Parliament of Canada

By Michael Byrne

Friday, April 1 – Toronto to Ottawa

9:00 am Luggage Call in Toronto! In other words, no sleeping late, or you’ll miss the bus to Ottawa!

Mieka (viola) and David Michaux (trumpet) calling home

It was a quiet, cool Ontario morning as the buses were loaded with luggage, instruments, and musicians who had performed a very successful concert at Roy Thomson Hall the previous afternoon. Our travel time was nearly seven hours, including a lunch break near Kingston at a large and very busy highway stop. Activities on the bus included studying scores, exchanging the latest gossip in the music business, reading and of course sleeping. Two married musicians were enjoying a “FaceTime” phone call with their young son, who was back home in Victoria, and a very dedicated horn player was practicing the music we were performing the following week, with a very effective “practice mute” that politely silenced his instrument.

Michael Oswald (horn) keeps the chops in shape

The National Arts Centre

We arrived in Ottawa around 4:30 pm, which was only three and a half hours before our concert at the National Art Centre’s Southam Hall. In both Quebec City and Toronto, we had rehearsals before our concerts, so that the orchestra could become better acclimated to the venues. However, in Ottawa we were playing the concert “cold”, without a rehearsal. Most of us arrived at Southam Hall early enough to sample the acoustics individually, but we could not know how the hall would shape the Victoria Symphony’s sound until we actually began the concert.

Southam Hall


Southam Hall is one of Canada’s most famous venues, and the well-appointed, enormous backstage area has memorabilia from past performances, including a prop depicting knights from the hit musical “Spam-a-Lot”, and a large logo used as a backdrop by the great Canadian rock band, Rush. The hall itself is larger than most, and seats nearly 1,000 more patrons than Victoria’s Royal Theatre. It is the home of The National Arts Centre Orchestra, which is one of Canada’s finest musical ensembles.

Musicians warming before the concert

When we began playing the concert, it was immediately apparent that this was a very different sounding hall than the other venues we have performed in. It was not as reverberant as one would expect from such a cavernous space, which meant we had to adjust our playing to accommodate the acoustics. Short notes needed to be a bit less short, and solo passages had to be played with a bit more volume. It didn’t take long for us to get used to the evening’s musical home, and in the end it was a very fine concert, and we were very warmly received by an appreciative audience. Our piano soloist for the tour, Stewart Goodyear, was featured in the first half of the program, and he performed the Grieg Piano Concerto brilliantly.

After the performance, we were treated to a very nice reception, and were joined by some of our colleagues in the National Arts Centre Orchestra.