Let’s Talk Bassoon – Practice Back to Front

Let’s Talk Bassoon – Practice Back to Front

Let’s Talk Bassoon – Episode 2


CO-HOSTS CHRISTOPHER MILLARD (retired principal bassoon of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa Canada) and DARREN HICKS (present principal bassoon of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa Canada)  will reveal some of their favourite practice secrets for those extra difficult passages. They will discuss the benefits of locating the weakest link and building on either end, working backwards from end points and how to systematically remove notes. Some of the repertoire we may look at includes Tansman 1st movt, Nussio Variations, Saint Saens 1st movt, Hetu Concerto 2nd movt (Elegie) and Harbison Quintet Scherzo as well as the following excerpts: Rhapsodie Espanol Cadenzas, Beethoven 4, Leonore 3, Brahms 3 and Pulcinella Variation.

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.

When: Oct 1, 2023 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this meeting:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Jo Ann Simpson

Featured performers for this class:

Maxwell Ostic began his bassoon studies at age 11 at the Gatineau Conservatory with professor Jo Ann Simpson and has since completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa with professors Christopher Millard and Richard Hoenich. Since Graduating in 2021, Maxwell has gone on to perform as acting principal bassoon with the Saskatoon Symphony and is also an active freelancer and substitute musician in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, having performed with the Orchestre Symphonique de Gatineau, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, and the Kingston Symphony Orchestra. He is also the principal bassoonist of the Ottawa Pops Orchestra.


Taran Massey-Singh started his undergraduate degree in 2021 at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in the studio of Samuel Fraser; Principal Bassoonist of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, before transferring to The University of Toronto in 2023, to study with Eric Hall, Principal Bassoon of the Canadian Opera Company. Having started his playing career in 2016, Taran initially studied under Shane Wieler of “Marcus Wieler Inc. The Bassoon Workshop”. While attending Brooke Valley Bassoon Days annually since 2016, Taran has participated in masterclasses hosted by the likes of Christopher Millard, Gustavo Núñez, Kim Laskowski, Mathieu Lussier, Glenn Einschlag, and Kathleen McLean among other.Taran holds positions in various ensembles in both the Greater-Toronto and Tri-City areas on both bassoon and contrabassoon, in a variety of tenured, on-call, and freelance positions. Taran currently resides and works out of Brampton, his hometown.


Michael Quigley is a passionate, Montreal-born bassoonist currently living in Toronto. He began learning the bassoon in high school, and was eventually inspired by his band director, to continue with the instrument after graduation. He started his undergraduate degree in 2016 at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University, studying with Eric Hall, principal bassoon of the Canadian Opera Company; he transferred to the University of Toronto in 2018 to continue his studies with the same teacher. In 2023, Michael completed his Master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he studied with the principal bassoon of the Metropolitan Opera, William Short. He has freelanced with a number of orchestras in the Greater Toronto Area, and Manhattan, as well as performed chamber music in a variety of halls in Manhattan, including Mary Flagler Cary Hall at the Dimenna center, and Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Music Center

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Finnish Dreams

Finnish Dreams

Where My Dreams Took Me

Samuel Rouleau is a French Canadian bassoonist living and working in Finland.  After an initial visit as an exchange student in 2016 he returned to Helsinki in 2019 for his Masters degree.  He describes his love for Finland, where the culture resembles Canada in its polite, humble, nature-filled and open spirit, but with a special Finnish twist.

I am grateful to share with you some of my Finnish musical journey from the past few years; it’s been so formative in so many ways! I’m also glad to reconnect with the Canadian bassoon community as I have been away for some time! I have been given a world of opportunities and experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. Learning the local language was a big part of my integration in the society and culture here;  language works a lot like music, connecting us to one another at the deepest level. [photo above…Mikko-Pekka Svala, Erkki Suomalainen, myself, Noora Van Dok]

Learn by doing

Finnish orchestras have a special tradition of often including music students to play with them, offering an unparalleled learning experience by being fully immersed in professional orchestral playing surrounded by a supportive section. Among many others, I have played with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra and the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. These opportunities were made possible thanks to my wonderful teachers and colleagues, and by participating in various professional auditions over the years and being offered gigs or longer-term substitutions.


