For the past three days I've been at Wilfrid Laurier University in Kitchener-Waterloo, working with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. This is my third year in the orchestra and the first time that the session has been held at Laurier-- the previous two years have been at Western University in London, Ontario. The first two weeks of the orchestra are in fact a chamber program, so I've been working with a wind quintet. Generally the wind quintets are assigned a simpler, often Classical piece for the first week of the chamber session and a more substantial work for the second week. The second-week pieces are going with somewhat more obscure Canadian music this year, with my group doing a quintet by Kelsey Jones (which in my opinion sounds like a cross between Hetu and Shostakovich) and another group playing Erik Ewazen's Roaring Fork. However, for the first week were assigned a Haydn divertimento (from which Brahms' Haydn Variations take their theme) which was quite short, and we ended up visiting the Laurier music library to borrow some other quintets to read. We got a Danzi quintet, the Nielsen, and the wind quintet arrangement of Tombeau de Couperin-- and somehow ended up deciding to entirely replace the Haydn with the Ravel for the concert on Friday! Needless to say, there has been and will continue to be quite a bit of woodshedding going on before the concert.
At the same time, I'm in the final stages of preparation for the Winnipeg audition. I fly out to Winnipeg after my last rehearsal this Saturday, play the audition Sunday morning (Sunday is a day off at NYO except for a concert in the evening which I have arranged not to play in) and fly back Sunday night. For Saturday night I'm staying it a place from airbnb.com where the host turns out to be a musician who's been playing with the symphony!
Overall I feel pretty good about the excerpts. It's somewhat difficult that I'm at NYO right now since the amount of playing I'm having to do in a day-- with all of the rehearsals, practicing for the Winnipeg audition, learning the part for the Ravel for Friday, and preparing for the placement audition for the orchestral session-- is rather more than I would prefer for injury-prevention purposes. Fortunately I only have three more days that I have to worry about the Winnipeg excerpts!
In the meantime, in all my obviously plentiful spare time, I started working on a piece of can to be hand shaped and profiled. Also in the bassoon section are two students who both hand shape and profile their cane. Although I certainly wouldn't switch too that method for all of my reeds (difficult to, as the saying goes, "fill a bucket full of reeds" when each one has to be processed by hand), I'm interested in the hand profiling especially as it seems like it might be very instructive regarding the properties of bassoon cane, and even illustrative on aspects of trimming. After all, the distinction between profiling and scraping a reed is less substantial than it seems. The profiler that we use at school scrapes so thin that it essentially begins the finishing of the reed for you, but I don't want to be dependant upon one specific profiler to be able to make good reeds. Anyway, so far all I have is a piece of cane left rather lopsided by my clumsy freehand shaping, so we shall see how it progresses.