December 1, 2010


Mogenpianist has been on extended hiatus, replaced by Mogenmama. The following entry will update those who have not yet heard about the events of the past months.

With my 18-year-old son Kieran's heart surgery scheduled for October 14, September and the first half of October were completely devoted to preparation for that event. For both Kieran and me, the focus was on being as fit for this operation as we could possibly be, on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This preparation involved many things: medical appointments, alternative healthcare regimens, bodywork, energy work with extraordinary healers, eating wholesome, nutritious, home-cooked foods, juicing, talking, visualizing, reading, walking, and most importantly, spending lots of good quality time with each other. School(for Kieran) and practicing the piano(for me) took a back seat. The main thing was that we enter that surgery as prepared as possible.

The operation was a very long and tricky one, over nine hours. It went well, and Kieran's aeorta was repaired successfully. Kieran was a complete and utter super-hero in his attitude and approach to undergoing the surgery and recovering from it. Such strength and such grace.

After the surgery, as he was recovering steadily and beautifully, Kieran was clearly a changed man. The opening of his chest had apparently been the shift needed for him to release a lot of his frustrations, anger, and emotional pain. Always a very loving and compassionate young man, these traits were now even more evident as he seemed more peaceful and much more clear.

One cannot be sure of how and why these mysteries unfold, but as many of you know by now, Kieran experienced some difficulty with his heart on the morning of the thirteenth day of recovery from surgery and passed away suddenly on October 27, his sister's 16th birthday. The shock and horror of his passing has been immense for all of us who are close to him, as well as for many, many people with whom he had crossed paths. His gentle, loving spirit inspired many, and continues to do so in a big way.

As we grieve the loss of Kieran from this realm, I know that he is still very present here, although in a different "form". The emptiness we feel is vast, but the very clear feeling I have of his current joy, freedom, and expansion gives great comfort. Perhaps, just perhaps, the emotional and spiritual freedom that he felt after the surgery led to a need for his spirit to expand beyond the confines of his body. The gifts that he brought us continue to be evident, and I and the other members of Kieran's family dearly hope that these gifts of warmth, humour, compassion, and love will live on in the hearts and lives of all who knew him.

The outpouring of concern for us has been huge, and has really held and supported us. We celebrated his life with a beautiful service at St. James in Stratford on November 2nd. Donations have been flowing in generous amounts, and are being used to further celebrate Kieran's life and gifts through the commissioning of a work for choir. The choir that Kieran was a part of for nine years, the St. Mary's Children's Choir, was a very important community for Kieran, so the piece will be written for the F.Y.S. division of this organization.

Details of this project are coming together in a very exciting and thrilling way; a tribute of great magnitude! Kieran deserves nothing less than the miracles that are unfolding for this project. I urge you to follow the progress of this composition, and to become a part of this journey: please follow the new blog "Kieran's Song" at .

Many thanks for reading this, and for being a part of our circle.


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August 12, 2010

Bests & Mosts (European Tour, Summer 2010)

  • Best new word I learned: snyrtingar (Icelandic for "loo")
  • Most awe-inspiring view: Hardangarfjord, Norway
  • Best view of Paris: top of the escalator arriving at the fifth floor of Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (through the open window)
  • Best service in a restaurant: Les Artistes Italian restaurant, Paris
  • Most sour & cranky waiter ever: Kaļķu Vārti, Riga, Latvia (the food was good, though)
  • Best hotel: Hotel Bergs, Riga, Latvia
  • Best seafood chowder: Bergen, Norway
  • Best shrimp salad sandwich: Troldhaugen, Norway (see above)
  • Best view while playing on stage: Troldsalen, Troldhaugen
  • Best drivers for stopping at crosswalks: Bergen, Norway
  • Best airports: Kastrup(Copenhagen) and Keflavik(Reykjavik)
  • Most loved (and rarest) convenience: air-conditioning
  • Most ridiculous item in my suitcase: long, thick, heavy, black turtleneck
  • Best ice cream: Latvia (everywhere, every day)
  • Best coffee: cafe next to Smiltene bus station in Latvia
  • Best pirags: cafe next to Smiltene bus station in Latvia
  • Most touching comment after my performance: Valmiera, Latvia
  • Most thrilling moments: performing at Troldhaugen & watching my daughter perform in Sigulda, Latvia

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July 28, 2010


Yesterday morning we left Gulbene by bus, bound for Valmiera.  Only a hundred kilometres, but the bus schedule allows two hours for this distance.  I wondered how it would take so long, but that was made clear when at the halfway-point at Smiltene, we had a twenty minute stop for coffee.  This was actually most welcome as we hadn't really had time for breakfast before leaving.