My time playing with these orchestras definitely taught me more than I could have learned by playing solely in student orchestras! The trust Finnish orchestras give to students is incredibly motivating, giving us the push we sometimes need to raise our level beyond what we thought possible! Notable repertoire included Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Debussy’s La Mer, Strauss’ Symphony for Winds, Brahms Symphony No. 4, and Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2, – to name only a few. [On the left below…Jussi Särkkä, Tuukka Vihtkari, myself; centre…winds of the Turku Philharmonic; right…with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen]


Meeting your role models.

They say you should never meet your role models, but I must admit at least in this case that I strongly disagree! As a student at the Sibelius Academy I have had the honour to play for two bassoonists I have admired for a long time, Carlo Colombo and Sophie Dervaux. Having these inspiring bassoonists and musicians by my side even for a short while gave me lots of insight into what I want to do with my music making and how I want to shape my sound and voice through my instrument. For Carlo, I played a selection of orchestral excerpts for an upcoming audition I had at the time, and with his help I reached the finals of that audition. With Sophie, I was nervous but excited to play the piece I first discovered her for performing, the famed Jolivet bassoon concerto. I soon after performed this piece on my Masters recital in spring 2022, and with her guidance was able to feel expressive and grounded during my interpretation of this monstrous work that has always been a dream of mine to play. In short, playing for and learning from my greatest inspirations has allowed me to unlock a new level of feeling comfortable and capable on the bassoon and reach new heights!


As I mentioned already, studying at the Sibelius Academy has given me many opportunities to develop my musicality and create important lifelong connections with my teachers and peers. I initially chose to study here for my year-long exchange from McGill University in my Bachelors degree, but soon after felt that my time there was not over, and I returned for a 3-year Masters program some years later. I was studying with Jussi Särkkä and Jaakko Luoma as my main teachers and also received instruction from Otto Virtanen and many guest artists, not to mention my wonderful teachers in other subjects as well. I performed my final recital in April 2022, performing Jolivet’s Bassoon concerto, Mozart’s Quintet for winds and piano in Eb-major, Gubaidulina’s Duo-sonata for two bassoons, and Corrette’s Le Phénix for four bassoons and cembalo. I graduated that same spring with my Master of Music and specialized certificate in pedagogy. [on the left…colleagues from the Sibelius Academy; centre…oboist Lucia Castillo and English Hornist Michael Lawrenson; on the right…me in recital]


The musical community in Finland is very tight-knit and highly inclined focused on collaboration and education. For instance, the Helsinki Conservatory’s teacher extraordinaire Mikko-Pekka Svala organizes a yearly bassoon extravaganza inviting bassoonists from all around the country (and even abroad!) to join forces and play many different arrangements for various sizes of bassoon ensembles. A highlight this year was an arrangement of select movements from Mozart’s Requiem by Ashby Mayes for bassoon octet! Other highlights include performing a selection of songs by Jean Sibelius with a superstar of the classical music world, soprano Karita Mattila, as well as playing with the world-renowned Finnish a cappella group Rajaton for a Christmas concert in the quaint town of Kemi in the north of Finland last year. The close musical circles in Finland allowed me to collaborate with various artists and participate in different types of projects, inspiring me further to imagine other types of collaborations that could one day be possible…

[Photos: below left with cellist Aslihan Gençgönül and Karita Mattila; centre…a choir of eager Finnish bassoon students!; right…with Rajaton!]


