November 10, 2013

Special offer on full set of CDs

I continue to get requests for full sets of my 3 Grieg CDs. As Volume 1 has been sold out for some time, full sets have been hard to come by. Now a handful of Volume 1 discs have been located and are available for purchase as part of the set. Three CDs for $50.00 CDN. Plus shipping.

At some point the 3 CDs may be released as a box set, but until then, this is pretty much a "last chance' offer and is only available directly from me. You can order via email mogenpianist at gmail dot com.

October 11, 2013

Fun venue

Last weekend I performed a recital at the Wellington County Museum near Elora, Ontario. It's a nice intimate venue with the piano  situated right in the middle of the current exhibit.  

I performed there a year ago as well.

The backdrop of the specific installation in both cases created quite a particular atmosphere in the room.

Last year the prominent view (photo on the left) was of a hearse and accompanying mourning mannequins, meant to recreate the cortège in a child's funeral. The irony of this (those who know my personal story will understand) appealed to my black humour and I found it very difficult to contain my laughter throughout the recital.

As I was preparing for last week's recital, I was curious to see what the backdrop would be this year. As you can see from the photo on the right, well...

July 28, 2013

Survey of Classical Singers

If you are a trained/training classical singer I would like to ask for your help by filling out this short online survey by August 15.

The survey is completely anonymous, unless you choose to leave your name & email address for the respondent will win a free one-hour coaching with me.  (Winner need not necessarily live in Toronto as I do quite a bit of traveling.)

Many thanks for your help in responding and in sharing this link with other singers who may be interested in this.

The link to the survey is:

July 22, 2013

A tiny taste from the pop-up program

On Saturday, 3 days after deciding to put on a "pop-up" recital, Drew Santini (baritone) and I enjoyed performing for a wonderful audience in Stratford. Thanks to Andrew Hancock we have 15 seconds of video to share from that event; just a phrase or two...(click on the link)  ...from "The Salley Gardens, arranged by Benjamin Britten.

July 3, 2013

Yesterday this happened...

  • I take this to confirm that I am in the right place at the right time. 

    ...etc.  So we did the coaching spontaneously right then. Planning ahead is so over-rated anyway.

    By the way, yesterday was kind of my first day of actually being resident in Toronto since I came back from Europe. Magical.

June 20, 2013

Toronto Teaching Studio

For more information on my teaching philosophy and some sweet testimonials from my lovely students please click on "Teaching".

June 4, 2013

Classical:NEXT Transcending Borders

At the Vienna Classical:NEXT conference three sessions were scheduled on subjects related to the theme of mobility in the classical music world.

One such session began with a short presentation by the manager of the International Association of Music Information Centres (IAMIC), An-Heleen De Greef. IAMIC is a network of some three dozen organizations, mainly in Europe, that document, promote and provide information on the music of their country. Outside Europe, Musical Information Centres of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, and the USA are also members. The hope for IAMIC is that this organization will continue to grow in the number of participating countries.

IAMIC as an umbrella group is actively carrying out its mission through an annual conference, research projects, partnerships, and exchanges. As the mandate of its members is not necessarily uniform, "your shortcut to the global music world" is a tagline which suitably sums up IAMIC's function.

One of the exciting initiatives connected with IAMIC is the MINSTREL project. Kostas Moschos, director of the Greece-based Institute for Research on Music and Acoustics (IEMA) gave an interesting presentation on MINSTREL, the acronym of which derives from the somewhat unwieldy title: "MusIc Network Supporting Trans-national exchange and dissemination of music Resources at European Level". As an acronym it is a bit of a stretch, but of course the original meaning of the word "minstrel" as a vehicle of musical exchange is absolutely apt. 

The mission of MINSTREL is to help musicians go outside borders. At this point the organization is Europe-focused with its partners which are primarily Music Information Centres based in Europe. However, the resources that are being developed will be available to "citizens of the world". MINSTREL's mission is being carried out through three channels: circulating musical works, supporting the mobility of artists, and facilitating exchanges of musical culture. 

At the core of MINSTREL's initiatives is a three-year project, currently in the early stages, to develop a portal for internet access to digitized scores and recordings. This is being done on a grand scale, drawing upon and linking such databases already in existence, but synthesized into one enormous database available to all. MINSTREL is also working on creating a database of EU ensembles, music organizers, promoters and music events, and in addition presents showcases, residency programmes, professional exchanges, festivals, and other collective transnational events. The vision for MINSTREL is grand; in the words of Kostas Moschos "this is the beginning of a big future: let the music go everywhere, especially the 'hidden' music not supported by 'the industry'".

Another conference session was on the topic of "Arts Management Tools in China". The two main speakers were Gianluca Zanon and Guo Shan. Mr. Zanon, an independent arts consultant working in Europe and China, began the session with some basic information about China. He spoke of the three largest cities Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, as cultural centres with very large populations, but also encouraged Westerners to consider exploring some of the smaller centres as well. Zanon has much experience in meeting the challenges for westerners in this vast land. 