It is interesting to me that many of the place names in Latvia have been long known to me, but again, I never really understood that these are actual towns.  As a kid, with our local Latvian folk dance group I learned these names as names of various folk costumes.  Smiltene in fact was the costume my mother made for me.  Now, I get that it's actually a lovely little town where you can buy extremely good coffee and some of the best pirags we've tried yet.  Last week, when someone mentioned they were driving a friend back to Lielvarde, I pictured them driving to a red and black plaid folk costume, with a hand-embroidered blouse underneath.

Valmiera is the town where my mother lived for a few years as a young girl, until the age of twelve.  She studied piano at the Valmiera Music School, the same school (but in a different building as much of Valmiera was destroyed in the 1940's) that sponsored my concert here last night.  Very neat to be performing here.

We were met at the bus by the director of the music school, and he was such a wonderful host and tour guide.  He showed us around and made sure that everything was optimal for me, AND treated us to a wonderful lunch, mid-afternoon.  I got a chance to practise in the hall in the afternoon and although it wasn't yet tuned, I really loved the Bechstein concert grand.  After it was tuned, it was even more wonderful.  I really look forward to returning to perform on it again.

The concert went quite well, and after the people in the front row were gently reminded (by me; how I hated to do it) to be quiet, I felt the audience to be quite responsive.  Again, the applause included several people coming up to me with bouquets and kind words.  One young girl approached me as I was walking offstage and thanked me in heavily accented Latvian, saying she has never been so moved.  I too was very moved by her deeply felt words.

After the concert, it was off to an outdoor cafe with some relatives, some of whom I had never met before.  Interestingly, there were relatives from both my grandfather's side of the family and my grandmother's side.  So great to be the reason for their meeting one another.

I really like this city of Valmiera.  It's very beautiful, situated on the Gauja river, and seems like a cultural centre of some importance in this part of the country.  There's an interesting blend of very old buildings (the St. Simon Church of 1280!), restored pre-war buildings, and modern post-Soviet buildings as well.  Lots of trees and gardens. I do hope to return soon and stay longer.

Looking forward to one last look at Riga today before flying home.

July 26, 2010

Gulbene concert

Just back from playing my recital in the small town of Gulbene.

Before the concert began, the organizer was apologizing that the crowd would be small on such a hot night in the middle of the summer.  She told me that really there are only 10 people in Gulbene who are the concert goers regularly.  Well, not to worry, there were at least 30-35 people there, and they were a lovely warm audience.  At least 10 of them came up to me during the applause at the end with gifts and flowers.  Totally overwhelming.

The piano for this concert was a DDR product: an August Forstner concert grand.  Not a Steinway D by any means, but I had a couple of rehearsals on it ahead of time in which I tried to learn how to optimize its characteristics.  As apparently my email with program information was not received, and due to the extreme heat, I changed the program at the last minute, cutting it down to just over an hour with no intermission.  I think that worked out just fine.  But still, I don't know when I've ever sweated as much.  UnbeLIEVably hot!

Then we were treated to a beautiful meal afterward.

Now it's starting to feel like the end of the trip is very near.  Off to Valmiera tomorrow morning, then two more nights before we fly home.  Mixed feelings, bigtime.

July 25, 2010

Gulbene, Stameriene

Yesterday we made our way from Sigulda to Gulbene, a two-and-a-half hour bus ride, thankfully air-conditioned.  As we drove north-east, I enjoyed sitting back and watching the countryside.  Latvia has a gentle beauty with pine and birch forests everywhere.  Driving further and further from the capital city Riga, one feels like one is moving into a simpler and humbler way of life.  Buildings in general are a little more run-down, although there are clearly lots of restoration projects happening everywhere.  The nineteen years of recovery from Soviet rule have perhaps moved a little more slowly in the countryside than in the cities.  As we drove by all of these beautiful forests, my feeling of being rooted here began to deepen.

Gulbene is a small town in the province of Vidzeme.  Wikipedia says that the Gulbene district has a population of about 30,000, which is the size of Stratford, Ontario.  I believe the actual town is more like 6,000 inhabitants or so.  Interestingly though, like Stratford, Gulbene's symbol is a swan; which is in fact the meaning of the word "gulbis".  Again, like Stratford, Gulbene has a lot of history tied in with the railroad industry.