In addition to the abundant orchestral and solo experience I have gathered both within and outside of my studies, chamber music is always an important part of any musician’s life, as we know that anything can be and often should be seen as chamber music! Notably, I was happy to participate in a chamber music festival run by up-and-coming young classical musicians in Helsinki called Kamarikesä (Chamber Summer) last August, performing Barber’s Summer Music wind quintet and an arrangement of Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin for the same ensemble. It was an enriching experience and allowed me to form more intimate bonds with my fellow colleagues and perform in one of Helsinki’s most elegant and beautiful venues, Ritarihuone (The House of Nobility). A few years ago, I also began learning to play baroque bassoon and have been studying with Jani Sunnarborg, a virtuoso period bassoonist in Europe. I attended the Kälviä baroque music camp this past summer for the second time and was able to perform pieces such as Platti’s Trio Sonata in c-minor for oboe, bassoon and continuo as well as Fasch’s Quartet for two oboes and two bassoons in F major. I hope to continue working on exciting chamber music projects in the future and also deepen my skills and knowledge on the baroque bassoon. [Below right…with oboist Nahoko Kinoshita, bassist Julius Pyrhönen, cembalist Laura Vihreäpuu]

Coming Full Circle

In May of this year, I was honoured to be invited by my high school alma mater De La Salle in Ottawa to teach a masterclass for woodwind students as part of the 40th anniversary of the school’s arts program, the Centre d’Excellence Artistique de l’Ontario. This truly felt like a full-circle moment to me as I was able to connect with the young bassoon students and help them on their musical journey, even if just for a day. I evidently saw a lot of myself in them as I was once in their very shoes, and my dear first bassoon teacher Jo Ann Simpson came to support both me and her current students, which was a treat. That day I also performed C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in A minor for solo flute arr. for bassoon in D minor. [Photos…DLS students, with Dantes Rameau and my old teacher Jo An Simpson]


Here are a few snapshots of my time in Finnish nature over the past years, including a dip in “avanto” (hole in the ice, traditionally done after some time in the sauna), staying safe from mosquitoes while enjoying a campfire, giving way to reindeer on the road, picking wild lingonberries, blueberries, and cranberries, staying warm by the fire in the Finnish “laavu” hut, and spotting northern lights in Lapland!


As I now prepare for my move to the small city of Kotka in Eastern Finland to start my first trial as co-principal bassoon in the Kymi Sinfonietta orchestra, I am reflecting on these past years and how they have shaped me as a musician and a person. I feel grateful to have had these opportunities, experiences, and adventures and am looking forward to what more lies ahead, hopefully also back in Canada. For now, I will continue my daily work at the reed desk with my favourite reed-making activity, watching tennis (if you can spot it in the picture below)… Thank you for reading.  I wish you all happy reeds and fun music making!


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The bassoon solo in Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso is an opportunity to really sing.  But it’s worth a deeper look – some inconsistencies between the score, the orchestral parts and the original piano version can suggest a fresh approach to interpretation. Nicolas Richard digs deep into one of our key orchestral excerpts.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned during my orchestral excerpt studies was that every musical decision should be informed by a deep study of the score. Passages of music that we play on the bassoon are never written in a vacuum – knowledge of the full orchestral context will always point us closer to a composer’s intentions. Countless were the times when I arrived at a lesson having practiced an orchestral excerpt until the cows come home, only to be stumped when my teacher asked, “do you know what the cellos and basses are playing under you?” Back to the drawing board I went…

One particularly interesting case in score study is the expressive solo for the bassoon in Maurice Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso. This short and exciting piece is an orchestration Ravel made of a movement from his masterful piano work, Miroirs. Roughly translated to ‘Morning Song of the Jester’, this movement frames a slow and evocative solo – the jesters’s lament – around a lively and rhythmic ‘party’, all steeped in Spanish flavour. The most interesting feature is that there is no accompaniment at all while the bassoon is playing its solo. The strings, harps, and percussion only make short punctuations between each phrase of the passage, as if the jester is strumming softly on a guitar.

Given the bare quality of the jester’s lament, and the fact that it was originally conceived as a solo piano work, it makes sense for the bassoonist to study the original Miroirs score. Ravel was himself a virtuoso pianist so some of his music has deep roots in the character of the piano itself.  A careful comparison of the notation differences between the solo piano and orchestral versions can help the bassoonist build a deeper interpretation.

The solo part looks like this….

Ravel’s original conception of Alborada as a piano solo…

The point of this comparison is to experience how different your interpretation of the solo will feel and sound at the keyboard. If you can play Alborada on the bassoon you will certainly be able to play the very simple lament on the piano.  Just do it!!

