Category Archives: Music

Kiwanis news

L14  had a very full but  satisfying week at the Kiwanis Music Festival.  This year she played Malaguena by Sarasate as the Grade 9 general piece and  Romance in F major by Beethoven,  Melodie by Tchaikovsky and Praeludium and Allegro by Kreisler for the Grade 9/10 Concert Group.  It was very encouraging for her (and for Andrew and I) to hear the adjudicator’s comments which were quite different to last year’s  reflecting the progress she has made over the past year.

On Friday she played a Vivaldi concerto for four violins with the senior performance group and received  very encouraging comments and grade  from the adjudicator.    When he saw her later in the day for sight-reading and then at the evening competition, he mentioned again how much he enjoyed their performance.

A12 begins her week of competition tomorrow evening.


As you know a fair amount of practising goes on here.  L14, finished with her exam, is now preparing for the Kiwanis Music Festival which occurs in April.  Last year L competed in the Grade 8 class and then performed the same pieces for her Suzuki book 8 graduation, again in China and then continued to practise them for her exam in January.  To say that she is pleased to be playing all new repetoire is an understatement.

A12 is also preparing new pieces for Kiwanis.  She chose to learn Csardas by Monti, which I have been hoping one of them would play.  Both girls have had a  few performances lately, solo and together.   Along with their friends H & P they have been asked to provide music for a wedding in July.

Andrew’s evenings are filled with practices of one kind or another.  He continues to play on worship teams at church but is also  practising with a band for a benefit concert on April 11th. The band is made up of local musicians and led by singer/songwriter Dave Byron.  The benefit is for Empathy House, a long-term residential treatment facility for women with  substance addiction.

Last Saturday night the youth at our church hosted a rock concert by Manic Drive.  L and A both attended and had a great time.  Four of our youth, including L opened for the band with a couple of worship songs.  Apparently the church was rocking literally, windows were  shaking and walls vibrating!

Campaign Close-up

Friends of ours and fellow members of Group of Four welcomed an important visitor into their home this morning. The Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was given a short cello lesson by B7’s friend J8. Mr Harper then used his new skills to accompany E12 as he played a fiddle tune. E, J and their brother M were able to chat to Mr Harper about their interests and music lessons. 

We were also able to experience an aspect of the current election campaign at very close range today when we were invited to the Conservative Headquarters to attend a policy announcement.  Mr Harper, announced three new initiatives to help Canadian families. One of those initiatives is to establish a tax credit on fees for children taking music, art or drama lessons.

We were present for the whole announcement and the question time which followed. The children listened to the Prime Minister outline the policy, which involved more than just the tax credit, and heard him field questions on a range of topics relating to the election. After the announcement he took a few minutes to meet each member of the three families invited. When talking to the children he asked them about their involvement with music and told them a little about his own piano learning as a young person. He also chatted to them about the instruments his son and daughter like to play.

It was great to be behind the scenes and see the large media contingent in action.  We were briefed before the announcement by one of the PM’s staff about what to expect and appropriate behaviour.  We were also warned that the strong lighting can get very hot and just last week someone fainted during a press release.    We had stood for twenty minutes or so and were just listening to Mr Harper answering the last question when I realised A12 was swaying beside me, I whispered to her but received no reply.  Not a moment too soon I put my arms out to steady her and maneuvered away to the side of the room, where someone picked her up and carried her to a chair.  As soon as she could walk we went off to a back room where she recovered.  That is why you cannot see either of us in the photos here.  Mr Harper did come back to the room with the rest of the families where A12 and I were able to speak briefly with him.

You can read the press release here or watch it here


Today the girls found out their results from the theory exams.  Both did extremely well with marks over 90%.  They were very pleased, Andrew and I were very proud.  A12 has to keep up the momentum now and work towards her Grade 2 theory exam next year.

I was excited to receive in the mail a magazine containing an article I wrote.  Homeschooling Horizons is a Canadian magazine and my article was about starting or joining a Co-op.

After lunch today, none of us were in the least bit excited to be joined by a mouse in the kitchen!  I am embarrassed to say I did my share of screaming and jumping out of the way.  Of course the tiny little creature was terrified as we all stood looking at it deciding what we should do.  Any time it looked like being brave enough to move we roared at it.    B7 had a few bloodthirsty ideas on how it could be dispatched; needless to say I didn’t go with any of them.

Palaces and Gardens

We have had two touring days now and have seen beautiful palaces, courtyards and gardens.  On the first morning we headed to Tian’anmen Square and gazed around at the thousands of people there.  Our guide is a wealth of knowledge and although I am retaining some I really need to be constantly with a notepad to get it all.  From the square we entered the Fobidden City (Palace Museum) which was the residence of the ancient emporers.  We crossed threshold after threshold to enter courtyard after courtyard to see yet another beautiful building.  It was extremely hot and humid.  Just as we felt we could not last much longer we crossed over yet another threshold into the garden for the Imperial family.  This was where they could relax and play.  The trees and water made it just that little but cooler and very pretty.

Yesterday’s tour was to the Temple of Heaven which is surrounded by a park where many people were involved in weekend leisure activities.  We passed a group doing ballroom dancing, a group doing tai chi with paddles and balls, many playing a version of hacksac where the sack was actually a few disks attached to feathers.  As we moved through towards the Temple we encountered musicians, dancers and singers and realised we should be playing there ourselves.  The temple itself was very elaborate as were the surrounding buildings.  (photos are from the Temple of Heaven)

After that we spent an hour and a half at a market, but I will write about that another time.

