Music for Self-Isolation album recording at Roy Thomson Hall

Preparations Behind Something Big

My wife/manager, Lisa, and I have had a pretty constant routine these past bunch of years as we roll through different creative music projects. And we’ve been very lucky to have worked on a number of large projects in that time. But this latest one seems extra special!

From January 11-13, 2021, we will be at Roy Thomson Hall, one of Toronto’s most well-known concert halls, recording 24 musicians playing 31 solos and duos from my Music for Self-Isolation suite.

This is really Stage 3 in this project as it first started on an impulse last Spring at the start of the COVID pandemic when musicians lost all of their gigs. I composed the 31 pieces over a 5-6 week period as a means to stay engaged with my music community. It was amazing how so many of my colleagues embraced the new music and started posting performances online.

As I write this, close to 150 performances have been posted from musicians all over the world. This lead to me producing audio documentary compositions telling the plight of musicians during this time period.

After a flurry of activity last April to May, we decided shortly thereafter that it would make sense to apply for grants to garner funding to record all these pieces. And this past Fall, we started getting good news, specifically from FACTOR and the Toronto Arts Council. We were ready to start putting the wheels into motion!

Our first task was to secure a recording venue. The album could be easily recorded in a recording studio. But I thought that the nature of the pieces would benefit from the natural acoustics of a large hall. Also, recording in a big empty hall has much symbolic importance for the time we are living in.

We pretty well contacted each major concert hall in Toronto and they all replied with interest. Despite their schedules being more open these days due to the live music lockdown, I was still very humbled by their interest and support for the spirit of the project.

In the end, it was Roy Thomson Hall that was the best fit. Their staff and board are very passionate about our project’s support of the Unison Benevolent Fund. Their staff have been so accommodating in making a pretty challenging project work, be it scheduling, COVID safety protocols, technical support, etc. You never realize how world-class many large performing arts orgs are until you get the chance to work with them directly. These arts admin workers and technical staff do their thing largely in anonymity, with the artists getting all the praise, but nothing really happens without their support and creativity.

We then started contacting musicians who would want to be part of this project. Being in the Toronto area, we are so blessed with such a large number of talented people. Over the years, you get to work with people and/or see them in concert and you flag names in your mind. This being such a collaborative community project, it was also important for me that the project reflect the diversity of our music community. I’m so happy with the list of wonderful folks we assembled. Some I have worked with before and are good friends, others I have never met before, but regardless, I know they will all bring their special musical stamp to the project that will make the results amazing!

Like any big project, probably the one most challenging aspect is the time dedication. Wow, Lisa and I have sent many emails, had lots of phone calls and Zoom meetings with MANY people in the past few weeks. Have I mentioned that we’ve made lots of spread sheets, lists and boiler plates? Because we split the work up between the two of us, it’s actually been quite bearable. But for us personally, we’re used to having the Christmas Season as a low-key quiet time. That was not the case this year.

I’ll be honest, not having more downtime did cause us some anxiety. But all we needed to do is remind ourselves of what the outcome of this project will be and it made us deal with it better. That being said, when the dust settles on the production of the album, we are looking forward to taking some time off…I can envision some weekdays in late January or early February featuring Netflix binge watching on the couch in our pyjamas.

Despite the tight timeline that we’ve had to pull all this together, everything is all set! With just days to go before the start of our 3-day odyssey, all final reminder emails have been sent and my binder of sheet music is prepared. All we need now is for everything to go according to plan. Deep down in my heart I know that everything will run smoothly. Lisa and I have planned meticulously and are organized. And even if unforeseen circumstances come beyond our control that force our plans to change, we will still make it work somehow. What will be shared with you later this Spring will be amazing because it came from our collective hearts and souls. I can’t wait for you to listen and watch!


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Music for Self-Isolation album recording at Roy Thomson Hall

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