I was sitting at the side of the stage, awaiting my performance with Broadsway at the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival, when I saw the screen of my phone light up with the new message. It was from my friend, the wonderful orchestrator Becca Pellett. I responded, “Sure, for a minute – going on stage soon.”
A moment later, I realized it wasn’t Becca who wanted to talk to me. It was Lucas Waldin, Artist-In-Residence and former resident conductor of the Edmonton Symphony, calling to ask my availability for something. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra was putting together a special show in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial, featuring a program comprised of all Canadian compositions. He would be the conductor for the two concerts, and they were wondering if I was available to perform a few pieces with the orchestra. “At this point, they’d like you to sing Oscar Peterson’s Hymn To Freedom, Moe Koffman’s Swingin’ Shepherd Blues, the Log Driver’s Waltz from that NFB vignette a few years back, and a medley of Anne Murray songs. There may be others added later.” He then went on to inform me that, unfortunately, those were all the details he had: dates and songs. He couldn’t let me know anything else, including what the compensation might be. However, he was wondering if I was able to confirm my commitment, even without having all the information. “Sure”, I said. “It’s the TSO. I trust them to pay me something!”, I joked.
And that was how it happened. With that five minute phone conversation between me in Waterloo, and Lucas Waldin in Paris, I confirmed my debut appearance with 4-time JUNO winning Toronto Symphony Orchestra!!
I’d performed with orchestras before. Many years ago, I did a couple of Gershwin tunes with the Cathedral Bluffs Orchestra in Scarbrough. I’ve appeared twice with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra in my home town of St. John’s. Last year, Broadsway made our symphony debut with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.
But this is different. This is the TSO – 88 brilliant musicians who’ve performed the finest classics with some of the world’s foremost soloists … and now, li’l ol’ me. As soon as the Broadsway performance was over in Waterloo, and I was on the highway returning from the gig, I started making calls to my partner, my parents, and my sister to share the news. Now was the time to celebrate this wonderful new opportunity! The nervousness and excited anxiousness would come later. (In fact, I’m feeling it, now, as I type this!!)
Within the coming months, the paperwork arrived, including contracts, riders, performance details, and the addition of more music – in particular, compositions from Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Eventually, I started receiving vocal parts from the scores, and the preparation began!
So, here we are, three weeks prior to the performance, and my preparation includes learning the arrangements, scheduling media interviews to help promote the upcoming performances, and attempting to end my relationship with potato chips in order to fit into the outfits I’m having made for the two concerts. Yup … once I break-up with my chips, you know it’s getting real! As Johannes Brahms once said, “A symphony is no joke.”
For those of you interested in attending, here are the details of the show:
Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents: CA-NA-DA!
Saturday, June 10 @ 7:30 pm and Sunday, June 11 @ 3:00 pm
Roy Thomson Hall
For tickets and information, click HERE.
And, with that, I must go practice … and throw away every chip in the house!