We were met at the bus by a relative (nth cousin, however many times removed) whom I had never met before.  In fact, he boarded the bus and asked for me by name!  He then took us to our hotel a few blocks away and gallantly unloaded our ridiculously heavy suitcases.  At the exact moment that he was doing so, a colleague from his amateur theatre group was walking by and was enlisted to carry one of the suitcases up the stairs to the third floor.

After settling in, we later met up again and were given a grand tour of the surrounding area.  This was something I had been looking forward to for some time.  My maternal grandfather grew up near Gulbene, near the village of Stameriene.   The land which had belonged to my great-grandparents was taken over during Soviet times, and the house was demolished.  Now that Latvia is once again free, that land has come back into my family's possession.  I was very interested in exploring it, and had a romantic vision of standing on that land and somehow feeling some deep epiphany of belonging or such.  To reach the property, my cousin drove his Mazda over fields, stopping to dismantle a barbed wire fence or two on the way.  He parked amidst a few unimpressed cows (guess they weren't fans of the Katy Perry song blaring on his radio) and we got out to wade through the long grasses into the woods.  It's an impressive and beautiful piece of land, again with tons of straight and tall pines and birches, but of course there are no paths, nothing cleared; the only hint of civilization is the wooden sign my dad made and hung on a tree a few years ago with the name of the property: Brikšni.  (Yes, it's still there.) 

Unfortunately, the "Ah" moment didn't have a chance to come to me, as I was fairly busy minding branches, holes in the ground, tree roots, etc. as we hoofed it through the woods.  We came to a clearing at the far end of the property and were ransacked by mosquitoes.  That probably would have been the moment of basking in the awesomeness, but I couldn't get back to the car fast enough.  In the space of less than a minute, I must have been bitten 45 times!  Stupidly, I didn't even stop to pick up a souvenir pine cone.  But at least, I can now envision the place, and next time I'm in Latvia I'll be sure to arrive properly clothed and bug-sprayed for a wilderness experience.

We were also driven to and through the village of Stameriene.   I've heard this name so many times, but had no impression of it.  But now, being there, I did feel the wonder of how my grandpa long ago spent time here growing up.  There seem to be many old buildings that have withstood all the time and turmoil.  This helped me to imagine what the place must have been like a century ago.  Extraordinary.

We were also taken to the Stameriene cemetery, where we laid flowers from our host's garden and ferns from Brikšni on the grave of my great-grandparents.  Apparently, this grave is a somewhat approximate guess as far as the actual location goes due to the tumult and upheaval of Soviet times.  Again, quite a moving experience nonetheless.

Sigulda (2)

One of the most exciting and unexpected things that came from our Sigulda experience was the opportunity for my daughter to work with some great jazz musicians:  Janet Lawson and Raimonds Petrauskis  gave her the space and the support to explore singing in this style.  Here (go ahead, click on "Here") is her first public performance as a jazz singer, accompanied by the incomparable Raimonds himself.  Apologies for the terrible video quality; I was too stunned to pay any attention to how I was filming it.

July 24, 2010


Ten days of my time in Latvia this summer is being spent at the 9th annual Young Musicians' Master Classes in Sigulda.

In 1985, my mother (who is also a pianist and piano teacher) suggested that she and I attend the first Latvian music camp that was taking place at Mount Orford, Quebec, Canada.  Not knowing what to expect, but always ready for adventure, I agreed and we went.  I also attended the following year.  Now, twenty-five years later, I find myself with this wonderful opportunity to attend and take part in the latest incarnation of this camp, on Latvian soil - and to share this experience with my own daughter!  

Prior to attending that first camp my experience of Latvian culture had been mainly within my “half-Latvian” family and the few Latvian families that lived in my hometown.  There were a few years during which the kids of my age group were given some regular classes in Latvian folk dancing, folk songs, and some elementary language skills, but not on the scale that operated in the larger cities.  I had attended some Song Festival events as a child, and those experiences all had an impact on me, but I was not really aware of the Latvian community of musicians and music-lovers prior to 1985.

That first music camp was the beginning of so many important things for me; a chance to get to know many wonderful musicians and gain many new friends, a chance to learn Latvian language and Latvian music and to discover the richness of being a Latvian musician.  That experience was formative for me in learning about my Latvian identity, and also led to many other opportunities within the music world and within the Latvian community.

Now, so many years later, I find this Sigulda music camp just as exciting and inspiring, and now with the added joy of actually gathering together in Latvia itself.  To meet so many of the friends I made in 1985 again, and to make new friends from so many different parts of the world, and to share this special passion for music and Latvian culture is such a rich experience.  I feel so honoured to be invited to join such a unique and gifted community.  It is truly amazing how many talented musicians and wonderful people are here together.   

