The Gryphon Trio’s ebullient pianist, Jamie Parker, is the most recent addition to the Conversations@The WholeNote video series. Publisher David Perlman continued his casual encounters with Toronto’s musical players in a wide-ranging interview that took place shortly before Parker and his chamber music partners, violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon and cellist Roman Borys, gave their annual Music Toronto concert at the St. Lawrence Centre February 26.
Props master Perlman had an informal questionnaire in the form of a deck of WholeNote cards with a topical allusion written on the back of each. The cards moved the chat in unexpected but entertaining and edifying directions. In response to “Music I Like,” for example, Parker spoke about one of the things that gives him and his wife (who have two boys, seven and nine) great pleasure. “To see the boys able to identify and sing along some Beatles tunes and also some Beethoven symphonies makes me very proud as a parent,” he revealed.
He also revealed that he doesn’t do much recreational listening since his “Day Job” teaching at U of T, followed by family time and hours of practising, makes that impossible.
The card “Professer Parker” followed close after and since he had already touched on his day job he segued to the summer program at Stanford where the Gryphon Trio and the St. Lawrence String Quartet have worked with up-and-coming groups as well as gifted amateurs who were Stanford alumni. He spoke about one “terrific amateur cellist” who was recently flying drones through volcanoes in Iceland. In addition to his musical and engineering skills, he was a world-class underwater scuba photographer. “Working with adult amateurs is something I really enjoy,” Parker said.
“Hopeless” and “Hopeful” spurred a serious statement about the future of classical music in the light of CBC budget cuts that have limited the ability of young musicians to “capture the ear of the nation.” On the other hand, Parker was hopeful that the Internet and YouTube have great potential for musical exposure. “You have to be flexible and fluid; the ones who adapt best will be the ones who will make a go of it.”
“High schools now, high schools then” prompted Parker to speak of the enormous benefit the Trio feels from their association with Earl Haig Secondary School and its Claude Watson Arts Program. He told an anecdote about the pride The Gryphons experienced while playing a short trio that one Haig alumna had written for them which they performed at one of her doctoral recitals.
“Listen Up” is a “great fun project” with Rob Kapilow, the pianist/conductor/composer, who does the “What Makes It Great?” series with the TSO. But “his amazing gift,” according to Parker, “is education and the way he can bring audiences into our world.” Listen Up is an outgrowth of the Gryphon Trio’s desire to cast a wider net than the master classes they often do with students built around their concert touring. “Roman [Borys] put a lot of thought into this,” Parker said of the project that’s aimed at elementary schools in communities in the Northwest Territories. It will culminate in a “really fun” May weekend in Yellowknife that he calls “a real celebration of art.” The kids will write musical snippets which composer Jeffrey Ryan will stitch together to be performed by the Trio amidst an environment bubbling with poetry, singing and videos.
For the complete interview, including a story about the “blood-curdling upright piano” in Parry Sound, the “normalcy of piano music” while growing up in a family of pianists and the “spectacular cornucopia of music and chamber music” that is the two-week Ottawa Chamberfest – of which Borys is artistic director and the Gryphons the de facto ensemble-in-residence – just press play below.