Ukulele Adventures

As mentioned in my last post, I got a ukulele! Hooray! It's a little baby soprano one. I already play guitar to some degree, so it hasn't been too much of a stretch to apply that knowledge to my uke. Lots of fun. I've played more ukulele in the last week and a half than I've played guitar in years.

To be more accurate, Sam gave me the ukulele since I'd been playing his tenor uke a lot. So what else could we do now that there were two of us and two ukuleles? Make a cheesy uke duet video, of course!

More adventures to come, I'm sure. Enjoy!


Coming Up

It's been awhile since I posted. It's hard to keep these things up to date, isn't it?

I've been bouncing around between different projects and thus haven't really had anything worthy of posting lately. Did some editing on my novel - someday I'll do more with that - considered various ideas for new music to write, etc. But I should have some post-worthy material soon! I just got a ukulele last weekend and I've been playing it a lot, and hopefully will have a video to post soon. I've also been dragging my camera around in an attempt to take more photos so there should be some of those to put up, too.

In the meantime, Countermeasure has been the most exciting thing happening. We had a few shows lately that went over well, and we're working hard putting together material for our second album and our tour this summer. We're probably two-thirds of the way through tracking Made to Measure, and I'm really excited about it. We'll be releasing it this summer, probably June or July.

Our tour in August is beginning to seem like a reality, too. We'll start in London, England for a few days and do a few concerts there; then we're off to Edinburgh Fringe for a whopping three weeks and 18 shows; and then to Itally for the Vocalmente festival and a few more shows. We'll be gone for an entire month! Exciting. We've been working on polishing our show, complete with choreography and everything.

We'll surely be presenting our final show before we leave sometime, and also have a CD release party (those two might be the same thing), so stay tuned for that. We'll also be opening for Naturally 7 in May, which will be awesome! More about that later.



Having neglected my piano for too long and finding myself with more free time than usual, I decided a little while ago to start the non-trivial process of reading through all of Beethoven's piano sonatas. I'm not doing them in order, so much - I have book  1 of 3 at work and book 2 at home, so I'm jumping back and forth in time a bit.

In the process I've come across a few interesting thoughts:

For one, I find that Chopin (my usual favourite to sight-read) is a much better writer for piano. No matter what crazy chords he throws in there, they more often fit the hand comfortably. Beethoven, I find, was more concerned with form and structure, but less concerned with making things playable. (Part of this, of course, has to do with me being out of practice, but often my hands simply aren't big enough to play a part as it is supposed to be played - which often leads to cheating with pedal - blasphemy!)

Second, I knew that finger agility and control deteriorate when not practicing, but I hadn't realized that sight-reading does as well. Sight-reading was always a big strength of mine, but I was a little dismayed when I started at how many easy mistakes I was making. This has been slowly getting better as I've been going through, but I should really make a point of reading more often.

Third, I'm finding a renewed appreciation for Beethoven's genius. Despite the playability issues, Beethoven certainly redefined the form of the sonata. It's so interesting to see him as a halfway point between something like Mozart - almost always predictable and formulaic - and a Romantic composer: playing with themes in unconventional ways, throwing in surprises here and there, and at times very deliberately departing from the template of a typical sonata.

I'm not sure if I'll finish the entire sonata repertoire, since I remember that the later sonatas get a little weird (therefore less fun to read) and it's December so there's all sorts of Christmas music to play. But it's been an enlightening exercise in the meantime, for sure.


The Mississauga Festival Choir

I was recently asked to arrange some songs for the Mississauga Festival Choir's Christmas concert. Their guest artists are The Barra MacNeils and the choir is to sing some songs with the band, and my job is to write the choir parts.

It's looking to be a pretty fun concert! The choir gets better every year and the Barra MacNeils are a rousing east coast band. You can find more info and tickets here.


Sewing Class

I haven't been working on some of my other creative projects for awhile because I've been pouring my creative energy into my Sewing Basics class at the Sewing Junction.

Here are our three projects! The first was an infinity scarf, which I made out of a shimmery silver fabric. For the second project we made cloth napkins with mitred corners. And the last was a toiletry bag made of canvas with an exposed zipper. I'm very proud of all of them!

I would highly recommend the Sewing Junction if you're at all interested in sewing! They have a wide variety of classes - basic learn-to-sew classes, learning to do alterations, more advanced class, workshops for specific projects. And Clara is a fantastic and patient teacher. Get sewing! :)


Reunion of Giants

Over the last couple of weeks at work we've been working on a documentary called Reunion of Giants. It tells the story of the last two airworthy Avro Lancaster bombers, one Canadian and one British, reuniting and flying together. 

The film will be playing in select Cineplex theatres and will be available at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, which is where the Canadian Lancaster lives. 

It was a fun change of pace from our usual TV shows! Check out the the trailer:



New photoshoot!

For the first time in years, I have new modelling photos to share!

A few weeks ago I did a photoshoot with Scott Murdoch of Five by Five Photography, and he sent me the pictures the other day. I'm thrilled with them! I've uploaded a few to my Modelling page, but I'll post some of my favourites here.

My dear friend Elana Steingart was gracious enough to do my makeup for the shoot, and she did a fantastic job.

Hope you enjoy!



All summer I've been working hard on The Amazing Race Canada, which is very rewarding but takes a lot of time. We've also been working on Custom Built and shortly we'll be starting a new show called Sugar Showdown. But we'll be done Race by mid-month, and while it's always fun to work on I can't say won't be happy to have some more spare time!