Western classical music is a relatively new feature in the cultural life of China as doors were only opened to Western music twenty years ago. He also pointed out that religious music has been banned in China since 2008, which means that visitors to China (especially choirs) must choose their repertoire carefully. In general, the Romantic era composers are favoured, as well as Classical and Baroque music. Western Contemporary Classical composers are not yet part of the main repertoire. As Chinese traditional music is based on melodic richness, it will take time for Chinese audiences to accept new types of musical languages. Regarding promotion, Mr. Zanon reminded us that there is no twitter, facebook, nor youtube, so that the usual methods of digital communication cannot be used for promotion. In fact, social media is widely used in China, but only using specifically Chinese platforms: youku and weibo, for example.

Guo Shan, President of the China Symphony Development Foundation, gave her presentation in Chinese, ably translated by her assistant Chuanxin Mao. There are currently 60 professional orchestras in China, 30 of which are run by the government. Only three of them are privately run. The average annual salary of a musician in China is about $31,000 (CAD) while the lowest earners receive only about $2,000 annually. Teaching is a financial necessity for most musicians. 

Many Chinese orchestras are developing international connections while several major western orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, have signed cooperation agreements for ongoing touring in China. Tickets for a foreign orchestra's concerts in China are often sold out a year in advance. There are also several established music festivals in major centres: the Beijing International Music Festival, the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival, and the Macau International Music Festival.

Ms. Shan encouraged western musical organizations and musicians to consider "residential tours" for longer stays, which would facilitate integration and educational activities. The Lucerne Festival in China was cited as an example of a successful residency tour.

A session on "Classical in Korea" was unfortunately cancelled due to the untimely death of the presenter, Jooho Kim, from a heart attack just a few days before the Vienna conference. Jooho Kim was a well known figure in the performing arts world of South Korea. His most recent project is a 2,000-seat concert hall in Seoul: the Lotte Hall, due to open in September of 2015. Mr. Kim's family graciously forwarded his notes so that his message could be delivered to the attendees. 

Western classical music plays an important part in the cultural life of South Korea. Audiences are growing, as is the number of musicians being trained in classical music. The majority of audience members is young and passionate about this music. Visiting international musicians often remark on the enthusiastic responses of audiences. In Jooho Kim's words, "applause is much louder than in other countries".

There are currently 30 professional orchestras and 20 choirs, funded by tax payers, in South Korea. Superstar international artists are given an important place in the Korean market; this is in large part due to the economies of scale possible in promotion, marketing, and attracting sponsorship. Jooho Kim suggested that word of mouth marketing is still the biggest mode of marketing in Korea, which is enhanced by Koreans' high level of engagement with the internet and social media.

The flavour of the Classical:NEXT conference was very international and cosmopolitan, giving the attendees much to ponder at the global level as they explore new ways of bringing classical music to a wider public.

May 30, 2013

Classical:NEXT Keynote

To launch the 2013 Classical:NEXT Conference in Vienna, world-renowned violinist Daniel Hope was engaged to give a keynote speech.

The premise of holding such a conference is of course to address the "crisis" in the the classical music world regarding shrinking and aging audiences. Early in Maestro Hope's speech came my favourite moment when he said "To hell with doom and gloom!". This is very much in keeping with my own view on the situation; I'd rather focus on creating than on wringing my hands in worry. Not that I am (nor is Daniel Hope) complacent or in denial about the very real difficulties classical music organizations and classical musicians are dealing with. Daniel Hope pointed out that the root of the word "crisis" lies in the Greek word for "turning point", which means that this is a time of opportunity and (pardon the pun) hope.

He pointed out that much of the problem lies in the fact that "younger people have less and less chance to discover this music". In former times, more exposure to classical music would have been the norm through "Hausmusik"(music at home) and widespread music education in schools. Mr. Hope suggested that the crisis lies in how we as a society have disregarded this music in the last decades and that concert halls have lost their important role as social meeting points in our lives. He equated the need to get people back to concert halls with a "call to arms".

In Daniel Hope's own youth he doggedly pursued performing opportunities, and he encourages today's artists and the organizations who support them to do the same. He told of how he wrote to 2,000 music clubs while still a teenager and got only six gigs from the exercise. Clearly his determination paid off as he is now an artist with an international career. His other advice to artists is to avoid "milking" musical presenters for large fees without contributing to educating young artists and building audiences.

It is for the higher good of all when our communities are artistically vibrant. The arts are valuable from a financial point of view (he cites a 6:1 return on arts patrons'/donors' investments), but the real purpose of the arts and arts education is to produce complete human beings while fostering creativity, ingenuity, and innovation. As Daniel Hope stated, the "role of culture needs to go beyond the marketplace and focus on value".

