By Ruth Denton, oboe and box office staff
The Tafelmusik Winter Institute, affectionately called TWI (pronounced Tee-Wee, rhymes with kiwi), is a week-long intensive study program for experienced period musicians. This year we will be focussing on music performed in France during the baroque era.
Musicians come from all over the world
TWI typically hosts young professional musicians from Canada and our neighbours in the US, but has also included students from France, South America, and even Australia! These musicians are attracted by the international reputation Tafelmusik has gained for their expertise in Historically Informed Performance* and their dynamic performances.
*Historically Informed Performance (HIP)
Historically Informed Performance is a practice and an approach to music that involves studying the manner and style of the era in which a work was originally conceived.
HIP can be compared to making an old bread recipe written in the seventeenth century. You research what ingredients and tools were used and do your best to find or reproduce them. You read historical books on bread-making, trying to uncover tips and tricks. This helps you interpret the scripted recipe. Finally you try it out. At TWI we have the opportunity to learn from people who have devoted their careers to the musical equivalent of historical bread-making. They not only share their expertise, but help guide us in our own research and explorations.
Because this is a French TWI, we have the luxury of countless treatises – the French loved to write these musical equivalents of cookbooks. Some treatises even include a legend to the markings in their scores; a literal guide on how to play their music.
We also have a chance to look at the early editions and manuscript copies of the scores of the music we are playing, and to discuss how to use these sources to create performing editions. The editions we are using at TWI were prepared by Tafelmusik librarian and keyboardist, Charlotte Nediger.
Jeanne Lamon directs the orchestra from her violin in many hours of orchestral rehearsal, but also holds an expectation of leadership from the concertmaster and other section leaders in the orchestra. Tafelmusik mentors from each section of the orchestra spend time coaching sectionals, teaching masterclasses, offering fellowship, and a listening ear to any curious questions participants may have.
TWI-Tip: (I have learned) most questions are best received and answered when accompanied with a beverage …
Music now, questions later
Over the six days before the concert, we have 27.5 hours devoted to orchestral rehearsal. In rehearsal breaks we commune over cups of tea and snacks in the Tafelmusik office. The time between rehearsals is short, but gives us time to bond with fellow participants and to practise. The TWI schedule also includes an open discussion about careers and performing, pub nights, and a seminar focussed on French performance practice (*HIP in baroque France).
Bring your dancing shoes!
During the week we will be (re-)introduced to the world of baroque dance by Jeannette Lajeunesse-Zingg, Co-Artistic Director and Choreographer of Opera Atelier. Participants: expect to be humbled, and/or amazed by your colleagues’ ability (or lack thereof) to remember dance steps and gracefully accomplish the minuet.
What happens in masterclass
Masterclasses offer participants the opportunity for individual performance and teaching. Each instrument has its own classes, and each participant has chosen a French solo sonata or suite to play for their colleagues, and to work on in detail with their class teacher. I am preparing a suite from Les goûts-réunis by François Couperin. I am especially glad to play another suite written for two oboes by Pierre Danican Philidor, oboist & great-great-nephew of the Philidor who designed the baroque oboe with Hotteterre.
The Dream Team
TWI is largely managed by the dream team: Charlotte Nediger, Caitlin Cross, and Mara Brown. These three have put countless hours into planning and thinking through logistics of this annual event, and that reflects in the many participants (like me, third time’s the charm!) who return or (I would highly) recommend the program to their colleagues.
As a lucky member of the Tafelmusik staff team, I cannot express what it means to me to be a member of the Tafel-family. My experience as a young artist and new Torontonian has been shaped by the attitude, mentoring, and example of the individuals in the orchestra, choir, and staff. These amazing people live and work for others, and sometimes short of a miracle, that teamwork (and some stubbornness) has been the cause of many enriching and successful events. I am particularly grateful knowing they will be the ones working behind the scenes to make TWI 2018 another one of those successes.
Lully, Rebel, Campra, Rameau, and more!
All the hard work and preparation finally culminates in a Pay-What-You-Can public performance on Wednesday January 10, 2018 at 7:30PM in Jeanne Lamon Hall. Including operatic music by Louis XIV’s composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, the king of French opera (doomed to die by his own baton); Lully’s student Jean-Féry Rebel; André Campra, who followed Lully’s footsteps writing tragédies en musique and opéra-ballets; and lastly the dramatic composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. This is the real test: come and taste what we’ve been cooking!