The Masterclasses take part in a fairly recently built (2001) building, the Sigulda Music School, which is known as "Baltais Flīģelis", or "the White Grand Piano" because of the building's shape.  Every night is a concert, either with the Masterclass faculty members or with the students.  The calibre (and length!) of these concerts is absolutely outstanding and inspiring.  

My participation in Sigulda involves working with voice students in their lessons with Canadian-born baritone, Nigel Smith, accompanying them in recital, as well as performing some solo pieces and some Schubert songs with Nigel.  

I look forward to returning to this camp again soon.  Hopefully this time I won’t wait twenty-five years between camps.


Our first two days in Latvia were spent in Riga, my mother's birthplace. Upon arrival, like in Bergen, there was no official check-in with customs. We just collected our baggage (which miraculously appeared despite all the chaos of the process in the Paris airport), changed some Euros and dollars into Lats, and caught a cab to our hotel. The cab driver was friendly, although nervous-making in that he seemed to need to face me and maintain eye-contact during conversation while driving, even though I was in the back seat. This first conversation in Latvian in Latvia was a definite test of my ability to shift from one language to another.

For these first two nights, I had booked a fabulous five-star hotel, Hotel Bergs. Perhaps a bit of a splurge, although it really cost no more than a regular hotel would in North America, and it was less than half the price of our hotel in Bergen. What a delight this hotel was! This place has won awards for design, as it is a brilliant renovation of an old-style building, blended with some very contemporary aspects. Our room was huge, and air-conditioned! Very comfortable, and very beautiful.

After settling in, we walked over to Vecriga - "Old Riga" - and found an outdoor bistro for dinner. After eating only seafood in Norway, and in France, mainly fish or eggs, there was nothing of the sort on this menu. I settled for a venison burger, which turned out to be quite delicious.

On our walk back to the hotel we passed by the Brivibas Pieminieklu, the most important landmark in Riga, the Freedom Monument. For a country that has suffered foreign occupation for so much of it's history, this monument holds a lot of emotional energy. My own memory of the Freedom Monument was of a peaceful demonstration there which I took part in, in January of 1990. I don't really remember exactly, but I believe that demonstration was somehow in solidarity with Lithuania, just prior to gaining it's freedom. A very emotional event; I remember a huge crowd of people with red and white carnations which were all placed at the foot of the monument. Lots of singing, and lots of tears.

On the evening of our first full day in Riga was my performance of a short set of pieces in a concert showcasing faculty from the Sigulda music camp which would begin the following day. The concert took place in a beautiful hall in the Riga Latvian Society building. The piano was again a Steinway D, and was gorgeous, a joy to play. Obviously, the tuner/technician that works on this instrument is ace. I got a chance to practise for a half hour in the morning, which was especially handy as I hadn't practiced all week in Paris. In 8 days I had only had my hands on the keys for about half an hour when rehearsing some Schubert with a baritone I would be performing with in Latvia. Good thing I had chosen to perform some of my "party pieces".

After I performed, I was handed three bouquets of flowers during the applause. One massive one from my second cousin, another from her mother, and a third from a friend from Ottawa who was staying in Latvia for a while. I was overwhelmed at seeing these dear people after such a long time, and struggled to carry so many flowers.

I was happy that I performed first on the program, because that meant I could sit back and watch the rest of the show. What an honour to be performing with this group of musicians of such a high level. It's no secret that Latvians are a musical people as whenever a few are gathered together, they're bound to erupt into singing, but the per capital percentage of the population (including Latvians abroad) who are highly talented, highly skilled professional musicians must be well above the norm.

After the concert we had a chance to visit with my second cousin and her mother at an outdoor restaurant in old Riga. A lovely time.

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July 20, 2010

Latvia, 20 years later

So, after a less-than-enjoyable Charles de Gaulle airport experience,  where pretty much everything is at a very inefficient level of functioning, followed by a departure delay of at least an hour, we made it via Air Baltic to Riga.  Again, just boarding the plane and hearing Latvian spoken by the flight attendants was thrilling to me.  Latvian is a language I've grown up hearing as my mother is Latvian, but it never seemed like a real language to be used out in the world.  Growing up in a small city, I heard Latvian only rarely and only from my mother, my grandparents, and a few Latvian families with whom we gathered for important occasions such as St. John's night (midsummer), "the 18th of November" (Latvian Independence), and the odd big birthday.   To hear Latvian spoken in other settings than those cozy, homey circles is surprising to me.