A particularly effective strategy to open up our ears to interpretive possibilities in Alborada is to practice the solo on the piano. Personally, I am possibly the worst piano player to have been awarded a music degree, but even I am able to plunk out the notes on a piano!  Experiencing this passage at the piano should at the very least ‘flavour’ your interpretation of the solo.  Thinking about a composer’s own performing perspective can lead us to hear familiar phrases in a new light. I adore listening to a great pianist play this piece and dream about bringing that kind of artistry to my own playing.

For many wind players the percussive nature of the piano sometimes seems a weakness in a lyrical passage. Even on a concert grand piano, once a note is struck it must die away. Isn’t the bassoon closer to the human voice?  Perhaps, but part of the magic in great pianism is to capitalize on this lack of sustaining tone, creating the illusion of linearity despite the constant waning flexibility of each note.  A particular strength of the piano that is most instructive to the bassoonist studying Alborada lies in its ability to emulate the decay of syncopation without any effort.  It’s unavoidable, but an attribute, and here we make the decay coincide with the rhythmic energy in the tail end of a syncopation. Look at the bassoon entries in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th iterations begin with a syncopation.  Perhaps we could try to emulate that?

Ultimately, it’s my personal view that we bassoonists should approach the solo in a manner that leans into the idiosyncratic strengths of our instrument. We like to think that the ‘Master of Orchestration’ knew what he was doing by giving this beautiful piano passage to the bassoon! Still, there is much to learn by sitting at a keyboard and trying to emulate a great pianist.

Here is a fine example – a performance by the legendary Dinu Lipatti. (Yes, it’s surprisingly quick!)

Below you will find a summary of the differences, bar-by-bar, between the passage in the piano score “PS” and the orchestral score “OS”. Here, “M. N” denotes the Nth bar starting from the first bar of the solo at the plus lent marking (i.e. M. 1 is the first bar of the solo, and so forth). You will find the bassoon excerpt with differences from the piano score marked in highlighter. The passage from the bassoon part does not deviate from what is found in the orchestral score.

My hope is that pointing out the differences between source materials and executing them yourself – at the piano!! – will engender some soul searching questions!


-Should we attempt to match the natural decay of the piano when we play long notes in this passage?

-To what extent does the original conception of the solo on the piano influence the new version that Ravel created by orchestrating the piece?

-Why would Ravel choose to alter the grace notes of the piano version to strict rhythms in the orchestration? How does that influence our interpretation?

-Why might it be relevant that Ravel marked certain grace notes to start with the left hand rather than keeping all notes in the right hand?

-Why are some crescendos/diminuendos placed on different or missing altogether between the two versions?


Measure 1 –
Piano Score: « expressif » « en récit »
Orchestral Score: « expressif » « quasi recitativo »

Measure 2 –
PS: No crescendo printed, no accent on grace note
OS: crescendo starting on 2nd eighth note of b.2, accent on grace note

Measure 3 –
No differences

Measure 4 –
No differences, but interesting marking of playing first note of grace notes with the LH in PS

Measure 5 –
PS: Nothing in this bar, but previous bar’s last beat has sustain slur under it. This is made more explicit in OS and the bassoon part.
OS: B ties

Measure 9 –
PS: No crescendo, marking of “enlever la sourdine”
OS: crescendo starting on B to next bar

Measure 10 –
No difference, again indication of first note of grace notes with LH in PS

Measure 11 –
PS: Very different from OS! Second half of second beat: Eighth note and grace note (without accent)
OS: Second half of second beat: two sixteenths notes, the second having an accent

Measure 12 –
PS: See M. 5
OS: See M. 5

Measure 15 –
PS: No crescendo
OS: Crescendo starting on the G

Measure 16 –
PS: No diminuendo, accent+LH marking on grace note
OS: Diminuendo starting on A

Measure 17 – PS: No diminuendo
OS: Diminuendo through the entire bar

Measure 18 – 
PS: LH grace note marking (no accent). Diminuendo starts on this bar
OS: Continuation of long diminuendo. Note the lack of accent on the grace notes

Measure 19 –
PS: See M. 5
OS: See

Measure 21 –
PS: Crescendo begins on F#
OS: Crescendo begins on E

Measure 22 –
PS: Very different from OS. First half of b.1 is one eighth note followed by a grace note without an accent. The 2nd eighth note of b.1 has an accent. No accent on the E in b.2
OS: First half of first beat is two 16ths, the second having an accent. The E in b.2 has an accent.