It's also really cool to work on something and watch the public react to it. On Wednesday nights, Twitter is buzzing with activity about the latest episode of Race, and it's a good feeling knowing that I helped to contribute to that.

Since I've been so busy with work I haven't had much time to work on anything new, but here are a few pictures that I took recently that I like.



Amadeus Compositions

I used to sing with the Amadeus Choir of Toronto, a large choir conducted by Lydia Adams. Every year they hold their Seasonal Song-Writing Competition in which composers are invited to submit newly-composed Christmas works; the competition is aimed towards youth but every other year adults are invited to participate. 

I entered the competition twice, in 2009 and 2011, the first year writing a piece called Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band based on a poem by Aurelius Prudentius, and the second called This New Snow, with lyrics written by my good friend Hayley Preziosi. This New Snow won an Honourable Mention in the 2011 competition.

I know this isn't really the time of year for Christmas music, but I recently dug up recordings of both pieces so I thought I'd add them to my site. Neither were ever professionally recorded, but I'm glad to have at least these copies of them!

Hope you enjoy!


Projects on the go

Haven't posted in awhile - I've been incredibly busy with numerous different projects!

The main reason for being busy is that we're in the midst of  The Amazing Race Canada at work! The schedule sets a frantic pace but it's a very rewarding show to work on. It's fun to see the public response it gets when each episodes airs. That goes until mid-September, so it's going to be a busy summer!

I've had a few other projects on the go, as well. This past Saturday, I did a photoshoot with Scott Murdoch of Five by Five Photography, which means I'll have some new modelling photos to share sometime in the near future! I also recently finished a new arrangement for Countermeasure of Hawksley Workman's We Will Still Need a Song, which we'll be performing at the wedding of one of the group members next weekend. I've also been working on my solo singing and guitar playing for a few other little side things, as well! Whew.

Countermeasure has a new video out and I also managed to find a recording of an older composition of mine, so I'll be posting a bit more material in the next few days. Eventually I'd like to start writing posts in more of a blogging style rather than just updates on projects, too. But in the meantime, have a couple of photos that I've taken recently that I like!




Here's the last of the songs that I took upon myself to (re)record in the last month or so. It's called Dancing, and I originally wrote it in 2012. I had a version up on Youtube, but it was just me playing and singing into a camera so the balance was off and the vocals hard to hear. This should be better. :)



There Will Come Soft Rains

Back in university, probably around 2007, I wrote an art song with the text of Sara Teasdale's poem There Will Come Soft Rains for a student composer's concert. Due to various complications it never ended up being performed.

Flash forward to this year, when my dear friend Katy Harmer performed it in a recital. It was up in Yellowknife so I was unable to catch it, but she sent along this recording - so I finally have a copy of the piece, eight years later! Thanks, Katy!

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools, singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone


London Bells

At our concert on May 16th, Countermeasure brought in some videographers to record our performance for the purpose of getting some good-quality promotional video material. Well, the first song is up! This is London Bells, and it's probably one of my favourite songs that we sing. I'm really happy with the video. :)

I hope you like it as much as I do. :)


Ride for Heart

This is unrelated to creative projects, but I think I'd like to use this space for public updates about my life in general - those just usually happen to be related to creative projects. :)

On Sunday (May 31) I'm riding in Ride for Heart, which is a fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. They close off the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway to cars and let cyclists ride along it, which is great fun. I'm doing the 50km distance.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is a charity close to my heart, so I'd appreciate it if you'd consider donating to my ride. You can find my fundraising page here.

Your generosity is greatly appreciated! :)


Upcoming Shows

Perhaps I'm a little belated in posting this, but better late than never, right?

Countermeasure has a handful of shows coming up in the next couple of weeks!

Tonight (May 16) is a big one: we've rented Glenn Gould Studio so that we can film some promo material. The more people the better, so tickets are an extra low $10! It's rare that we do a full-length show for so cheap, so it's a great opportunity to check us out. More info here.

At the end of the month is Sing! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival, and we're involved in a number of events for that:

  • May 23: an appearance on CP24 Breakfast to promote the festival, between 9-10am.
  • May 27: performing with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale in "And Still We Sing" - a tribute to Billy Strayhorn, at Koerner Hall. More info here.
  • May 28: "O Canada: Our Nation's Greatest Hits" at Glenn Gould Studio. More info here.
  • May 30: Short performance on the Distillery Stage at 1:50pm - FREE!
  • May 30: "Come Together: Beatles tribute", at Tapestry Opera at 4pm. More info here.

I'll come back to this post and add more information about those concerts as I get it. But in the meantime, I have to go prepare for tonight's big show!



New Piano Solo!

Back in the fall, I wrote a piece called Subtlety Is Not Your Specialty, for Soup Can Theatre's production of Circle Jerk. The line was given to me as inspiration, so I wrote a lovely piece for piano, flute and cello - and then the clarinet comes in an stomps all over it.

I was kind of sad that the piece ends up ruined by the clarinet, so I adapted it for piano solo, in which the original pleasant piece doesn't get interrupted - and decided to just name it Subtlety, since the spirit of the original title was no longer there.

It was an interesting experience, trying to condense a piece for four instruments into a solo. I find a lot of my piano writing tends to be simple, because I write what I can play immediately while sitting in front of the piano. This was different - since I was trying to conserve as many of the original instrumental lines as possible, it ended up being much more difficult than the piano music I usually write. A fair bit of practice went into being able to play it properly!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!