Monday, 15 February 2016

Leavin' on a jet plane

I can't really believe it's time to fly back to reality!
I’m sat in Calgary airport after an epic 1hour check-in experience... moral of the tale: always expect plenty of fun, games, and confused complexions when travelling with cello!

The last few days in Banff have been just as wonderful as all of the others! There was definitely no shortage of gigs, with a bumper set at The Club on Thursday and another super fun jam with Justine last night back in The Bear's Den Inn.

Back to Thursday… (cue blurred vision and wibbly-wobbly harp glissandi)

Kind of spontaneously (the theme of the residency for me perhaps!?), I ended up playing my cello with three different singer/songwriters in the last Club session of the residency, which made for an intense (for the adaptive ability of my ears!) but really fun evening. Nancy and I had already rehearsed about 4 of her songs, which are really individual and full of personality - just like Nancy herself! We had a couple of ‘hut sessions’ on these, so I knew the songs fairly well and felt confident that I knew the chord changes and the vibe of each song etc. On Wednesday night, the two faculty members for this week, renowned singer/songwriters Sam Baker from Texas and Mary Gauthier from Nashville, asked if I would play for their sets at The Club too, so after having a quick listen to the tracks that night and having brief sound checks on Thurs afternoon, it was time to give it a go for real! Both Sam and Mary are incredible at telling very real stories through their songs, so they have the ability to capture the room and draw the audience in, which was pretty cool to witness. The show went really well, and the singer/songwriter sets were divided up by a beautiful, spellbinding performance from Alex, who played Christopher Cerrone’s Hoyt-Schermerhorn for piano and live electronics. If you don’t know it, check it out – really effective piece, which was played wonderfully by Alex. Back in the greenroom before the show began, Sam and Mary asked if I might like to play with them both at a festival in Glasgow, and perhaps a show or two in London – very exciting and I was flattered to be asked! After the Club show, we all retired to Maclab for drinkies and chats (and maybe a bowl of those sweet potato fries – impossible to resist and definitely one of your 5-a-day..?) I also have to mention Nancy’s side-splitting jokes, which proved to us all that a couple of hours of consistent laughter makes you feel FABULOUS! Thanks Nancy!

Weirdly, I’m finishing this blog entry in one of Manchester’s many Café Neros after a night of serious sleeping in London and more cello carrying and sitting still on public transport… I’m tired, disorientated, and kind of spaced out (!), but still incredibly energised by my adventure!
(More harp sounds…)

On Friday I had a yummy Maclab breakfast in the cracking company of Ernesto and Camilo - who seem to have adopted each other as father and son during the course of the residency! I also cleared out my hut, which felt like leaving home, and I then took a last amble down into Banff, where I explored a bit more and found further beautiful sitting spots to rival all of the other beautiful sitting spots I had already discovered! It was only a couple of days after I’d seen Bow River beginning to defrost, and now I could now hear it flowing fast and making impressive noises… so being a bit of a nature-lover and typical tourist, I took a video.
In the afternoon, Dory and Manuel gave us a really impressive recital of the contemporary vocal/piano works they had been preparing. Wow! Dory even did some epic body/mouth percussion, whilst Manuel found amazing sounds in/on the piano that I had never heard before (all during a 30-minute marathon of a piece written for them both by Lachenmann) – it was another memorable performance!

On Friday evening, Justine and I were able to reunite and we had another really fun jam at The Bear’s Den Inn in Banff! It was so lovely to play together again, and to work our way through some cool covers, as well as a few of Justine’s own beautiful songs. The people at the bar looked after us really well, with yummy food and a constant flow of wine! The two of us went back to Maclab afterwards for some celebratory drinks, as well as some not-so-celebratory goodbyes!

Saturday morning really was the end of the Banff adventure, with a final farewell breakfast for those of us left, and plenty of ‘last looks’ at the breathtaking views. It felt very difficult to say goodbye to the wonderful people who have now become real friends – I would happily spend another 3 weeks/months with them all/I’m hoping we’re all just going gather in Banff at the same time every year… please!?

I simply can’t finish this entry without mentioning Jeff’s bouncy chair. Jeff was the lovely driver of my shuttle bus to Calgary airport on Saturday, and he was very much enjoying the springiest truck driver’s chair I’ve ever seen – perhaps I was over-emotional/tired/not quite functioning properly, but I it was very funny to see his happy face bobbing up and down in the mirror every time we hit a dip in the road (I was alarmingly tempted to video this, but thought better of it/couldn’t achieve it with enough subtlety)!

As well as leaving me with some really special memories of wonderful experiences, new friendships and collaborations, my residency has taught me a lot and has given me a great deal to think about, explore and perhaps change… in terms of music, performance, composition, cello-playing, life, different attitudes and approaches to all of these things, my own ambitions, the significance of place etc, my new-found yoga hobby, a healthy respect for the Canadian cougar (the animal variety!)… I could go on!

If you’ve read this and you are even slightly tempted to spend some time at the Banff Centre – I’d 100% say: “take the plunge and do it!”

P x

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