Measure 23 –
PS: No tenuto marks, diminuendo starts on 2nd triplet of b.2
OS: Two eighth notes of b.1 have tenuto marks. No diminuendo

Measure 24 –
PS: Diminuendo marking throughout, no “pressez” marking
OS: “poco dim” and “pressez” marked

Measure 25 –
PS: No “rall” marking. No crescendo.
OS: “rall” marked. Crescendo on last three eighth notes.

Measure 26 –
PS: Diminuendo starts after grace notes. Slur begins on the bar, not slurred from previous bar. No slur indicating sustain of C# like in analogous passages.
OS: No diminuendo. Slur covers M. 25-27.

Measure 27 –
PS: Not a part of the passage
OS: Eighth note tied over. See M. 5

Happy head scratching!

Nicolas Richard is a member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra and a graduate of the University of Ottawa and Rice University.  He is a member of the board of the Council of Canadian Bassoonists

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Hope Springs Eternal In Calgary

Hope Springs Eternal In Calgary

New Bells, Old Heckels and Covid in Calgary



Michael Hope, in his fifth decade with the Calgary Philharmonic, professes two main goals before he retires: 

“To be the person who has been around the longest – I still have to outlast our English horn Player, our Principal Trombonist and a brave second violinist – and to be the first musician in the history of our orchestra to play 50 seasons. 41 seasons down, 9 to go!”

Michael writes about his happy, singing life in the second bassoon chair.


My partner at home is not terribly enthusiastic about me attaining these goals, because she believes that each day I play in the orchestra makes me a little bit more deaf.  She would like me to still be able to hear her talk after I retire.  She’s not wrong, but I still am having fun playing.  I think that comes from my belief that my career really has been like winning the lottery.

I was once asked what the high and low points have been in my career. I honestly couldn’t think of any low points.

That being said, coming to work these days is not as simple as it was 41 years ago when I first started with the Calgary Philharmonic.  Back then, I would just hop on my bike, ride 10 minutes to the hall, take out my horn and start playing.  Nowadays it’s a good deal more complicated.  My days of bike riding are long gone, so I take public transit.  From my beautiful (but quite suburban house) it takes about 50 minutes to get to the hall. For a number of reasons, I have to leave quite early now – the main one being that in order to play properly, I now have to warm up and practice way more.  Even with pieces I’ve been playing my whole career.  The best way to do this is to come way early.


Also, before rehearsal starts, there are now a few finicky steps I now need to take before I start playing:

Change my glasses to ones with special lenses for reading music.  They make mid-distance stuff on a music stand crystal clear, but the sacrifice is that I cannot see objects at distance very well at all.  These objects might include conductors…

Remove the face mask I now wear everywhere outside my house. I got Covid a few months ago – I don’t want that to happen again.  It was inconvenient…

Remove my hearing aids – worn to alleviate the hearing damage I’ve acquired after sitting directly in front of the aforementioned principal trombone player for the past 41 years…

Remind the stagehands to please install a plexiglass shield behind my chair, then insert my Musician’s Earplugs to prevent more damage from aforementioned trombone player…

Insert a non-adhesive grip shelf liner on my chair (tip: a shelf liner greatly improves posture and playing position. I’ve just discovered this!  Only because it’s gripping surface completely prevents your seat strap from slipping or moving around anywhere.  They cost $1.75 at the dollar store.  A steal).


At the end of the rehearsal, this sequence of events with my ears, eyes, and rear end is all done more or less in reverse – but I keep having to remind myself to take out my earplugs and re-insert my hearing aids last. Only because our brass players often “warm down” directly towards the side of my head as I’m bending down to put my instrument away (with hearing aids in this is quite uncomfortable). I kindly asked our principal trumpet player to do this off to the side.  He was a gentleman and kindly agreed.

