naxos recording project

Well, it’s finally that time. After months of building up towards this recording of Lawrence Dillon’s music, I find myself on a plane to Toronto with a mission – to RECORD SOMETHING THAT WILL FOLLOW YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE….no pressure. Seriously, though, I plan on enjoying myself as much as possible.

After a day of wandering around Toronto on my own, I settled into the Residence Inn across from the CBC studio building where I am to record tomorrow with David Fung, my pianist. Really nice hotel – like a cute little apartment. David and I immediately notice the jacuzzi, which we will definitely take advantage of later. Especially since it is 28 degrees below zero outside!!

Day 1:Toronto, Ontario. Glenn Gould Studio.

On our first day, we tackled the piano sonata. We spent 1 hour on the 2nd movement, 2 hours on the first movement, and another hour on the Marimba/Violin piece, which Stan Muncy flew out just for one day to record! Our recording engineer, Norbert Kraft, was absolutely amazing. A classical guitarist himself, he really has an impeccable ear for fine details. By the way, I was reminded very quickly that live performance and edited recordings are two completely different animals. More on that later…

David and I celebrated our first day of recording with a nice (aka $$$$) dinner at the top of the CN tower at the rotating restaurant. We looked over the entire city of Toronto, lit up beautifully after dark. We could also see Lake Ontario, almost completely frozen over. After I got back to the hotel, I crashed into bed and was happy to receive an email from the composer, Lawrence Dillon, asking how our “marathon” of a day went. Wish he could have been there…I think he would have been very pleased with our work. Tomorrow’s main business will be the third movement of the sonata.

Norbert Kraft, David Fung

Norbert Kraft, David Fung

Day 2: Toronto, Ontario Glenn Gould Studio.

As promised, we started with the last movement of the sonata. Phew! David and I were jumping with glee (literally) when we could put this behind us. It is so difficult to get together at the level of a recording. David’s virtuoso chops made it a spectacular success. Then it was onto the Voice. This piece is hauntingly simple in concept – the violin just floats over the constant murmuring of the piano – but the rhythmic precision beneath it all is deceiving. Lawrence arranged this just for me – originally it is for soprano.

After this, we took a shot at Facade – one of my personal favorites. This was surprisingly difficult to record, even though I’ve performed it several times in a formal concert setting. Norbert made a great point that sometimes it’s more difficult to record something you’ve performed live than it is to record something you’ve learned specifically to record. I hope that made sense. Basically, there are different objectives when you are in the studio than when you are on stage . Mainly, to play cleanly, beautifully, and, sometimes unfortunately, as perfectly as (humanly?) possible.

Day 3: Newmarket, Ontario. St. John’s Church.

I decided to be adventurous today and take the bus, rather than a taxi, to transplant myself from Toronto to our new destination, Newmarket. It was surprisingly easy, considering I am a Los Angeles girl who can count how many times I’ve taken public transportation on one, maybe two, hands.

Juan-Miguel Hernandez arrived today from Alabama to record the viola and violin duet tonight with me. He’ll be flying to New Jersey at 6 in the morning…poor guy (because of the earliness, not because of New Jersey). Despite his lack of sleep and jetlag, Miguel was totally pumped for this experience. Bacchus Chaconne is a really kick -%#$ rock and roll style piece for virtuoso violin and viola. Like most of the recording sessions so far, we started out a little shaky. An hour into it, we were dancing around like Bono.

After we finished Bacchus, Miguel whipped out his kazoo..yes, kazoo…and played one of the 15 short pieces I am recording tomorrow for solo violin. We needed to play it in unison and I only had Miguel for the one day so it was now or never. It’s a short movement called “Dissonance” – I’ll leave it at that for now – you can be surprised later when you hear it on the cd. All I will say is that it is like nothing you’ve ever heard before.

Look how fast Miguel and I play in Bacchus Chaconne!

Look how fast Miguel and I play in Bacchus Chaconne!

Day 4: Newmarket, Ontario. St. John’s Church.

I can’t believe today was the final day of recording. This week has felt like a year…mostly because I’ve learned so much and played this music over and over and over …. When I say I’ve learned a lot, that’s a major understatement. I feel like every young musician should have this experience of recording in a high pressure situation, under the gun, so to speak. The kind of mental concentration it takes is like none other.

Norbert Kraft, the recording engineer, was really a huge part of this process – over the last week I have grown aware of my playing in a much deeper, more thorough way and I give him a lot of the credit. He had never heard this music before, yet he was so quick to take it all in and immediately begin to pick it apart in a musical and extremely technical way… while still being one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Must be a Canadian thing?

Today’s recording was done in a new venue, St. John’s Church, in Newmarket, an hour’s bus ride from Toronto. Both the town and the venue itself were complete polar opposite of where I had just come from. No offense to Newmarket, but it seemed like the greatest attraction of the town was the mall. And this criticism is from a die-hard shopper, mind you. Toronto is a much richer city, culturally, at least in the short time I spent in these two places. The church in Newmarket, however, was rich in sound – a total delight to play in. The Glenn Gould Studio, comparatively, was a bit dry and sterile, but with a unique clarity. (Norbert will fix that on the recording, of course!)

With Fifteen Minutes and Mister Blister recorded now, I am all done! Lawrence will be proud, but he’ll have to wait – it may be months until we even hear an edited version….

Day After:

What a great day to end an incredible trip. I decided late last night that this morning I would get up early and have an adventure – it only seemed suitable for the week I’ve had. So, I rented a car for the first time ever on my own, and set off towards Niagara Falls! Just my luck that right as I got to the grand viewpoint at the edge of the massive waterfalls, my poor camera died. Now nobody will believe I ever actually went there…. Kidding, I hope.
P.S. There is a bizarre little town surrounding the Falls like nothing I’ve ever seen – it was like smooshing all that is tacky and crazy about Hollywood Blvd. into a one block radius – Haunted Dungeons, Ripleys believe-or-not, huge dinosaur necks jutting out of buildings. Weird…I loved it.
After that is was back up the road to the cutest little town called Niagara-on-the-Lake. I stopped for a quick lunch at a cute gourmet cafeteria-style place called Epicurean and then it was onto the Wineries. Niagara is famous for it’s Ice Wines (pricey little gifts) but I had to grab a couple since I was there.
As I sit here on the plane ready to fly back to L.A., I am already planning future trips back to Canada.


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