Arriving at Riga airport was a moving experience for me, once again.  I had visited Latvia twenty years ago, in January 1990.  At that point Latvia was still under Soviet occupation, only officially re-gaining its freedom the following year on August 21.  My 1990 trip meant that I was the first of my entire extended family to visit Latvia, or to return to Latvia.  Blessed by being of both Danish and Latvian heritage, I had grown up regularly visiting Denmark on family vacations, but Latvia was not really a place one could ever conceive of visiting.  Due to the Soviet occupation, Latvia to me was more of a story, a tradition, a set of great songs, cool words, and yummy Easter traditions.  Gradually more and more people were given the opportunity to travel in and out of the country, but still their numbers were very few.  I was "allowed" to go as I was to do concerts with my long-time friend, bass Paul Sketris.

That 1990 arrival was very moving due to the improbability of even being here, meeting the fabulous people, getting to know the long-lost relatives I didn't even know existed, and just feeling some deep cellular recognition of belonging here.  The people were bright, generous, and the interactions were rich. But it was a dark, damp, grey and bleak time and place.  Life was clearly difficult, and what we North Americans consider necessities were hard to come by.

Somehow twenty years managed to sneak by me (motherhood may have something to do with that) between trips here, and now in July of 2010, the contrasts between my two trips couldn't be greater.  First of all, just the contrast between January and July has to be taken into account.  1990 was fur hats, crowded busses full of damp, musty-smelling coats, and a short period of daylight each day.  2010 is a bit of a heatwave, daylight forever - it's dark by about 11pm and light already by 4am - and people dressed in brightly coloured sundresses, shorts, etc.

The biggest change though is that  Latvia is now apparently operating as a "normal" northern European country.  A huge amount of restoration has happened.  The predominant colours are no longer grey and brown.  Commerce abounds.  Anything one needs is now available.  Restaurants, outdoor cafes, bistros, you-name-it international or local cuisines.   Cars, lots of them, and most of them looking new and well-kept. The Ladas and Skodas of twenty years ago are nowhere to be seen.  Also, in 1990 I found it very difficult to communicate at first until I began to understand Latvian a little better.  Now, nearly everywhere English is spoken, especially among the younger generations.

All this improvement of quality of life is so very evident, it doesn't seem possible that this is the same place.  Except...that the beautiful spirit, the cultural richness and the wonderful and deeply generous people are clearly still intact, and that is the main attraction of Latvia.

July 17, 2010

Airport Hotel: Synchronicity or Coincidence?

So, after nearly a week of sweating in the Parisian heat and not really being able to sleep all that well for nights on end, I made a little change in plans and booked an airport hotel for our last two nights before flying to Riga.

Spoiled?  Yeah, maybe.

Air-conditioning and internet are nice things to live with, that's all.  

But it turns out that this little decision to move to the airport was also a story of synchronicity/coincidence...through the miracle of facebook.  A friend of mine from way-back-when whom I had not seen in many years (to protect the innocent, I'll leave him unnamed, but tell you that he is a gifted poet and stand-up comedian) also happened to be in Paris last week and was to have flown back to North America on Friday night.  Horribly, as he was on his way to check in to his airport hotel, he was robbed at Gare du Nord station.  All of his identity documents and credit cards were stolen.  Just in time for the weekend when no embassies are open.    I, of course, had no knowledge that he was even in Europe at that time, but his sister alerted him on facebook that I was in Paris.  On Sunday night, he sent me a message on facebook and on Monday evening, (our last day in Paris) we discovered we were actually staying in hotels which were not only on the same street, but were five minutes walking distance from each other!

Needless to say, we had dinner and got a little caught up on decades worth of life.  A small world?  What are the chances?  Neither of us had originally intended to be staying at an airport hotel that day; he was only there because of his nasty situation, and I was only there because I couldn't take the heat any longer.

(One of the bonuses of this encounter was, as his internet was down he brought over his laptop to our hotel room; he is my arch-nemesis on my one online game indulgence -Word Twist- and I got to watch him play in person, and see the intensity with which he plays this game....which has in turn only fueled my determination to beat him at his game more often!)

Art Museums in Paris

Much belated am I in posting; for some days in Paris last week internet was hard to come by.

The Parisien heat was incredible, and I suppose is legendary.  However, the almost complete absence of air-conditioning was surprising to this North American softie.  At least, air-condition the Métro?!  Oh well.