The point is:  Getting ready to play a rehearsal is certainly more of a song and dance than it used to be when I was a young whipper-snapper. But I don’t mind. Just being able to come to work and still play music is a joy which compares to nothing. 


I often wonder if the secret to having a long and happy career is being a second player.  Playing second bassoon you get to play in the fun part of the instrument most of the time.  You’re important but not terribly exposed, and you still get to enjoy the music around you without the stress of the first chair. I have loved playing 2nd bassoon in this orchestra; it was the first job and will be the last job I will ever have.  It’s the life!

Playing second is an art unto itself.  I enjoy the responsibility of setting the foundation for the woodwind section’s pitch, stabilizing things by blending, and the most important part of the job – supporting my principal.


I’ve now had three principal players in my career.  All fine players with different strengths.  One was a lovely poet with the instrument, with a gorgeous sound always ripe with overtones. (Stephen Franse) He could make all the great lyrical solos sound like he had composed them himself.  Another (Chris Sales) was a technical master who could player faster and louder than any bassoon player I have ever heard.  My current principal player (Antoine St. Onge) is a splendid young man (younger than both my kids) who has a solid technique, a lovely sound, fine musicianship and perhaps the most enviable quality of all:  He is uncommonly nice. This is a quality that can make you as valuable a colleague as anyone could ever be.  It certainly makes Antoine remarkably easy to play with and a gift to me as a colleague and friend.

Antoine is also very smart.  At only 28 years of age he has already started wearing earplugs. I wish I had at his age.

He also plays a fine Bell Bassoon – #123. It is a very handsome horn with a “gentlemen’s cut” long joint and bell.  When ordering the instrument in 2012, Antoine had decided to get a thin wall instrument. (that’s what he was used to having played on a 9000 series Heckel that he had borrowed from the conservatory in Montreal) However, Antoine was surprised when he  saw in 2013, that Ben had made him a thick wall bassoon.

Apparently, Ben was familiar with Antoine’s playing and decided to make a bigger instrument thinking it would fit his playing better. After all, Ben has an incredible understanding of bassoon playing and he was right about that instrument fitting Antoine better. Since then, Antoine says it’s just been more and more joyful to discover making music with such a rich sounding instrument.

It took Antoine and me a little while to find just the right blend.  We eventually did it by being patient, listening (despite our constant earplug use…) and simply feeling things through. I think part of the challenge with this was finding common ground with the sounds of our different instruments – Antoine with his Bell and me with my Heckel.

My horn is a lovely 5611 series Heckel which I bought when I was 19.  Before that, my first Heckel was a brand new 12000 that I bought brand new from the Heckel factory in the 1970’s for the exorbitant sum of around $6500 Canadian dollars.   It was stuffy and dull with a bad scale.  My teacher at Curtis (Bernie Garfield) loathed it.  It had as anti a Garfield sound as any bassoon I’ve ever heard. That Heckel and I went mano a mano during my entire second year at Curtis until I finally decided to put both it and myself out of our mutual misery.

I traded it to a dealer named Alvin Swiney for my beloved 5000 series which has been by my side ever since for the past 44 years.  Swiney eventually sold that horrible 12,000 to a young man named David McGill who played it happily and went on to become the principal in The Cleveland Orchestra.  Maybe it wasn’t such a bad horn after all…

An ancient Heckel like mine has been just right for my career. Made in 1920, it is not an instrument of high value (5000’s are “strictly for collectors”, Nadina Mackie Jackson once told me over coffee). It has a gentle compact sound and a great scale (due to its long bore construction) which is just right for second playing. It’s very good at blending and making the instruments around it sound richer and warmer.   I love it, and I recently celebrated it’s 100th birthday by having it completely refinished by Frank Marcus with help from Ben Bell to get the colour just right. (It was imperative to me that they preserve the Heckel crest on the bell – this involved some finesse in blending the new colour with remnants of the old).  Frank put so much time, love and detail into getting everything just so. It looks beautiful and brand new. It is a treasured friend in my life.

