Our musicians usually spend their summers on the road, performing at festivals and teaching at workshops. This year, many will have some unexpected time on their hands as events are cancelled and travel is restricted. For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing posts from our musicians about how they plan to spend their time this summer — from community outdoor concerts, to epic bike rides — in our ‘Summer Series.’ We begin with Concertmaster Diana Cohen and will add a new entry every week or so — check back regularly or follow our social channels for real-time updates.
Greetings from Norway! It has been a very strange period for all of us. I haven’t been able to conduct since our last concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. The only positive side of this period is that I was able to spend a lot of time with my family. We have done a lot of hiking and fishing in beautiful places in Norway. I have also used the time to practise and to ride my motorbike in the mountains. Even though it has been a wonderful time with my family, I really miss Calgary, the Orchestra, and our amazing audience. I hope the situation improves soon so we can all be together again.
Quarantine has actually been a busy time and I continue to have several activities on the go this summer.
Family adventures and visiting the Rockies — hiking in Lake Louise (Lake Moraine is on our to do list) and visiting Canmore.
I launched a new website (alexoboeklein.com) and the Calgary Philharmonic is, of course, prominently featured.
I dusted off most of the ‘other’ oboes in my arsenal, including the bass oboe, baroque oboe, classical oboe, and the tiny musette (piccolo oboe).
I took my 19th century oboe apart, polished all the keys, replaced pads, oiled the wood and continue to make improvements, hoping to play it onstage again soon.
I’m launching a publishing service, writing etude books for oboe, and promoting works by composers who write music for me. I’ll also launch a series of live recordings on YouTube and Vimeo showcasing the works I’m publishing.
I’m also learning cello together with my daughter, who started studying with local cello greats John Kadz and Johanne Perron just as quarantine began. This also means that we have the pleasure of listening to Calgary Phil’s amazing Principal Cello Arnold Choi every day at our home, because he is the one who recorded the cellos songs for the Royal Conservatory books!
When the pandemic hit the world and the Calgary Philharmonic had to stop performing starting 12 March, my husband and I found ourselves busy adjusting to this unprecedented situation. All schooling and music teaching went online, so we had to experiment with new technology and adapt it for our daily use. Our whole household turned into a musical beehive when everyone (our three children are also in music!) was either practising, teaching online, homeschooling, or making recordings. It took an enormous amount of energy and emotion for us to stay productive, creative, and most importantly, optimistic.
By mid-June, we were very much looking forward to our annual summer break, which is a special time for our family. This season always brings us closer together, helps us recover from the eventful year, and inspires us through our close connection with nature and exploring new places outside of the city.
I would like to share a video that I recorded with my husband, pianist Dmitry Nesterov, during the early months of the pandemic, as well as a few photos from our family’s outdoor adventures.
New Music Advisor
Being a composer, I normally work at home in my studio, so my routine during this period is not really any different from before. That being said, I’ve been keeping myself busy with many exciting events and projects.
Earlier this year, my composition titled Kickin’ It 2.0 (violin, cello, piano, and drum kit) was nominated for a Juno Award in the category of Classical Composition of the Year. The original event was cancelled due to the pandemic and was rescheduled as an online event on 29 June. It was an honour to be nominated and I was happy to be part of it. The winner was a wonderful work by my friend and colleague Ana Sokolovic, Evta.
During that same month, I collaborated with Land’s End Ensemble and filmmaker Emil Agopian to create a full-length music video to my piece Kickin’ It 2.0. The final product turned out very well and was released just in time for the Juno Awards online event. Watch it here.
In July, Toronto-based cello duo VC2 (Amahl Arulanandam and Bryan Holt) and Montreal drummer Ben Reimer made a quarantine video of a work I wrote for them last season titled Heist 2. Given the circumstances of social distancing and the limitations they were working with, I was pleased with how they were able to pull this off. Watch it here.
With composition-related projects, there are two I was happy to complete during this period. The first one is my large-scale work The Water Dragon, a concerto for zhongruan and Chinese orchestra (made up of traditional Chinese instruments). This was commissioned by the Taipei Chinese Orchestra last year and was scheduled to be premiered this coming fall. For a while there, nobody knew if they would be able to present the work due to Taipei’s quarantine lockdown. Fortunately, Taiwan was able to flatten the COVID-19 curve and all cultural activities in the country have begun to return (though with several new safety regulations). The premiere is set for 28 November 2020. Here are some images of the score:
I also completed a set of short pieces for the Proteus Saxophone Quartet. The title is Whimsical Sketches of Fanciful Birds, Book IV and consists of five movements, each one inspired by the collective nouns of five species of birds:
I. A Murder of Crows
II. A Murmuration of Starlings
III. A Charm of Goldfinches
IV. A Parliament of Owls
V. An Ostentation of Peacocks
Here are images of the first pages to each movement:
Aside from those projects, I was able to catch up on some reading, watch a number of TV shows and movies, and had time to learn how to skateboard.
This is my first summer in Calgary, and you can be sure I’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather. I’ve been biking a lot recently and have been riding up and down the Bow River. Every time I ride I venture further and further. Just last week I rode 40 km (25 miles) in under two hours! A huge accomplishment for me. I’ve also been hiking with friends in Kananaskis, Canmore, and Banff. How lucky are we to live so close to the Canadian Rockies?
I am somewhat infamous amongst my colleagues as the furious, addicted, non-stop knitter. I always have my knitting with me — whether it’s a concert, rehearsal, outreach program, opera… you’ll find me knitting at intermission or breaks, no doubt! I’ve only been knitting for about three years, but it has quickly become a new love and passion of mine. I primarily knit sweaters for myself. The designs I choose are “colourwork yoke sweaters” inspired by the customs of Shetland, an island north of Scotland famous for its Fair Isle tradition.
