Thursday, July 20, 2017

Creating New Challenges

Digital Harpsichord 2

Is it the fact that I am getting older, having recently retired or just that I always like to learn - this year has been a year to create new challenges. This digital harpsichord arrived last Thursday. I had my first lesson on Friday. I played the piano for about five years long ago and there still seems to be some muscle memory in my fingers, though I have a very long way to go. One advantage of this instrument is that I can plug in a headset and practice without annoying anyone.

Another challenge I have taken on is an attempt to learn Spanish. I am in no hurry - but do about 5 - 10 minutes practise every day with Duolingo. It is enough to make me able to have simple conversations with someone who works at the gym where I go. But she obligingly speaks slowly. Most Spanish speakers I have heard speak at quite a clip!

And my third challenge. For the first time in my life I am running. My brother and I will be doing a 5K in a few weeks. I plan to walk and run - and am only racing against myself. That way I will do well ;-) - beating my non-existent record so far. Whatever time I run it will be my best.

Am I run away from aging or running towards aging well?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In the Laurentians

By Lake MacDonald

Every summer I spend a week at CAMMAC, a music camp in the Laurentians. While most years I post photos of all the activities, this year I decided to just post photos of the many moments of peace that being in nature provides.


The daily schedule is quite hectic with classes, practice time, concerts ... so it is important to steal moments of tranquility, like this moment at twilight when the moon could be seen overhead.


This bell has been a fixture at the camp. It is rung to call the participants to concerts and other events.


Many swimmers take advantage of the lake - some even doing a cross lake swim at 6:30 in the morning. With all the rain we have had the water is very high and the small beach is non-existent.

Bursting Out

Wildflowers abound along the road. I like to walk up the road to get a little quiet away from the bustle of the camp. You can always hear sound during the day on the campsite as people spend time practising for the following day.


This dragonfly also took a moment to relax.

Grass Stalk

Walking an focusing - a form of meditation. Taking time to notice the details around us.

Morning Sun on the Water

Early morning sun reflects on the lake. There is something about being by the water that is calming.

And More Rain

Even rain can bring moments of contemplation. The sound, the feeling that being quietly indoors is enough.

Viola da Gamba

Music was never far from the many moments of the day. Music, too, has its way of replenishing the soul.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fifteenth Montreal Baroque Festival


Festival Montréal Baroque: June 22 - 25

A highlight of my year is always the Festival Montréal Baroque - a four day early music festival full of magnificent works, humour, new discoveries, friendship and surprises. This year's theme was the circus and it started with sheer delight - a parade through part of Old Montreal to the venue of the first concert: Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours. It was led by La Carmagnole, a circus band playing mainly Klezmer music and dressed as ravens. A raven "couple" danced along while two stilt walkers juggled and danced with people in the crowd.

Fanfare La Carmagnole

It was extraordinary to watch the ravens dance - the female raven was a puppet, but behaved perfectly raven-like.

Raven in a Tuba

This raucous band was followed by a more serious concert: Monteverdi's Vespers led by Matthias Maute, one of the co-directors of the festival. Absolutely splendid.

Celebrating Fifteen Years

Susie Napper, the founder of the festival has to be one of the most creative programmers. Relying heavily on local talent (Montreal has a large number of early music groups and performers) with a few people from outside she (and now along with Matthias) puts together an incredible array of concerts - about 15 over the course of the four days. There are also outdoor concerts, lectures, an exhibit area for instrument makers and other music related vendors... In addition she arranges with a local cafe to host the young musicians who play while festival performers and attendees can enjoy a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.

Soprano Recorder Poking Through

One concert featured some of the younger groups each along with a circus performer. All was choreographed - good music but also great fun and quite a spectacle as acrobats, a woman on silks, a man on a loose wire, a clown, each in turn amazed the audience.

This concert was dedicated to the memory of Nicolas Fortin, who died far too young. He had been the director of operations.

Jamais je ne t'oublierai

In addition to great music, it is always interesting to see the venues Susie discovers for the concerts. This year concerts were held in the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, the crypt of the church, a couple of halls at UQAM (Université de Québec à Montréal), the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Musée d'art contemporain and at Notman House (former home of the Montreal photographer, William Notman).

Fortepiano Recital

This year included a keyboard festival - three concerts dedicated to early keyboard - harpsichord, clavichord and fortepiano. I heard this young musician who is studying in Amsterdam both in solo performance on clavichord and fortepiano and with his "page turner" who is actually a cellist.

Fanfare La Carmagnole

From a moving concert by Red Owl to an opera that Bach might have written had he followed the route of Handel instead of being a church composer, the festival touches on every human emotion and always ends with a sense of joy.

Thank you, as always, Susie - and also to Matthias for a memorable few days.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ottawa for a Few Days

Maple Leaf

We were in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. Everything is decked out for Canada Day - this year celebrating 150 years since Confederation. After the study groups I have participated in lately, one about the residential schools and another on indigenous art, I have mixed feelings about the celebrations. While on the one hand I love to live in Canada and feel good about so much of the values of the country, I am also aware of the terrible things that the indigenous people have endured and continue to endure. There is much to reconcile and to fix so we can move on.

Beyond the Windows

We spent time in the National Art Gallery. The exhibit space has been completely rearranged with aboriginal art sharing the same space as the art of those who came to live here. The exhibit space is divided by art until 1967 and art from 1968 to the present. It acknowledges that the creations by the people who lived here first is art not artifact.

Rusted Love Locks

On the walking bridge over the canal people have placed "love locks". So many now are rusty and I wondered if the relationships have also become rusty - as the elements of life took the shine off the hopes and dreams.

Love Locks

If you were looking for a symbol of your love, would you find a lock called Master Ex? It seems doomed for failure. This may be an ex-relationship long before the rust sets in.


Inukshuit were created by the Inuit as markers, often placed on higher ground so people in boats could use them for navigation. Now you can find many versions of inukshuit all across Canada. Near Remic Rapids there are several small inukshuks - a little more open than those normally built for practical purposes.

Duck Family

We weren't the only ones enjoying the park. Ducks, a large number of Canada geese and many other people were taking advantage of the weather. It has been a very rainy season, so clear days (or clear parts of a day) bring everyone outside.

Reflections on the End of the Day

I think cities built near water are so much more picturesque. There is something wonderful about being able to watch water, to see reflections that just calms the soul.