Thursday, March 17, 2011

Last day of the workshop, first day of the rest of the tour

In my quest to keep the "Thursday" blog short-ish, I completely missed out on a couple of things.  I shall remedy this now!

First of all -- and I think this might have actually happened on Wednesday, but my memory is failing me... -- the incredible full-group improv!  The only "rules" were that we all had to stand up.  The first person would improvise something -- no boundaries, no time limits, just do whatever the moment inspires -- then as they were coming to the end of their bit, they'd walk over to another (standing) person and hand it off, then sit down.  Other than that, it was "anything goes"!  So as the Music travelled through the group, we ended up with human beat-boxes, spoken word, scat-singing, melodies, percussion, complete silence, primal screams and animal noises (OK, those might have been me...).  It was so much fun to see everybody's personalities come out and interact with each other, and to see how the sound travelled throughout the group!

Thursday, we were left with a few questions to ponder:

1. What would make me truly happy?
2. What can I do to make the world a better place?

Once the answers to these two questions are the same, you know you've found your purpose.


If the whole world were to follow you today... where would you lead them?

Also on Thursday, in our explorations of fear, a very brave Pierre volunteered for a very "Haven-eque" exercise.  As with most of the examples, he was first asked to play a solo.  Then to talk about how he felt about his performance, the thoughts that were getting in his way at the moment, the thoughts he had about his life and music in general, etc.  And then every little nagging doubt or thought was given a physical prop.  You didn't pursue music professionally because you were worried about money?  Big, heavy purse hung on the neck of your bass.  Family holding you back?  Big chains wrapped around your arms.  Worried your joint pain will flare up?  Hockey mitts.  And so, Pierre had prop after prop piled on top of him, young Rory yelling at him, and the whole group shouting boos and hisses -- and he had to play his solo again.

As you can probably imagine, it wasn't terribly good.  All the same, the world did not end.  We still liked him and respected him (and were grateful he was the guinea pig and not us!).  He survived it all just fine.  And then got a chance to do it again, without all that weight holding him down.  Guess what?

In life and in music, there are so many stories we tell ourselves that get in our way.  The way we think affects the way we do.  If you don't like what you're doing, change your thinking!

And so, on to Friday:

Victor's float plane off the island was leaving earlier than originally thought, so our final morning session was held in the dining room, right after breakfast.  As can be expected, much of it was a recap of the week's themes, a discussion of the concert the night before and all the lessons learned (by him, too!), plus covering a couple of points he'd missed but wanted to put out there.

He introduced the idea of four stages or rooms (borrowed from someone else, I believe, but I didn't write it down).  These rooms don't have any firm walls, so it's possible to flit in and out, depending on the circumstance, and there are benefits to each.

Unconscious Unknowing
- this is where most beginners are -- innocent, ignorant, having fun and enjoying the wonder of it all

Conscious Unknowing
- this is where most amateurs are -- they know what they don't know, and are trying to learn it

Conscious Knowing
- this is where most professionals are -- they've reached high levels of proficiency, and are still working hard to keep getting better at their craft

Unconscious Knowing
- this is where the true artists are -- the magical, blissful stage of the Music High, where your proficiency in the craft meets the innocent having fun and enjoying the wonder of it all

That's the stage we tapped in to the night before, the Music High, where we weren't bogged down by what we know, but took that cosmic leap into the unknown -- what we knew held us up, what we didn't know made us fly.

We often get trapped in the Conscious Knowing stage, because we think we've arrived, and spend our time perfecting what we know rather than exploring what we don't know.  And not just in music.  We all get stuck in ruts in every aspect of our lives, simply because we've stayed in our comfort zone and haven't bothered exploring the alternatives.

What we know can stop us from learning more.

Staying safe can stop us from learning more.

The Music High from the night before didn't come because we were all showing off how good we were, or cramming all our knowledge into those few moments of performance.  The Music High came from the leap of faith.

This is where he singled out Tina and I.  Tina is nominated for her second Juno award this year, she's not only an excellent trumpeter and singer, she's a multi-instrumentalist and composer, with probably more awards and experience than anyone on that stage, save Victor.  But she didn't jump to centre stage or try to hog the spotlight, she sang back-up to Juhli's lead -- and a very sparse backup at that, not using any of the incredible vocal power we'd heard during the week, or the vocal acrobatics she's certainly capable of.  He referred to the piece he'd heard me play on Tuesday, said he'd almost asked me to play that solo on stage because he found it so amazing (dropped the "virtuoso" quote!) and wanted to share it with the audience... but was glad he didn't.  He told the group I could have probably gone into some fingers-blazing technical solo that would have made the bass players cry, but had instead chosen "one blissful harmonic" for almost the first full minute of the piece, because that's what suited the music.  Because we were all tapped in to the Music.

By letting go of what you know, you can know the unknowable.