Needless to say, I’ve been knitting like a fiend for the past few months. The warm weather doesn’t stop me from knitting wool sweaters in preparation for winter — I have to knit them now or else the winter will come in September and it will be too late. I’ll leave you with a funny anecdote about my knitting. My mother once said to me, “Max, you never stop knitting!” and I replied, “Well mom, the sweater isn’t going to knit itself!”
Please enjoy a few photos of my hiking adventures and knitting projects.
These last few months have certainly been quite weird. I don’t remember the last time I had this much time in between performances and being onstage. Since the middle of March, I have spent over 100 hours on my horse, Taima, getting her ready for a packtrip we are doing at the end of August. We’ll go from the property, Moose Mountain Horseback Adventures, west into the foothills, and then over Forgetmenot Ridge, to spend three days in the Elbow Valley, and then come home! I can’t wait to spend quality time with my girl, and the great friends who booked this trip with me. I’ve done bits and pieces of this five-day trip, but never all at once. If you’re looking to try something new and are interested in horseback riding, www.packtrips.ca does everything from 1.5-hour rides, to full-day, to multi-day trips. The picture of me with Taima is from one of the many lookouts on their property that have a view of the mountains!
In addition to riding at the ranch and having great friends associated with horses, some of them are also fantastic advocates for the arts. As a result, I put together a string quartet and organized concerts at the ranch and in a friend’s backyard in Bragg Creek. It’s been really fun playing with colleagues again and making music.
I’ve also been able to get out backpacking three times so far this summer, with a couple more trips in the works. Last week, I was fortunate enough to spend six days exploring from Sunshine Village to Mount Shark, with the purpose of the trip being time spent around Mount Assiniboine. Over the five nights, we stayed in four campgrounds, and covered over 70kms! It was my first all gals backpacking trip, and we are already planning the next one. Abbey, Heather, Sarah, and I got along so well, and I know this is the type of friendship that will stand the test of time. The pictures I have included are the morning reflection of Mount Assiniboine in Og Lake, hiking from Og to Magog, and the four backpacking gals!
During the summer I love spending time outside — whether it’s running, biking, or hiking. I always feel relieved to finally be getting big doses of Vitamin D and have prime summer conditions for exercising. In addition, I also love to celebrate a big hike or ride with something sweet, sometimes it’s doughnuts and more recently I’ve been making cakes!
Since the Calgary Phil’s season came to an early end, I have started doing a lot more cooking and baking. In the process, I decided to make my all-time favourite cake for the first time ever: Black Forest cake. My mom is an amazing baker and would make each family member the cake of their choice on their birthday. As a kid, I had many different requests for her, including a castle cake, lemon meringue pie, and a money cake. Pretty soon though I decided that Black Forest cake (a chocolate cake with cherry and whipped cream filling) would be my go-to request for the rest of eternity.
Pictured below is the final product, baked for a friend’s birthday — and I was so excited about it that I made one for her and also one for myself! If anyone has any special family dessert recipes or suggestions of their favourite homemade treat, please pass them along. The summer is just starting and I’d love to try out some more!
In high school I developed an interest in woodworking and was fortunate enough to have access to my grandfather’s workshop, where I could experiment with designing and building furniture. I was absent from the hobby for a handful of years, until I moved into a house in Calgary with an unfinished basement where I could set up my own work space. Since the shutdown of the Calgary Phil season, I’ve tackled a number of projects I’ve been wanting to build for some time — and this summer I’m planning on spending many more hours making sawdust (and hopefully some beautiful pieces of furniture!).
Here’s a photo of my favourite hand plane, previously used by my grandfather, and some shots of a kitchen shelf I recently designed and built.
Note: I primarily use hand tools; no electric table saws or jointers for me, so don’t worry about any finger-related accidents that would require the Calgary Phil to search for a new Principal Bassist… yikes!
During the summer months I have a great time doing rides like this epic trip to the Highwood Pass in Kananaskis — it was a tough ride 30k uphill. It’s so great to have friends like Bev Goble who push me to do adventurous trips that I never would have dreamed of a few years ago. We’ve done some amazing rides together such as through the Moroccan dessert, the rolling hills of Idaho, and many treks through Jasper and Banff.
My husband and I always look forward to the summers when we generally travel all over the world together to perform at music festivals. Music is an important part of our relationship and we love to share it with each other and with those around us. When it became clear that this summer season of music festivals was going to be cancelled, we tried to think of ways we could share music with our immediate community. One day in May, we bought a chalkboard and posted a sign outside our house that announced we’d play a free concert in our front yard for our community at noon on Sunday. When Sunday came, to our surprise, we had a full “house” of neighbours and music lovers, waiting to take in a program of all Bach.
Since that Sunday, we’ve committed to playing at least one concert a week. For us, these concerts have been a true silver lining. Although we’re missing dearly some of the concerts we were going to play this summer, and friends we were going to be able to see as a result, we’ve gotten to know our own community and neighbours in a far deeper way than we’ve ever had the chance to before. We’ve made new close friends and are thrilled to know that there are tons of music lovers on our own block, or in some cases, people who are now music lovers and never before knew that they were.
This project has been incredibly gratifying, both on a personal and musical level, and it has reinforced our belief that human connection through music is most powerful.
To be added to our mailing list for our weekly concerts at our front yard OR to book a private concert in your garden, email us at [email protected].