Visiting the Musée d'Orsay was a bit of a respite in terms of temperature, but more importantly, it was an inspiring and enriching experience.  I had likely seen many of the paintings in their former home years ago at the Jeu de Paume, which I had enjoyed.  This "new" home for these works is an extraordinary setting and I would have liked to take more time there to take more of it in.  However, my attention span does not seem to be up to that kind of stimulation for more than an hour or two in one go.    

A revelation to me was my introduction to the works of Lucien Levy-Dhurmer, a Symbolist painter born in Algérie in 1865, died in 1953.  Not sure why I've missed this guy all these years, but there were three or four paintings at the D'Orsay which really had an impact on me, and have stayed with me.  The sense of mystery, the things left unpainted, unsaid, in his works really moved me.  La femme à la médaille was the first Dhurmer painting I saw.  Amazing how huge a world is conveyed, how many possible stories are told yet not told here.  The poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé was brought to mind.

A visit to the Pompidou Centre was also a highlight of Paris for me.  I first visited the Pompidou just a couple of years after it opened, and loved, loved, loved it.  I have a soft spot for rebellious architecture, which possibly hearkens back to my own "architectural designs" when in grade seven, I would draw outlandish shapes and then turn them into floor plans, or cross-section-views of crazy homes.  Anyway, the Pompidou had been renovated since I was last there, and some of the "out-there" colours seem to be toned down, but the place retains its hip feel of experimentation, exploration, and expansiveness.  I also remember finding the escalator rides to the top of the building thrilling, and was not disappointed.  From the open window at the top of the fifth escalator is one of the best views of the city, just above the rooftops where you can see all the chimney pots Mary Poppins-style.  Tour Eiffel and Basilica Sacre-Coeur are nicely placed in that view as well.

Again, my attention span only allowed for a good look at the early 20th century permanent collection, starting around cubism.  I am so fascinated by the progression and development of ideas in that era, and found the curating of these works to be helpful to my understanding.   

As usual, I just viewed the Louvre from the exterior.  It's just too much; I wouldn't even know where to start.  I confess to me it's like sitting through an entire Wagner Ring Cycle.  Not something I'm ever likely to be able to manage.

July 7, 2010

Paris, Day Two

Sitting in a little wi-fi park near Notre Dame. Pigeons a-plenty, a sweet breeze & lovely warm, sunny weather. A week off, other than a bit of rehearsing. Playing tourist, walking our feet off, yet fairly aimlessly. When I am a tourist, I prefer just to absorb the culture, and tend not to go for all the must-see attractions. There are definitely art museums that I will make sure we get to though. Pompidou & Musee d'Orsay are at the top of the list. But today is about wandering & relaxing.
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July 5, 2010

Arrivederci Bergen!

Hope to be back soon!

The Two-Concert Day

I think yesterday was the first time I had ever played two full solo recitals in one day.  They went pretty well, I think.  I especially enjoyed the Troldhaugen show, as I hoped I would.  The audience was a good size and very warm and enthusiastic.  Apparently there were tour groups from Holland, England, and Italy.  Also a woman from Montreal greeted me afterward, saying "I have to come all the way to Norway to hear you; when are you playing in Montreal?"  Good question.  I'll get to work on that.

In general, I think my "mash-up" program was well-received.  The stolid conservative Grieg-ites would probably prefer that I not stir things up so much, a point which I can see of course, but it is also important to me that one take opportunities to see things in a new light, from fresh perspectives.  By intermingling the movements of Valse nobles with Lyric Pieces or Tombeau de Couperin with Holberg Suite, one hears things that may not have been heard before.  I took great care in the programming to make sure that despite the mixed up-edness, there is great flow and unity in moving from one piece to the next.

Anyway, playing in Troldsalen was very satisfying.  It had long been my dream to play there, so I was very glad that the playing went well.  Before each set, I found it very comforting and grounding to take a look out the window at Grieg's composing hut and the fjord and the trees.

In between yesterday's two concerts was a drive back to Bergen, about 100 km.  We stopped at Steinsdalfossen and climbed up a trail to go behind the impressive waterfall.  I kidded my host about how tough Norwegians must be: two concerts in one day with mountain-climbing in between!  Then we saw this spectacular "Bridal Veil Falls" as well, but from a safe distance; no climbing needed.

After the Troldhaugen concert, we checked into our hotel and then went out for a celebratory meal at the aptly named "Holberg Stuen".   Time for Akvavit (the Bergen kind), beer, and herring.  Oh yeah.