Antoine with his Bell, and me with my 5000 have had fun times in the Calgary Phil.  From playing the most challenging of pieces to simply enjoying the everyday camaraderie that goes into the splendid life of being bassoon players.  Whether it’s a Mahler Symphony or a Jeans n’ Classics concert of Rock and Roll tunes, we always feel lucky to have jobs as splendid as ours.

Like the rest of the world, our jobs have come with challenges in the past three years but we’ve navigated the ups and downs of the pandemic with patience.  One week this season was remarkable.  17 members of the Calgary Phil came down with Covid at once, and had to be absent.  2 of those 17 people were our first call extra bassoon player and me.  Apparently, there was a similar outbreak going on in Edmonton and none of our regular extras in the whole province were available.  Thankfully, Catalina Guevera Klein – the wife of our principal oboist- is a baroque bassoon specialist and she came in to fill in for me with aplomb.  It was a crazy week for our personnel manager as people kept calling in sick and the orchestra kept getting smaller and smaller – luckily, we were performing Beethoven 8 that week which could withstand being a Farewell Symphony of sorts.


Our last concert of the season was a blast where Antoine and I got to play the mysterious bassoon duets at the beginning of La Valse.  I then got to hear Antoine completely nail the tricky and nerve-wracking solo from Bolero.  Of course, he made it sound easy – his specialty with difficult solos – and very, very expressive and stylish.  On my end, I had the more subtle challenge of playing the accompanying triplets on the high G in a way that sounded hopefully just right.  Most people who have played Bolero know that this is much harder to do than it sounds.  (If nobody notices you, then you’ve done it the way Ravel intended).

As I prepare and condition myself for the final 9 years of my career before hitting season # 50, I’ll continue to stay healthy, avoid complaining, keep using my earplugs, and most of all cherish this wonderful job that seems to somehow keep me feeling young.


When I first won the audition for this job, I asked my teacher at the time (Otto Eifert in Cincinnati) what the secret was to not becoming jaded.  “Drink beer”, he said. I think I may have done a bit of that over the years, but I think the best advice is to always feel lucky, to always be a good colleague, to help others around you to thrive, and most of all to revel in every single note you play.


  • Michael Hope is a CCOB Board Member who has been playing second bassoon in The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra since 1982.

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Exciting news!

Exciting news!

Kathleen McLean joins Wilfrid Laurier’s Faculty

COCB Board member Kathleen McLean is coming back to Canada!

May 25, 2023

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Music is pleased to announce that Kathleen McLean has been appointed as our new Musician in Residence in the woodwind area.

A proud Canadian, born in Saskatoon, Kathleen currently serves as Associate Professor of Bassoon at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University and Chair of Woodwinds.

With an extensive orchestral career, Kathleen has held prestigious positions with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the World Orchestra for Peace and the Canadian Opera Company. She has been guest principal bassoonist with the London Symphony (UK), Boston Symphony, and National Arts Centre Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony.

“I am delighted to be returning to Canada after 14 years as Associate Professor of Bassoon at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University,” said Kathleen McLean. “I am honoured to be collaborating with the brilliant faculty and working with the many talented students at Wilfrid Laurier University”.

As a pedagogue and performer, Kathleen has been very active in performing, premiering, and recording several new concertos and chamber repertoire at the International Double Reed Society. She has also been active with judging major bassoon competitions and offering masterclasses and recitals in numerous cities across North America. She was recently appointed to the board of the Canadian Council of Bassoonists and is a Yamaha Performing Artist.

As a long-time faculty member with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Kathleen has enjoyed working as both an orchestral and chamber music coach and as an online mentor for the Curtis Institute of Music.

“We are so excited to welcome Kathleen to the Laurier Faculty of Music community,” said Dr. Cynthia Johnston Turner, dean of the Faculty of Music. “Her incredible track record of performance and teaching is well-known and highly respected. I know that she will provide great leadership and innovation for our students and colleagues.”

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