!) and we also plan to stay alive, not freeze to death and not get in the way of any crazy Elk who are huge, have big antlers and apparently can be quite unpredictable, eek!

Feeling So Welcome!

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

It is 5:20am and although I realise this is silly o’clock, there is no way I can go back to bed and sleep. A bad combo of jet lag and being like a little girl on Christmas morning desperately wanting to open pressies and being far too excited!

I AM IN BANFF!! There is snow all around me outside and there is a small dusting of what looks like icing sugar being added to the handsome pine trees. I have come down to the communal lounge and before I turned the lamp on I had the pleasure of watching a small deer outside who was having a good munch on a nearby tree, I am actually in heaven!

Yesterday was an extremely long day with the added 7 hours and watching dawn not quite break over and over on the plane was totally fascinating. Being suspended in time got me wondering how much you could do if you could stop time. We had a very smooth journey minus a rather smelly man on the plane who I really wish hadn’t taken his shoes off! The cabin crew gave us impeccable service on our Transat flight and we arrived in good time at The Banff Centre after an entertaining and very informative journey from our bus driver Nicholas who wanted to tell us all about the mountains, lakes and wildlife.

My overwhelming first impression is how wonderfully helpful, friendly and welcoming everyone has been since we got here. I get the feeling that everyone really wants us to get the absolute most from our stay including the full spa and fitness centre which offers yoga, pilates and boot camp classes. The food is superb with massive amounts of choice and the best part about being here is we have so much space to think, work and breath albeit -10 cold air!

Our Welcoming committee at The Banff Centre!

Practise Huts in the woods.

Our very own hut!

Nick outside Steinberg Duo hut.

A resident Professor’s hut.

As far my UC goes I’m down to 15mg Prednisolone and I’m not sure wether it’s the minus temperatures or the steroid side effects but my skin has taken on a whole new level of scaley! Moisturisers are going to have to be my best friend for the next 3 weeks or I fear I might actually disintegrate completely!