Whole Musician Toronto Retreat 2015

published September 23 2015

Right after the CFA Convention, my team and I began a five day retreat for the Whole Musician at the same location. We had amazing participants from as far as Australia and Peru come to join us in Toronto and for the first time we also had non-flutists join us!


We started off with a full day of workshops and then the faculty concert on the first night. This is always a treat because the five faculty members all play so differently to each other and it all works beautifully as we can showcase how good it is to have differing approaches to flute playing. It all comes together perfectly as a showcase for the instrument’s abilities. I got to play with our retreat pianist Anne Marshall which is always a pleasure. Dear Anne was coming off of a hectic convention having already played about fourteen recitals in the previous four days and she was still eager to play more! Together we played my transcription of Mahler’s Adagietto from the fifth symphony, and we quickly hammered together two Strauss songs arranged by Elizabeth Walker that I had heard Liz play a couple of days previously. This music by Strauss is so moving, magical and familiar, that Anne and I really didn’t spend much time rehearsing it and I can’t wait to play them again! As usual, my colleagues performed at the top of their game, and this keeps me inspired!

The next days were spent in the usual workshops which for the first time included Anne delivering a class on “From the pianist’s point of view” which is something we all need to keep in mind. The rest of the concerts included two participant concerts and an open mic night where we all could get up and play whatever we wished.

This open mic night is certainly one of my favourite nights as we let our hair down and perform for each other in this private concert where the idea is, no rehearsals, just get up and do it. We heard hilarious duos, tangos, flamenco guitar, more guitar with singer and flute, melodia, and I had the pleasure of playing a couple of duets that are special to me. One was a work called rio cali pasillo that I heard in Peru and the performers there gave me the music before I left. It was sitting in my bag and I hadn’t looked at it since they gave it to me. At the retreat, flutist Vincenzo Volpe asked if we could play something together and I thought of that piece. While we were at it I remembered I also had the music to Piazzolla’s Oblivion and we played that as well. Oblivion is a beautiful work full of meaning and emotion. This version is for two flutes and strings arranged by Christine Beard and Christine and I played it together in Peru. For this occasion, Anne promptly picked out a piano part from the score, ‘cause she can do that. We enjoyed this so much that we repeated the same pieces again a couple of nights later at the final concert (videos on this site). Also at that concert another of the participants, Hann Melendez asked to play his composition ‘Mirada’ with him. I happily obliged as it’s a beautiful work that he needs to make longer! Hann is not only a fabulous flutist, but obviously an excellent guitarist and composer.

wmblog1Our workshops cover the gamut of everything one could think of that would be of value. There were yoga, feldenkrais and fitness classes. The traditional masterclasses and coachings, life coaching, meditation, music theory and history, other music classes and so on, all in an effort to help all involved find their way in this musical life. This is cool.

Beyond the playing and workshops we also made time to have a night off in which we did a small walking tour of Toronto. My plan was to go even further, but, since dinner happened we all needed to just relax afterward. So it was back to the university for a nightcap of yoga nidra of which I missed most of since, well, it was dark and dinner had happened and....

The retreat saw some discovering themselves; new found confidence or purpose and even long term goals. We play together, we live together and we witness each other together. For me this is a magical combination. At the end, I’m always sorry to see things come to a close. I always hope that the participants feel they have gotten something of value, no matter how small, out of the experience because I know I certainly do.