8 years ago

Volume 6 Issue 1 - September 2000

  • Text
  • September
  • Toronto
  • October
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Choir
  • Concerts
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  • Wholenote

Me: Music wasn't your

Me: Music wasn't your first 'choice? Alan shrugs, a man whose destiny found him: Mike Colvin, the tenor, he's a nice person, studied immunology, he was in the same class with the guy who found the gene for cystic fibrosis. What can you do? I turn to practical matters: Does stuff ever fall into the pit? Alan thinks about it: Not here, but in Ottawa we had stuff fall. An apprentice stage manager fell right on top of a kid from Calgary and his cello. The National Art Centre's big curtain, it's like strips of saran wrap. There was a plywood strip on the edge of the stage with some microphones on it. We were doing La Belle Helene, the overture - boppity-boppity bop, light stuff. Well, when the curtain went up, so did the plywood and the microphones. The way the curtain works at the NAC, it has to be raised completely before it can be lowered, so it just kept raining microphones and pieces of plywood into the pit. But the show must go on. Me: Do you ever go to the opera just to see the show? Alan is amused: I've never been in the lobby in my entire life, I wouldn't know where to go in. Me: You are principal double bass, what does that mean? POSTSCRIPT: It's a ball The Women's Committee of the Canadian Opera Company is an organization consisting of 260 women dedicated to supporting the opera company and also young singers. It is particularly in the public eye in September because the annual opera ball, one of the Committee's primary fund-raising activities will take place on September 16 at the Sheraton Centre Hotel. The theme of this year's ball is "Dream great dreams'', referring to the dream of an opera house in Toronto. "Dream great dreams" might well be the motto of the Women's Committee. Founded in 1947 by a group of Toronto women that included the late Jean Chalmers, it has succeeded in raising over four million dollars over the course of its existence. While much of that money has gone to support the Canadian Opera Company, including 0,000 raised in 1975 Alan laughs: When I got my first principal job, I wrote to my old teacher who was principal in Philadelphia and asked him the same question. He told me to try not to get in anyone's way (sometimes it happens). In 30-something years I've never gone wrong with his advice. But no, it does mean something. I try to lead by example. If I want them to play soft, I play soft, so they know what's on my mind. At every instant in time you have to make a choice - when, how loud, and included in that is my choice to not be the first one in, to not be heard above my colleagues. It's a personal choice to play softer than someone else, to make a space for something to happen. Me: Do you do bow markings for the scores? Alan laughs: I try to do that so violinists and cellists and conductors don't! But the audience isn't at the opera to see what direction my how's going. Bowing is less of a problem, the hell in the bass section is the pizzicato. Me: Why, is pizzicato more difficult on a bass? Alan explains: No, but any note you play, you can bring all your life's musical experience to that one note. And sometimes you don't have the same musical experience as the guy next to you. With arias, there's a lot of empty space and a lot of bad hand-waving and to rescue the company from the brink of bankruptcy. It also gives twenty scholarships a year to the Opera School at the Faculty of Music at U ofT and administers the ,000 Jean Chalmers scholarship, seven of which have been awarded to outstanding young Canadian singers, including Ben Heppner, Anita Krause and Karina Gauvin. Where does this money come from? The answer is simple. It is earned. The organization and administration of the Opera Ball, a very big job, is all done by the volunteer labour of the committee members. The Committee has two other main fund-raising activities, the Opera Boutique and the art show/sale, both at the Hummingbird Centre. Both of these require plenty of members' time and expertise. The Committee members are now mostly working profes- 38 Wholenote SEPTEMBER 1, 2000 - OCTOBER 7, 2000 one note. The hell for me is that I put everything into that one note. You have to listen. There's a place for every note - like that piano, there's a place for it, not out on the porch, but there's room for it. As principal bass, I do certain things and for me they are very important. The audience can't see it and perhaps the conductor can't see it, but if you did the really, really wrong thing, everyone would see it. Me: You don't mind that nobody ever sees you? Alan assures me: People go to great lengths not to be seen. At La Scala there are great musicians, they go out on the street, no one recognizes them. I'm not offended. Besides, watching us is like watching somebody work on your car; interesting for a few minutes, but you just want to pick it up when it's ready. I remind him: Maestro Bradshaw had the orchestra come on stage to take a bow after Pelleas et Melisande. Alan ruffles at the memory: And what did they see? A bunch of people in black shirts, that's not opera! May I say something to your readers? Me: Certainly. Alan squares himself, as if looking into a TV camera: You haven't come to the opera to see the orchestra. And we're not offended. We LIKE it that way. • 1999's ball, at the Royal York: PHOTO CQWC sional women, often assisted by their husbands. Membership usually is by sponsorship by a member but anyone interested in contributing her time, energy and talent to the Women's Committee and who does not have a friend who is a member should phone the Canadian Opera Company number to enquire about membership. Margo Hunt

WWW re.c SEPTEMBER 1, 2000 - OCTOBER 7, 2000 Wholenote 39

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