My artist residency at The Banff Centre has finally come to an end, and as I try to readjust to real life I reflect on my last days that I spent there, what happened afterwards, and what is next for my project on Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté! There is a lot of exciting stuff still to come, so stay tuned to my blog and my YouTube channel for lots more video-diaries and updates from me about what I’m up to.
It’s been an amazing experience, putting this project together, diving into Sonia’s world and her music and sharing it all with the world, and I feel deeply honoured and humbled to have had this opportunity. If I can leave you with anything, it would be the encouragement to grab hold of your idea for a creative project of your own and MAKE IT HAPPEN – where there’s a will, there’s a way 🙂
I made a recording!! I’m thrilled to announce that a brand new recording of Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté’s 10 Solo Violin Caprices is finally going to exist, and I can’t wait to share it with the world. In this video, I take you inside the recording process and give you a glimpse of how it’s done, what goes on, the equipment used and the dynamics between me and the recording engineer team. It was such a brilliant and fun experience and I can’t wait to share it with you! Enjoy!
A lot happened this week! I played a run-through of the Caprices, together with the slideshow, and experienced what that was like for the first time. I also played to my colleagues in the ‘Sharing Circle’, had a one-to-one session with the BRILLIANT Caroline Shaw and even struck up the courage to play a set at the bar! Certainly was a work and music packed week! I’m now gearing up for the big performance tomorrow night and preparing for recording next week. Get ready for a chatty vlog!
I got to hear a live poetry reading for the first time! The experience of hearing writers read their own material, often about very personal stories or political feelings, made me pretty emotional, so I’m glad I talked to the camera about it straight after, to document that feeling. In this video I also sum up how my project is going at the end of my first week at The Banff Centre; the challenges I am facing as well as the things I am loving. Hope you enjoy!
I’ve arrived at Banff! With its staggering natural beauty and community of creatives with completely unique artistic projects, I’m feeling really inspired to get down to work. In this video diary, I take you from Germany to Calgary, up Tunnel Mountain, and around the Banff Centre campus (*complete with a tour of the breakfast buffet!). Hope you enjoy!
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Here is my video diary of my trip to Salzburg to perform 6 of Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté’s 10 Solo Violin Caprices in a concert for my classmates and teacher. I am getting to know this music better and better and this was a valuable experience, to hear their reactions to the music as well as experience for myself what it was like to perform it.
I am so excited and thrilled to share my plans for my new creative music project! I am about to embark on a month-long independent artistic residency at The Banff Centre, Canada, where I will be creating a unique and immersive performance of solo violin music by a wonderful composer, Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté, as well as a recording which will be shared in the archives of the Eckhardt-Gramatté Foundation and the Canadian Music Centre.
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep updated with my video-diaries of this whole project! I will be posting my video-diaries here on my blog too.
If there is one place in the world that could remind you about ‘the bigger picture’ in life, it’s the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. And if there was ever a moment when this reminder was especially important, I think right now is it! In this era of Trump, Brexit, racism, sexism, prejudice, social division and everything else, I find it all too easy to get lost, to forget what’s really meaningful and why it is that I do what I do. However, having just spent a couple of weeks with some of the most interesting, creative and intelligent minds on the planet, in one of the most breathtaking-ly beautiful places on earth, I feel completely inspired and reinvigorated. I have come away from my experience with bucket-loads of new ideas and a renewed drive to bring them forward into my work, and I can’t WAIT to start sharing them here on my blog!!
In case you didn’t know, the Banff Centre is an artists’ hub, a platform for creativity and imagination, a space to work and put your ideas and projects into action, and I think it must be the closest thing to paradise that there is! It is like a campus where anyone who is interested in ‘creating’ can go – whether you are a musician, a dancer, a writer, a poet, a literary journalist, a photo journalist… And it provides all the facilities and resources that you could possibly imagine and more! Something that I really loved about my experience there this summer was the connections and friendships made between the different disciplines; dancers became involved in contemporary music performances, journalists sat in on rehearsals and interviewed other artists, I got to work directly with composers and perform their music. Sharing different perspectives in this way was so inspiring, and I feel like this is something that can be very difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to do in ‘normal’ day-to-day life.
Banff is full of wildlife!
It is said that your experience of something, however good or bad, is made by the people with whom you share it, and the people whom I got to meet and work with at Banff definitely made my time there incredibly special, in so many ways. These are musicians who have all taken the paths and led their lives in directions that I dream of. They are the risk-takers, the ones who take a chance on an idea, are never satisfied with something that isn’t great or isn’t what they believe in. I have increasingly felt over the past few years, as I have come to the end of my ‘student’ days, that there is an expected or normal route that I should be taking, and that all of my colleagues around me are following. And it has given me so much angst and grief because it is NOT what I want, which in turn has made me question my whole career choice and even my life decisions. But being able to spend time with musicians who feel the same way I do has shown me that there is more out there, there are so many options and if you have a fire and if you believe in what you do, then you can make them happen.
