NACO Tour blog 4: Beethoven at Midnight

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4Kamloops, B.C.

What a day! I woke up in Vancouver, spent the afternoon giving a master class at the Victoria Conservatory, and at 10:22pm touched down in Kamloops. For a moment I could imagine what it might be like to be on a political campaign. (No, thanks…)

The National Arts Centre Orchestra performed in Victoria tonight, and arrives in Kamloops tomorrow. I had the night off, and chose to come here early for one reason: to try the piano ahead of time, and in peace and quiet.

“Peace and quiet” is hard to come by on a concert day, when a stage crew is unloading an entire orchestra’s worth of bass instruments, chairs, stands, music, conductor’s podium, etc at 4pm for an 8pm concert, and the piano technician is simultaneously desperate for his or her access to the piano.

So this explains why I am arriving at the Sagebrush Theatre to rehearse at 11:45pm.

A very young member of the local stage crew has agreed with great kindness to let me in at this extreme hour. Ben seems completely comfortable being alone in the theatre this late. He has iPod earbuds hanging off his shoulders and I can just make out the monotonous tinny beat of rock music.

Ben moves the piano onto centre stage, opens the lid, sets out a bench, and pulls out the “piano tuner’s light” which in this case is a pole welded onto a discarded tire rim, adorned with a single light bulb in a metal cage, and sporting a very long orange extension cord. No sense in burning up a million watts of stage lights just so I can see some sheet music!

The piano is a Yamaha concert grand, thus completing a trilogy of different instruments that began with a Bechstein in Prince George, and continued with a Steinway in Whitehorse.

It has good ring, but suffers from a few overly bright notes. Before playing anything I start testing notes and leaving a lengthy missive for the piano technician, with cryptic comments like “C-sharp 5 too bright when both soft and damper pedals depressed.”

I start practicing Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto. To my surprise, Ben walks into the hall and says, “You know, I’ve never actually sat in the hall to hear anything; I’m always working backstage. Do you mind if I listen for a few minutes?”

Although I would normally prefer to practice with the illusion of privacy, I can hardly see denying this young man exposure to Beethoven!

It is now midnight. There are 706 seats in the Sagebrush Theatre, and just one of them is occupied for a private ‘performance’ of Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto, sans orchestra.

To my great delight, Ben doesn’t move until I am finished with the concerto 40 minutes later.

I feel that I have made an unexpected connection somehow, and this wasn’t even an official NACO tour activity! (I finally leave at 1:30am…)


"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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