And so, Victor made a dash for the seaplane, leaving us with a list of exercises and ideas to keep us all busy for years to come.

We all packed up our gear and said our good-byes and slowly trickled off the property.  Our new friend Harry, who had a large van, offered to take us across the ferry, so we could avoid the sore backs and crankiness of Monday.  He had bought the CD version of Victor's book "The Music Lesson", so we got to listen to the opening chapters en route.  Once we got to Nanaimo, he realized that our car rental place was directly on his route home, so offered to drive us there, saving us yet even more hassle.

The second rental was not as nice as that lovely Subaru we had before the workshop -- it was a big Jeep, completely uncomfortable with lousy cargo space, but we figured it would get us through the mountains in a snow storm, so what the heck...

We were off Gabriola much earlier than expected, but with our first gig that night in Qualicum Beach, we decided to drive straight to town and make sure we could find everything.  Much quicker drive than expected, too!  We gave our host for the evening a call, but she wasn't home, so we got ourselves a quick bite in town.  Patricia called back just after we'd finished, and gave us a couple of "touristy" suggestions of how to spend our afternoon of leisure.

The first was to head towards Port Alberni and visit Cathedral Grove -- a place Harry had also mentioned, but we'd been afraid it would be too far away.  Not at all, so we headed to this beautiful reserve of massive ancient cedars -- many of which are at least 800 years old.  Some have fallen in wind storms (they apparently have very shallow root systems, so there are warnings posted all over the reserve that if you hear a big wind starting, you'd better run out of there fast!!!), some have suffered death at the hands of vandals, but the majority are beautiful old things, covered in all sorts of mosses and lichens, with many a story to tell.  It was a bit chilly and rainy, but there's much overhead cover, and the paths are woven so that if you need to cut your exploration short (wind, for instance) you can get back to your car pretty quickly -- it's a beautiful spot, well worth the short trek, and fully accessible.

The next touristy destination was "Goats on the Roof".  Where... yes... you can see goats on the roof.  Although it was cold and raining, so the goats had obviously chosen less exposed places to nap.  But it's a restaurant / gift shop / tourist trap sort of place with a grass roof... and goats that keep it mowed.

So, no goats... we drove around the countryside for a while, checked out a Buddhist Temple in the middle of a most unlikely field, and meandered our way through the scenic route back to Qualicum Beach to meet our host for a light dinner at Qualicum Foods, just around the corner from the hall we were playing.

The Rotary Hall was a cheery little venue with surprisingly lovely acoustics.  Patricia had set up the tables cabaret-style earlier, so she set up the refreshments in back as we set up our gear at the front.  There was a lovely quarter-page article about us in the local paper, so we had a bit of a "buzz" happening -- though there was much in town that weekend, so she was a bit nervous about ticket sales.  Never mind, we said, it's our first time performing in the area, we don't know a soul here, any audience is a good audience!

That just barely out of our mouths, our first audience member arrived, strode up to us to say hello... I was in the middle of thinking "gee, folks are sure friendly around here!" when he said "I used to come to all your shows in Toronto!"  Blank stare from yours truly... (I don't know anyone in Qualicum Beach, remember?) trying desperately to remember all my shows in Toronto...  "Dianne told me you were playing tonight"  Dianne... oh, OK, Dianne... ohsweetgeez... Bernie!  I had been caught completely out of context, and my poor little brain hadn't known what to do -- but Bernie DID indeed come out all the time, back when I was playing with Tim Harrison, and was part of the group of friends in that circle -- along with Dianne, of course.  Dianne had seen my concert listing on FaceBook and remembered that Bernie had moved to Qualicum Beach, and there you go!  I shall stop cursing FaceBook for a couple of days... but just a couple.  :-)  Never would I have thought I'd run into an old friend in Qualicum Beach!

Despite Patricia's worries, we had a nice little audience that night -- and a very appreciative one!  (A couple of fun troublemakers, too, which helps us out greatly.)  While our programme was identical to the gigs pre-workshop, we were definitely noticing a difference in our performance -- despite the fact we hadn't rehearsed since the week before, we were much more relaxed, much more together, much more into the songs.  A good thing, indeed!

Patricia had arranged for us to sleep at her neighbour's that night, but when we got there, all the power was out, and the place was freezing!  We examined the circuit breakers, the master switch, fiddled with a bunch of things, and got the power back on.  We decided to head over to Patricia's for a visit while the neighbour's heated up again, and had a nice evening chatting away.  Time for bed, we loaded our stuff from the Jeep into the neighbour's, said our thank-yous and good-nights, and -- POOF!  The power went off again.  This time, it could not be revived.  Uh-oh...

So, Don and I enjoyed our one and only hotel stay of the entire tour at the Travelodge up the street.  Where it was nice and warm -- in fact, we jacked up the thermostat.  :-)


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