But I don’t want to get all airy-fairy here! It’s not all about ‘chasing your dreams’ and believing that good things will come if you just wait for them. The artists that I met at Banff talked about how to be savvy, how to have a business mind, what exactly needs to be done in order to realise your goals, and these were some of the most important lessons I took away from Banff. Even being coached on things like how to speak to my colleagues, how to have meetings, what exactly the important points of discussion are – these are all hugely important in life but when have we ever been taught these things?!
I attended the Banff Centre once before, five years ago, when I had the opportunity to spend a month at the masterclasses there. This was a whole other amazing experience in itself, but since then the music programme at Banff has been completely redesigned, offering a totally new style of residency for all different musicians, and this year was the first in its new format. Led by new co-artistic directors, the fantastically inspiring Claire Chase and Steven Schick, this summer I attended the brand new ARC Chamber Music Residency. From day one, Claire told us that she was looking to design a programme that would be completely separate from typical masterclass-style festivals, something that was very far away from a ‘school’ structured curriculum. Her idea of the new programme at Banff was to give total artistic freedom to the participants, and to give us the space to play whatever music we wanted in whatever form we wanted. It was up to us to create our own timetable, plan our own repertoire and rehearsals, decide what we wanted to perform and when. I have never been put in such a liberating setting as this, and I can honestly say that during the programme, I felt so artistically fulfilled and had a real sense of purpose.
I thought I might write a (somewhat) brief account of what a typical day for me in the ARC Chamber Music Residency at the Banff Centre looked like, although each day was totally different so I will just give a general overview as an example! I would wake up at about 8am and grab some AMAZING breakfast in one of the restaurants that overlooks the mountains. At around 8:30 a few people would meet for the daily morning hike up Tunnel Mountain, whose trail leaves directly from campus. The hike takes about 30 mins to go up and 20 to come down, with an inevitable few minutes at the top to just sit and take in what you are seeing. I remember one time sitting up there and saying to a friend how difficult I found it to be really present, in that moment, looking at those awesome mountains – it felt overwhelmingly unreal – so this was something that I was continually striving to achieve; total awareness of the present. Rehearsals started as soon as we got back, and for me these varied between Haydn Quartets, Beethoven Quartets, Boulez ‘Livre’ for string quartet and quartets that I was working on with composers themselves – I got to work with Marcos Balter on his quartet called ‘Chambers’ and with Camila Agosto on her piece, ‘Blemish’. At 11am everybody would gather for the ‘Daily Meeting’, which would be taken by a different faculty member each day; we heard from the musicians of ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble from New York), the Concert Master of the Handel and Haydn Society – Aisslinn Nosky, the Miro and JACK quartets, Imani Winds, Suzannah Clark (one of the world’s leading musicologists), Maros Balter (composer) and many more besides. I loved these meetings, as each one was totally unique and each artist had something so interesting and different to say; I really learnt a lot here. After the meeting I would head down to the cafe for lunch and then straight back to more rehearsing. During the afternoons I would usually find time to visit the simply incredible library, or to practise by myself in one of the little practice huts (frequently visited by deer or elk) until dinner, which I would eat in either the main restaurant or at the chilled ‘Maclab’ bar. After-dinner time would normally consist of concerts, more rehearsals, hang-out ‘beer’ time and fantastic conversations with colleagues and new friends, or making use of the free and unlimited access to the gym or swimming pool/hot tub facilities.
Enjoying a local beer at Maclab with a spectacular view!
Practice hut with elk visitor
I want to write separate and much more detailed accounts of each of these experiences, as they were all so fascinating and important in themselves and there is SO much more to say about all of them! I simply can’t fit it all into one blog post though, so I have decided that this will do for the first ‘overview’ of Banff and I’m looking forward to writing several more posts, each focusing on a different aspect of Banff, in the next few weeks.
The lasting impression that the Banff Centre and the artists that I met there made on me is how important art is in today’s world. Art makes connections, brings people together, highlights profound issues in very pure, human and accessible ways. Art can be found anywhere and there will always be space for people to create it, one just has to find it and remember the value that it has. Banff has nestled itself right into my heart; it has given me inspiration and courage, it has refilled my life with colour!
The JACK Quartet, performing John Luther Adams on top of Tunnel Mountain at sunset. This was a moment I won’t ever forget and sums up my whole Banff experience!