NACO tour blog 1: Embarrassed in Prince George

JKP and James Judd

Prince George, BC

I am in Prince George and I am embarrassed. Of course I am thrilled to be beginning my set of performances with the National Arts Centre Orchestra on this leg of our Western Canada tour.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Twenty years ago I came to play a recital in Prince George, and told the recital presenter how much I was looking forward to my first performance here. “But you played here three years ago,” she said. “No,” I replied, “You’re probably thinking of my brother Jamie.” That night, she brought proof: the program from my recital three years earlier. It was the first time that I had forgotten performing somewhere, and as I said, I’m still embarrassed.

My official tour responsibilities started yesterday: I gave a piano master class at UBC. I assured the students in advance that I knew their angst well – this was the same Recital Hall that prompted fits of nerves as a first year piano major under Lee Kum-Sing. I realized to my surprise that fully 30 years have gone by! The class went well – everyone was well prepared and the hall was filled with the sounds of Ravel’s “Ondine,” Chopin’s “Fantasie” and Beethoven’s “Waldstein.” I wonder, do classical works with names and nicknames appeal to students more than works with titles like “Sonata No. 32?”

Last night at 11pm I made a reconnaissance mission to Vanier Hall at Prince George Secondary School to test the piano. This is the ever-present question for touring pianists: “What will the piano be like?!” I am interested that it’s a Bechstein, since I’ve never performed on one before.

Today, there is no question that we are an orchestra on tour: the hallways of the Prince George Sheraton are reverberant with scales, arpeggios and solos coming from behind closed doors. Surely the housekeeping staff wonder if they have been transported to the Royal Conservatory of Music!

The concert goes beautifully. I was expecting to be very nervous because I haven’t performed Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto in many years. But conductor James Judd makes it feel like chamber music. I know the National Arts Centre Orchestra players so well, and in this most magical and improvisatory works of Beethoven I feel almost as if we are all experiencing the music anew.

In a post-concert talk, I mention how interesting it was to perform on a Bechstein for the first time. An audience member corrects me, and points out that this is the same piano that I performed on 20 years ago. So I’m still embarrassed…


"Fantasy is not just a technical showcase, but a big, clear picture window of a musician with a rich soul and great artistic depth. It is also a fantastic example of programming that entertains as well as edifies.”
-Musical Toronto

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