And then it was Thursday...

I knew this week would go quickly but I didn’t realize just how drained I’d feel by the time it was done - and we’re not quite done yet. It’s my third time subbing with NACO and it’s always been an inspiring thrill. This week’s program is straightforward: Beethoven’s 'Emperor' Piano Concerto with Emanuel Ax, and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. Including a fair bit of (very well-executed) spoken program notes by the conductor, and a beautiful encore by Ax to close the first half, the night runs about 2:15 start to finish. Two great works, in one the soloist does most of the heavy lifting... in the other, there’s a ton of ridiculous concertmaster solo playing, which is fantastically impressive and wonderfully executed, but it still feels like every body on stage is sharing equally in a massive amount of heavy lifting to get us all the way through to the end. I’ve viewed other recorded orchestra performances on YouTube but never live - I wonder how it feels to experience it as an audience member, in the room, with all. that. sound.

Thursday night, concert #2 - Two longtime NACO members were retiring this year so there was a celebration planned for them as part of the season-ending after-party hosted at the conductor's condo a short walk from the NAC. I was just an extra but the powers that be were generous enough to invite me and the other subs to attend with the rest of the core members. Aside from plenty of pizza and beer to keep everybody happy, there was a terrific positive buzz and energy of camaraderie flowing throughout the space, it was nice to witness and be a part of, if only temporarily.

A friend I'd met last year as fellow subs, stand-partners for Strauss's Don Juan on a Hamilton Philharmonic concert, happened to have just arrived in Ottawa for a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra concert happening Friday night (and VSO would be playing the last date on their current Canadian tour the next night in Toronto) - she's been subbing with them most of this season - and texted me at intermission to say she was in the audience and enjoying the concert. We arranged to meet in the morning to catch up over breakfast before I had to catch my noontime train back to Toronto. What a lovely morning! We have distinctly different backgrounds but for whatever reason we seem to share (since our very first meeting) a mutual respect and I have realized she is one of few new friends I have made in Canada with whom I feel comfortable talking as openly as we do about the trials and tribulations of playing the freelancing and auditions game. No need to get into further detail here, but it was great to hang out.

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So I pay for breakfast and return to the nearby hotel to finish packing and check out. Call an Uber taxi and soon I'm at the Via Rail station on the train to Toronto. 5 hours later I'm walking through Union Station with my viola on my back and suitcase rolling along behind me, heading to the TTC northbound to the Museum stop where I arrive at U of T for a rehearsal of Hindemith's Trio Op.47 with my friends Wallace and Stephanie. We sort out some issues and play through the 15 minute piece a couple of times, and decide to call it a day. I get back on the train at about 7:45pm heading further north to Yorkdale Mall where I grab some dinner in the food court, still towing my luggage, and then catch a GO bus to Bramalea, connect to another bus, and arrive back home in Kitchener just after 11pm. Yes, the day was a long one and the bus ride makes it longer, but I can rest en route and it feels good to be home one way or another.

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Saturday. My 11 year old daughter has planned with our neighbor, her teacher, a brief recorder recital to showcase all she has learned in the past months. Complete with colorful program, surprisingly well-spoken program notes, a delicious plate of cookies and another of mini-PB&J sandwiches we parents helped prepare for a classy reception, and a beautiful backyard setting, the event was a pure delight. My little girl!

Saturday night I see Facebook posts from a mutual friend who attended the VSO concert at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, saying 'Bravo!' and sharing a couple of photos. It's fun to see my friend there in the section. I text her to see if she is sticking around for another day or so; I might be able to get her a ticket to the Hindemith chamber music concert. She is, and can come. I get her a ticket.

Sunday afternoon. My family comes with me into Toronto for the day - I have a dress rehearsal at 1, concert at 4. We drop my mother-in-law off at the airport on the way in - she is flying to Greece for a three week vacation with an old friend with connections to some guy with a 40 foot yacht over there, so they're going to spend the bulk of the trip on the water. Sounds fantastic!

The chamber music concert goes pretty well, but I find myself a little more tired than I would have liked to be for the occasion. Yes, too many commitments adding up, too many late nights, long days, not enough rest, not enough dedicated practice time in the past few days. My VSO-violist friend attends and meets my wife and kids at the post-concert reception. and I learn she is already also friends with the pianist I was just collaborating with. Interconnections are fun!

So there's the concert, the reception, and then a post-reception dinner&drinks at a nearby pub with just the performers (and family). And then it's 8pm, and it's Sunday night - a school night. And we have to drive home! So we say goodbye and get back in the car. 90 minutes later we're parked at home. Too long after that our kids are finally asleep. And then... wait, what's on the calendar for the rest of this week?

emptiness! a couple of days off! fantastic.