121298 NACO featuring Boris Brott, Ottawa, ON

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On December 12th, 1998 I attended an afternoon concert featuring the National Arts Centre Orchestra under the baton of Boris Brott.  I had just started my ongoing job working for the NAC running the bigscreen for their Family Adventures Concerts (née the Young People’s Concert Series) and with my first gig with the orchestra occurring just a month before it was suggested that I attend a performance or two so I could better familiarize myself with the musicians.

So going to this concert was work, basically.  And you thought you had it rough.

I don’t remember anything about this show in particular but I’m sure it informed my new position, in some way at least.  One thing I noticed right away was how the audience was deprived of the opportunity to watch the conductor while he was working, something I was able to freely watch on the video monitors inside the control truck and a view that I thought was the most engaging on the entire stage.  Since then I’ve made it a point to feature the conducting conductor onscreen as often as I can during my shows and I still do.  I especially like how the chef generally gets a little extra oomph the moment he sees himself on the screen and starts waving his stick with a bit more gusto.

In addition to being the conductor for this concert, Boris Brott was the main conductor for the first four or five seasons of the shows I worked on, so I got to spend a fair amount of time with him.  He wasn’t the warmest man but I learned a lot from him; mainly to keep my mouth shut. 

One of his best lessons came when I approached him at the podium as he wrapped up a rehearsal.  I had a question about some inconsistency in my score.  I forget exactly what the issue was but it was trivial at best, I’m sure of that.  And as Maestro Brott delivered the answer to me from his little stage riser he leaned over and patted me on the head, like, “What a silly little boy you are, now off you go you little scamp!” 

I was aghast.  And in my early thirties.  I turned and walked away with as much dignity as I could muster, which was approximately none, and made a point of asking him as few questions as possible going forward.  It is certainly a moment I won’t soon forget.

Ah, but as the years went by a small parade of conductors came through the Family Adventures Series and history eventually settled on a wonderfully talented and very respectful fellow named Alain Trudel*, who is an astoundingly good trombone player in addition to being a highly skilled and well-rounded baton-meister.  And he has yet to pat me on the head, so he’s pretty solid in my books.

*Unfortunately, just days after writing this story Alain left his position with the NACO.  The split was amicable and was due specifically to his mounting success and his intensifying schedule playing with and conducting orchestras around the world.  I wish him well.  

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