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Q&A with TSO Musicians

November 30, 2020

Photos of four TSO musicians, who we interviewed in our Q&A.

We invited some of our Orchestra members to share their perspectives on musician life during this unusual year, and how they have been adapting to new ways of presenting music.


Amalia Joanou-Canzoneri, TSO Violin

A headshot of TSO Violin Amalia Joanou-Canzoneri

What have you been working on at home to keep in "shape" as a musician while you have been unable to rehearse as an ensemble?

Even when musicians are playing together in ensembles, we practise scales and other technical exercises to keep in shape. So I continue to do that as well as playing difficult études, and the Bach sonatas and partitas. Before going to rehearsals, there is much time spent practising at home to prepare the music. Being at a rehearsal is not our practice time.

Are you participating in any new performance initiatives?

Recently, I performed the Haydn String Trio No. 1 in G Major for two violins and viola with my colleagues Wendy Rose and Gary Labovitz. It felt wonderful to play together again. The trio was recorded for the Toronto Star TSO Musical Moments on October 22.

Have there been any “silver linings” to musician life during this time? What are some things you have learned that you’ll be able to apply to your future work?

I’ve learned how much I miss this wonderful life of being a musician. It is part of our soul—to express ourselves through music and to share our passion for music with others!

What would you want TSO supporters to know about how you/the TSO are doing?

I hope our wonderful audiences and supporters know how much we miss them. I look forward to normal times again so that we can be together with our friends and perform in Roy Thomson Hall.

 

Diane Leung, TSO Viola

A headshot of TSO Viola Diane Leung

What music have you been listening to and playing recently? What's been resonating with you?

I have been listening to a lot of Mahler. His works mirror the life we see today, encompassing humanistic qualities with a touch of catastrophe. 

What have you been working on at home to keep in “shape” as a musician while you have been unable to rehearse as an ensemble?  

I am fortunate to be living with a violinist! My husband and I have been able to play duos. I also have a fairly regimented practice schedule, learning pieces that I have not had time to learn previously. My neighbours are being treated to a lot of modern viola repertoire!

What do you miss most about performing live with a full orchestra?

I miss the richness, the complexity, and the large mass of sound enveloping you. This sound cannot be re-created at home, no matter how loud you turn up your stereo. I also miss making eye contact with a colleague during a special phrase and enjoying the moment, which can only be done during a live performance. 

What would you want TSO supporters to know about how you/the TSO are doing?

I think the pandemic is a time where we need the arts more than ever. Some of the greatest artworks were created during times of strife, but, in order to create, we need support. Society needs the vibrancy of the arts, and hopefully we will be able to experience this together through our current initiatives and when we return to the stage. 

 

Theodore Chan, TSO Double Bass

A headshot of TSO Double Bass Theodore Chan

What music have you been listening to and playing recently? What's been resonating with you?

Honestly, when I heard the May release of our Thaïs recording, I couldn’t listen to the whole thing. Hearing the Orchestra was too emotional, like hearing the voice of a long-lost friend. The opening-night concert of Daphnis et Chloé reminded me of the joy of earlier times and made me yearn for a return to normal. Other than that, it is a lot of children’s songs at home with baby Harvey, our five-month-old.

What have you been working on at home to keep in “shape” as a musician while you have been unable to rehearse as an ensemble?  

With bass in particular, the instrument is so physically demanding that, for many beginners, it takes all of one’s strength to even depress the string. If this is never addressed, it can mean one is using more muscle engagement than is necessary. I’ve been working around the idea of minimizing one’s effort but maximizing one’s results. This allows a player to be most in tune with the instrument. Many people think that playing is “doing”—try harder, press harder, etc. In reality, the fingers and hands are like antennae, and all take in vital information about the sound one is creating.

Are you participating in any new performance initiatives? 

It’s been enjoyable working on a duet for the TSO Education department. I’ve also been working on an arrangement of Brahms’s Lullaby to perform with Audrey [TSO Second Horn and Theodore’s wife] for a Toronto Star TSO Musical Moment. 

Have there been any “silver linings” to musician life during this time? What are some things you have learned that you’ll be able to apply to your future work?

This has given me a lot of time to work on myself as a musician and also start on my new hobby, making bows for double basses! To date, I have completed four bows. Learn more at chanbows.com.

 

James Spragg, TSO Trumpet 

A headshot of TSO Trumpet James Spragg.

What do you miss most about performing live with a full orchestra?

I realize walking to Roy Thomson Hall and through the backstage every day is an experience few people know. The high level of camaraderie generated by greeting musicians engaged in their personal daily warm-up is indeed one of a kind. The same camaraderie and connection on stage is intense and unparalleled, and hugely missed.

Are you participating in any new performance initiatives?

I happen to live next door to the Principal Horn of the National Ballet Orchestra, Jessie Brooks. From April through to late July, Jessie and I played, weekly, on the street corner. Cars honked, just like at our recent shows at CityView Drive-In. I’ll take any applause I can get! I blush to confess that the thought of being on stage at the Drive-In is very new—but welcomed by this performer.

Have there been any “silver linings” to musician life during this time? What are some things you have learned that you’ll be able to apply to your future work?

I confess to enjoying the new skills I am studying in computer science, Zoom meetings, Skype virtual workouts, and the occasional “virtual lesson.” Recordings are so important to life during these times.

Please share any personal messages of gratitude for our TSO supporters.

The new TSO initiatives to reconnect and remain connected to our entire arts community, are imaginative, forward thinking, daring, and only accomplished by our solid base of audience and our industry’s greatest group of volunteers, the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee—a standing ovation to them! Thank you all for standing by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in these unusual times.

 


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