Maestro Hope's address ended with further urging the audience to be proactive in promoting classical music; as with most people in attendance, music for Mr. Hope "defines his day". After the speech, the audience was treated to a performance by violinist Benjamin Schmid, who was then joined by Daniel Hope (who just happened to have his violin with him) in a duet; a very appreciated encore.

May 29, 2013

Classical:NEXT opening concert

Tonight was the opening of the 2nd "Classical: NEXT" conference, this time in Vienna, Austria.
I'm thrilled to be attending as it promises to be a great event of inspiration and connection regarding the present and future state of classical music.

The concert that opened the conference tonight featured keynote speaker, violinist Daniel Hope. I'll write about his wonderful speech in another post. The musical portions of the concert are what I'd like to refer to in this post.

I particularly enjoyed the performances of Chorus Sine Nomine and violinist Benjamin Schmid. The other performers were great but these were for me the stand-outs.

As this conference is in part about taking a close and analytical look at classical concerts in order to determine potential new directions for classical artists and organizations, I found myself reflecting upon what the characteristics of tonight's concert were that pleased me. To that end, I made a bit of a list (on which I welcome comments and additions):
  • surprise 
  • the use of space in creative ways
  • movement, and movement through space 
  • hidden performers 
  • theatricality 
  • humour 
  • re-arranged music (not necessarily in its original form) 
  • short pieces 
  • spontaneity  
  • fun, camaraderie
  • passion 
  • focus, energy 
  • most importantly, EXCELLENCE

May 27, 2013


Spending a few days in Berlin confirms for me this great city's reputation as a creative centre. I have long wanted to visit Berlin; amazingly in all my European travels of the past, the opportunity never presented itself.

This first stay in Berlin was only a few days, but even in that short time there were many chances to feel the creative energy and to experience some diverse musical events. Upon arrival, I of course took a little walk around the "Mitte" area just to get oriented. My timing was lucky, arriving at the Berliner Dom just in time for an Evensong service at which the Stuttgart Boy Choir "Knabenchor collegium iuvenum" sang. A very high level of music-making.

The next day was a trip to the outskirts of Berlin to the MoBe culture house, where Moving Poets Berlin is based. This is a space where artists of diverse fields have the opportunity to create interesting projects. The occasion for my visit was to watch a "Ha! man performance". The "Ha! man" performs on various instruments, and uses movement and visual projections as well to create a captivating experience for the audience. Beginning with simple mouth sounds into a microphone, he gradually moves through space towards his cello, keyboard, and laptop, from where the sounds expand into a musical collaboration with himself. Lots of pleasing sounds, musical textures and colours arise. A most exciting moment in his performance is when he offers a white plastic schoolchild's recorder to a randomly chosen audience member and invites her forward to improvise over the musical support he has crafted. 

I felt very drawn into Ha-man's creation in the first half of the evening and quite wish he had left it at that. The second half did not take the magic he created any further, so unfortunately the audience began to feel like they had had enough.  This affirms my current conviction in my own programming, that an hour or 70 minutes is an optimal length for a performance. It is very difficult to re-gather the audience and build the energy again after an intermission. 

That is, unless you are the Berlin Philharmonic. I attended a performance at the Philharmonie (which felt like a trip to Mecca) of the Beethoven 4th Symphony and the Nielsen 5th Symphony. Herbert Blomstedt conducted, and thrilled the audience. What a joy to be in the presence of this music, performed at the highest level.

April 22, 2013

Jānis Mediņš Daina 14

I'm not sure how old I was when I first heard this piece played by Canadian-Latvian pianist, Arturs my teens, I think. I loved it so much then, and I still do. One of the set of 24 "Dainas" by Latvian composer Jānis Mediņš, which I am making my way through. This #14 continues to be my favourite of all of them, even though there are so many gorgeous pieces in the set.

Jānis Mediņš was born in Riga, Latvia in 1890 and died in 1966 in Sweden. His piano music is richly romantic and capitalizes on the expressive possibilities of the instrument. Dainas are technically folk songs, but these pieces are quite removed from folk music. Still, there is an element of the haunting, deeply-felt lyricism of that genre.

I thought I'd put my iPhone to use today and made a little video of me (well, my hands anyway) playing the piece. The combination of the device and the instrument doesn't quite do it justice, but hopefully it will be enough to give you an idea of how wonderful Jānis Mediņš' music is.

April 16, 2013

Ready to build my new piano class

Although this recently made poster advertises my teaching in Copenhagen, in fact the decision has been made to re-locate to Toronto. I'll draw up a new version of this very soon: 'NOW ACCEPTING STUDENTS IN THE TORONTO AREA'. 

As well, I am still offering lessons by skype to students anywhere in the world.

January 31, 2013

A winter walk

We've made it through January!

However the season for hibernation and reflection is not quite over yet. For me it has been a time of drawing inward, examining my life, and creating my new life here in Copenhagen. Step by step.

This piece from my most recent CD (volume 3) is very much in keeping with this theme.  Hope you enjoy it. (please click on the above hyperlink)