In the afternoon we traveled to the Summer Palace where the Imperial family went to escape the heat.  It is built around a lake and is not one palace but many buildings and courtyards.  The difference in temperature was very pleasant.  We were able to enjoy the breeze acorss the lake.

Sleep continues to elude me and settle solidly on A11!

Safe Arrival

I am sitting on my bed in the hotel room at 6:59 on Friday morning. Unfortunately I have been awake for hours. Even though I was extremely tired last night I did not sleep well. A11, on the other hand was asleep within minutes of lying down and slept all night. Our flights were both uneventful, we were fed(three times), entertained and some of our travellers slept. After collecting luggage however we discovered one of the chaperone’s suitcases had not arrived, hopefully it will turn up today.

We went straight from the airport to the Eastman violin factory, where the workers were working extra hours just so that we could see them in action. Each violin, cello or double bass is made in an assembly line fashion, with all the workers repeating their own well mastered task over and over. As we moved from room to room we were greeted first with the smell of wood and later with the strong smell of stains and varnish. It was eye opening to see the many steps and the patient care each person was taking on their given task.

The hotel is very comfortable and the food is great.

Last minute details

As we continue preparing to leave on Wednesday I have been amazed at all the little tasks I have added to my list.  Packing my clothes has proven to be the easiest part.  Today I picked up something from the orthodontist, locks for the suitcases, then borrowed  a bag, an adapter and a jacket.  I also photocopied documents for both my family and the group and went to the chiropractor.  Both girls needed minor alterations to some clothes today so out came the sewing machine.  My to do list is shrinking, however, so I am hoping to relax and enjoy Canada Day tomorrow.

The children managed to squeeze in a treat this afternoon.  They joined their Narnia crazy friends and went to see Prince Caspian again.  WIth coupons for free tickets (which we couldn’t use the first time) it didn’t cost a thing.

I continued practising on the laptop I have borrowed and am beginning to feel familiar with the programs which I will need to use in China.  The Stellae Boreales blog now has links to a photo gallery where I hope to post photos every day or so.

When we stop to think about it, it is really quite amazing that L13, A11 and I are off to China due to their years of commitment to learning violin.  L13 has been playing for almost nine years and A11 for eight.  They  have become self motivated and are a big encouragement and help to  each other.  We are way past the practise charts and games I made when they were in Suzuki books 1 and 2.  It is very encouraging to see how they have developed as musicians and hear what their aspirations are for the future.

RIght now, though, I am just looking forward to seeing them play at the entrance to the Great Wall next Saturday.


With less than a week before L13, A11 and I leave for China our days have been very busy.  We finished our school work earlier in the week and were able to devote some time to shopping for a few essential items.  I have also been spending some time learning how to use the new gadgets Andrew ordered in order to make it easier to communicate while I am away.   I hope to be have time and opportunity to update this blog but my first priority will be to post news and photos on the Stellae Boreales blog.

We spent the day yesterday gathering everything together and doing a partial pack.  After recently traveling in Europe with her family a close friend of mine gave me a comprehensive packing list and some helpful items.  We are assuming it will be hot all the time and are packing accordingly.  I do have a pack of medical supplies which take up a bit of room and  some gluten-free rations also.

Yesterday Andrew bought home a lap top generously loaned by a friend at work.  It should give me the flexiblity to work on emails and posts during travel or rehearsal time.  I am aware that our itinerary is a full and exciting one which may see us all just fall into bed at night exhausted.


Today was hot; our first taste of summer for the year. At 9:00am we were on the field warming up for our first game and it was already 25° C. By the time we finished our second game in the early afternoon it was 30° C. At this point Andrew and I had to leave but our team stayed on to play in the tier B final. I haven’t heard  whether they won or not.

Thankfully we did not have to turn up at the Senior Solo Recital in our hot, sweaty gear. We all arrived refreshed to enjoy L13’s three pieces for her Book 8 graduation, A11’s performance of the Souvenir de Sarasate and the rest of the recital. It is wonderful every year to see how the girls have progressed and matured in their playing. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when they were watching the senior students and wondering when they were going to play those hard pieces!

book 8 graduation

Six strings

A couple of nights ago Andrew and I went to see Australian guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel perform solo to an audience of around 700 people. It was a change from the diet of violins we have been consuming lately. The concert was excellent. Brought to Canada by, Tommy played a range of pieces, both original compositions and familiar classics.

I’m not sure that I can adequately describe his style; he calls it finger style, but that doesn’t convey all that he manages to do with his hands and his instrument. He did an amazing amount of percussion during his pieces, a couple of pieces were more percussion than anything else. Using all parts of the guitar, including a large sanded area on the front where he scrapes his finger nails, he produces booming “drumbeats” and softer brush like effects. While he is playing on the strings he manages to sound like a whole band, his fingers moving all over the place, picking, strumming, and creating fantastic sounds and rhythms. We particularly enjoyed “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, the Beatles medley and “Guitar Boogie” but many pieces managed to captivate me.

As he chatted to the audience between songs we got a glimpse into the many experiences behind the music we were listening to. Playing guitar obviously gives him great joy, which he wants to share with everyone listening. His composition “Mombasa” came about while he was in Kenya with World Vision visiting his sponsor child. “Initiation” comes out of his experiences with the aboriginal people of Australia, and is apparently never the same from one performance to the next. Some of his songs are inspired by his friends and family, some by great guitarists he admired and who in turn admired him. It was a treat to sit and listen to such imaginative and impressive guitar playing.