I'm sad to leave this lovely city today, but Paris awaits!

July 4, 2010

"Your face is out there!"

Yesterday we took a bus to Øystese, which is about 100 km from Bergen, situated on the Hardangerfjord, surrounded by mountains.  An incredibly beautiful trip, through impressive tunnels and winding mountain roads.  The bus was slowly making its way through another holiday town to let off and take on passengers when my daughter said "Your face is out there!" and pointed behind us out the window.   "What?"  "Your face is out there!"  Some explanation was needed for me to grasp her meaning.  Apparently she had spotted a poster with a fairly large photo of me on it!  So, I guess today's Kabuso concert has been quite well advertised.

I had a chance to practise a little in the hall; a Steinway B this time, with great willingness to provide singing tone.  Much heavier action than the Troldhaugen piano; I will focus on not overplaying.  The top end is extremely bright; in fact it has the capacity to sound like shards of shattering plate glass.  Not a sound I will need in this program.

We have spent the night a the "Skinny Beds R Us" hotel, which was comfortable enough, but I had to move an easy chair over to the side of my bed so that I could relax about not falling out of bed.  There was also intense noisiness to contend with overnight due to a rock band festival at one end of the hotel.
Now to find breakfast and then head over to prepare for the first of two concerts today.  Kabuso, then a drive back to Bergen for the Troldhaugen concert.

July 2, 2010

Day Four in Bergen

Another lovely day here in Norway.  We've now had two days of rain, followed by (nearly) two days of sun.

I spent some more time today communing with my Troldsalen Steinway friend and I feel we're on the same page now.  This piano really does like to play Ravel, and of course Grieg.  A strange thing happened as I was playing the Holberg Suite Sarabande, a piece I have played hundreds of times:  as soon as I began playing, I could hear Norwegian-type text within the melodic line.  Not necessarily exact text with definite meaning, but just the general sound of Norwegian.  The rhythms and the rise and fall of the intonation of the language that have started to get in my ear were present in the rhythms and the rise and fall of Grieg's melody!  It was a revelation to me, and something I will certainly give more reflection.

I also got a chance to see the exhibits in the Grieg Museum.  Some of the things that fascinated me:  the suit Grieg wore for performing, alongside Nina's performance dress on lifesize (tiny!) mannequins; a photo of Grieg at age 11 which I had never seen before;  his huge traveling trunk (& I thought I had overweight luggage!); a European map marked with every bit of traveling he ever did (tons!) and an interesting timeline relating "Grieg events" to world events.

I took a small lunch at the Troldhaugen cafe: best shrimp salad sandwich ever, out on a lovely patio overlooking the grounds and the fjord.  Also, I got a chance to see the administrative offices and meet some of the others that work there.  Wonderful helpful people.

July 1, 2010


Day Three in Bergen.

I have been given the opportunity to practise each day in the recital hall at Troldhaugen where I will be performing this weekend.  I've envisioned playing in this hall for quite some time now, so it is very exciting to actually be doing so now.

Arrival at Troldhaugen means a bus ride from Bergen city centre (or a "tram" ride on the brand new "Bybanen") followed by about a 15 minute walk.  It feels like a bit of a pilgrimage as one takes this little trek towards Grieg's home, the Grieg Museum, and the Troldsalen recital hall.  The road is well-marked with many signs pointing toward Troldhaugen, and I think I posed for a photo by each and every one of them.

Yesterday we briefly explored the actual house in which Grieg and his wife Nina lived for over twenty years.  (mainly during the warmer seasons)  I was keen to get to the piano, so we didn't look too closely at the displays and neither did we look at the museum yet.  Today we took a little walk down to the water, and saw the grave where both Edvard's and Nina's ashes were entombed.  Sitting by the water's edge - fjordside - I could well understand why the Griegs underwent the travel ordeals to reach Troldhaugen each year.  A beautiful, inspiring, and peaceful spot, and so near the salty sea air.  Sitting by the water today among the trees, I am quite sure I heard the type of bird that Grieg would have heard and been inspired to emulate in some of his music.

Tomorrow I plan to take more time in looking through the museum and the house, to see all the artifacts and learn a bit.  My main focus though for these first few days has been to get over jet lag and prepare for my recitals this weekend.  The Hamburg Steinway in Troldsalen and I have been spending time together in order to get to know one another.  It took about an hour yesterday before we were able to unravel each other's secret codes.  This instrument has a nice consistent touch, and a marvellous low end.  It has good responsiveness and excellent "Bebung" possibilities.  (my advanced students will know what I mean by that)  I look forward to a couple more hours of work tomorrow, before leaving on Saturday for Hardangerfjord where my first concert is.

