Orchestra spends afternoon with mentors
It’s a sunny, spring-like day as the enticing sounds of a brass sectional spill out from a meeting room at the Pinestone Resort, filling the air outside with music. Inside the room, members of the Highlands Chamber Orchestra brass section are arranged around Mark Tetreault, principal tuba for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. After a few more run-throughs of the piece in front of them, they’re ready for a break.
Down the hall they go for coffee, in another meeting room where their fellow orchestra members from the strings section are already on break from their own session with Leslie Knowles of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra first violin section.
Tetreault has played with numerous groups including the New Hampshire Philharmonic, the Boston Civic Symphony and the Jacksonville (Florida) Symphony Orchestra, and Knowles was once the youngest member of the Baltimore Symphony and is concertmaster of the Brantford Symphony Orchestra, but on March 25 the husband/wife team were in Haliburton to impart further musical wisdom on members of the Highlands Chamber Orchestra.
The pair were invited to the afternoon session of instruction by HCO music director Dan Manley, who was thrilled the orchestra members had the chance to learn from orchestral pro players.
“We do this, because in this kind of practice in a sectional, we can isolate just the brass sounds, and make sure they sound good on their own so that when they come back and join the rest of the orchestra, a full orchestra, the balance is better,” said Manley. “Mark as a tuba player, brass player, can give us the right focused attention on techniques that are relevant to us.”
Manley said the experience of instruction from such an accomplished musician was priceless.
“It’s one thing to hear instructions from the same voice all the time,” said Manley. “Mark is a lifelong brass player. We’ve learned so much about certain articulations, and the sounds we should be imitating, It just makes a difference when someone who’s that accomplished – that’s his day job – so for him to come in and show us all of this is, it’s huge.”
Samantha Douglas, who plays violin, agreed that the opportunity was a good one. She said the afternoon of instruction with Knowles, who discussed everything from posture to bow handling and techniques was “very informative.”
“It’s really special to have somebody come and help us,” said Margaret Milne.
During the break in which Knowles was peppered with questions by those who weren’t making notes on their sheet music, she said she has always enjoyed coaching.
“I was very lucky that I had really good teachers and I know how important it is in order for people to really enjoy what they’re doing, in order to enjoy what they’re doing, to have some tips,” she said. “Just like skiing – I would never have learned how to do that without good instruction.”
Knowles said she appreciated the value of being able to get more enjoyment out of something and in turn bring more enjoyment to the community.
“This isn’t all just for us,” she said. “All of these people have a talent and drive and love for music. That’s something that, it’s bigger than all of us and because we have that, we feel that we do want to bring it to more people. This is just my way to help facilitate to make that happen, to help people be at their very best and offer everything they have, because they do have so much to offer, because they have so much love and commitment. I love that I can make this happen.”
When the break is over, the members of the string section sit in a group around Knowles, taking in her guidance as they play their parts together in front of expansive windows looking out on what Knowles called “magnificent landscape.”
“What could be better than playing Bach, surrounded by trees and sunshine and all of our friends?” she asked.
Passages, the Highlands Chamber Orchestra Spring Classics concert, will be held May 26 at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion.