Keiran Campbell (centre back) with the cello class of TWI 2017 and cello faculty Christina Mahler.
By Keiran Campbell, cellist
When I attended the Tafelmusik Winter Institute (TWI) in January 2017, I had never visited Toronto or anywhere else in Canada before. All I really knew about Canada at that point was that January in Toronto would be very cold, and that Canadians are extremely kind. Upon arriving, I immediately found both to be true— Toronto was experiencing an unusually frigid, snowy, and gusty week, and after a conversation with a teller at a bank (it turned out I was at the wrong branch), I wound up receiving a very warm hug as I left. I had been living in Manhattan for six years at this point, and although the myth that New Yorkers are cold and unkind is absolutely untrue, I can confidently say that no one at my local Wells Fargo branch has ever given me a hug.
I soon discovered that I had been assigned to a billet host family that lived in a beautiful brownstone in The Annex. The neighbourhood was extremely lovely and also conveniently close to Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, which is where all rehearsals and the final concert were to take place. As we gathered and sat down for the first rehearsal, I was a bit nervous since I didn’t know many of the other students, but this apprehension disappeared as soon as we started to play. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but there was a certain joy, spontaneity, and freshness to the playing, even though most of us had never performed together before. The level of the players was very good, and the rehearsals were expertly lead by members of Tafelmusik. Asking questions and trying different approaches were greatly encouraged, and the overall feeling of the first rehearsal was unpretentious, stimulating, and exciting.
Most of us would go out to eat together in between rehearsals, and then we would meet again for dinner once the playing-packed days were done. In many ways I found this to be equally important; I was currently in my second year of a masters in Historical Performance at Juilliard and had never attended other early music festivals before, so the circle of baroque musicians that I knew was fairly limited to New York. Here, I met people from all over Canada, the US, and Europe, and we exchanged all sorts of ideas and experiences. Later on, many of the people I met at TWI ended up playing on concert projects that I was involved in the U.S.
The participants of the 2017 Tafelmusik Winter Institute on stage in Jeanne Lamon Hall.
My favourite part of the whole festival was the cello class. Each day, Christina Mahler (former member of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra) would cover all sorts of musical topics, teach us stretches to avoid injuries, and coach us on our solo repertoire. Each one of us brought different strengths in our playing, and this was extremely useful to learn from. What really struck me is how curious Christina was to find out how each student approached playing the cello—she asked specific questions about what we were looking for, both technically and musically, in the pieces that each of us were working on. Many musicians have experienced the style of teaching where the professor makes it very clear that you are the student and they are there to show you the way they personally approach music. However, the message given throughout the whole cello class was that great teaching really requires figuring out what the student is looking for and what works best for them, rather than only what works for the teacher. Christina also stressed that each one of us can learn something from one another, no matter our level or approach. This is something that has stuck with me still, and I find that it also applies to so many other things in life.
At the end of the festival before the final concert, we were all invited to a brunch where many musicians from Tafelmusik were present to answer any questions we might have about the field of Historical Performance. Unsurprisingly, one of the more common questions was, “how do we find a job?” which was something that all of us in the room found very relatable. This question and many other were answered thoroughly by the Tafelmusik musicians, and we left the brunch with perhaps a little more hope that we might find our own ways.
Get to know the newest member of Tafelmusik, cellist Keiran Campbell.