I am so enjoying being in Europe.  There is so much about the way of life and just being here that makes good sense to me and feels right.  It's fun to use my Danish again and to find that people generally understand me.  I just wish I could get the hang of Norwegian more quickly.  Because both languages look so similar on the page, when I hear Norwegian I tend to visualize the words & then translate them in my head to their Danish pronunciation, immediately forgetting how it sounded in Norwegian.  I'm keeping the television on in the background as much as possible in order to absorb the sounds.  No doubt, this language will start to take hold just in time for our departure from Norway on Monday.

June 30, 2010

Pilgrimage to Troldhaugen

Today was again thrilling, as it was my first visit to Troldhaugen, Grieg's home, the Grieg Museum, & Troldsalen!

I'll write about it later, but for now here is a photo of my first visit to the recital hall known as Troldsalen, getting to know the Hamburg Steinway there.


Europe!  Finally!
It feels so wonderful to be back on this continent after such a long time.  I've always felt that I halfway belong here, which makes sense if you consider that both my parents are European and so much of my upbringing had European influence, not to mention the regular family vacations to Denmark throughout my childhood.

Travel went fairly smoothly to get here.  I started the journey with a headache, no doubt due to the overwhelm of so many details to attend to before leaving.  The airport limo was supremely comfortable though, so much so that I was able to doze off a bit.  Upon arriving at Pearson airport we (my daughter and I) learned that our first flight was overbooked.  Luckily we were prioritized due to the fact that we had connecting flights.  Whew.

The first leg of the journey was just to Halifax.  I guess I needed to be close to the sea air, because upon arrival I felt my headache beginning to lift.  Whew again.  We had a short stopover - enough time to update facebook statuses & buy some Starbucks snacks - and then boarded our Icelandair flight for Reykjavik.  I found it thrilling to hear Icelandic as soon as we entered the plane.  This leg of the journey was slightly under 4 hours and was a very comfortable flight.  Arriving in Iceland at 5 a.m. was again thrilling as it really began to feel like Europe.  A very civilized and quiet customs hall where we went through security and got our passports stamped, followed by an Icelandic breakfast in the terminal.

Then, one more Icelandair flight.  Under two hours to Bergen, Norway.  By now we are suitably surrounded by languages other than English.  I am surprised to find how much I can understand of Icelandic, particularly in written form.  This last flight of the day finds us dozing off for the duration.

Arrival in Bergen!  Everything has gone sooo smoothly for this trip.  I was very glad that I chose to book it in three shorter flights.  I find it so difficult to sit in an airplane for a trans-Atlantic flight.  I'm never good at just sitting, so this was ideal.

When we arrived in Bergen, it seemed that the passport check was optional, so we walked on by.  We got our luggage and then just walked out to the arrivals area through the "nothing to declare" exit.  There didn't seem to be anyone there not to declare anything to anyway.  Got bus info, found the bus immediately, boarded it, paid, and departed immediately for town.  This is when the thrill of finally being back in Europe really started to take hold.

We were dropped off by the Fishmarket, and made our way in the general direction of the hotel.  A bit of struggle pulling the very-overweight suitcase uphill on cobblestones, but that is all part of the travel adventure.  As is  not being able to check in immediately.  Oh well.  A little touring around the Bryggen neighbourhood and a bowl of the most-fantastic-seafood-chowder-of-life and we were ready for our afternoon nap.

Finding the prices (not surprisingly) here to be over the top, we decided to slum it for supper, and picked up 7-11 snacks to take back to our hotel room.  Snacks which cost ~ $47 CDN!

This afternoon we head to Troldhaugen!

June 20, 2010

Stratford audience

  1. Just back from playing my "Ravel meets Grieg" recital program on my favourite piano. SUCH a lovely audience tonight: the kind you want to wrap up in a nice little box & take with you for when you need support. There was even a rock concert whoop when I finished my final piece. Classical concerts need more whooping & hollering, in my humble opinion.
    People always ask about my encore; Daina #14 by Latvian composer, Janis Medins, a piece I've loved since I heard it as a kid when Arturs Ozolins (the pianist, not the hockey player) played it. I'm really hoping to purchase an actual published collection of Medins Dainas in Riga; it would be nice to have more legible scores than what I've got, and then hopefully I could learn the entire set and record them.


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