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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

REMOTE | James Gardiner ‘The Lakeshore At 6:00 AM Is Sublime’

By Michael Zarathus-Cook on July 7, 2020

James Gardiner (Photo courtesy of the artist)
James Gardiner (Photo courtesy of the artist)

One of the many things I’m thoroughly enjoying about this series is getting to know members of Toronto’s classical music community outside the context of their instruments and ensembles. I hope you’re enjoying reading about the daily coming and going of the members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, for example, as much as I am. Getting a peek at their daily routine around their instrument — and how that has changed during COVID — emphasizes a human aspect that’s only going to make the next TSO concert that much more wholesome. For my part I’d like to extend the same amount of geekiness in regard to how members of the Toronto Raptors spend their off-court time as I do to the musical ensembles that represent this city in their own ways.

For this episode, James Gardiner, a TSO trumpeter for over 2o years, joins us to talk about his time in quarantine and the daily rituals that get him up in the morning.

How have you been coping with this lockdown?

I’d have to say I’m surviving quite well. My wife and I enjoy our downtown home, and our two wonderful cats. On the other hand, these are strange unsettling times, and I’d be lying if I said don’t worry about the future. I’m nearly 60 years old, so this is feeling a bit like a rehearsal for retirement! I do worry for my younger colleagues, and for the future of orchestral music.

How have you been keeping busy?

I’m an avid cyclist and runner, and I feel extremely lucky that those two activities haven’t been terribly affected by the pandemic. I’ve made an effort to get up early and go for long solo, socially-distanced rides. The lakeshore at 6:00 a.m. is sublime. The other day I rode 100 miles, and was home shortly after noon! I also love playing the 5-string banjo, and since the pandemic struck, I’ve actually been improving!

Like a lot of people, I’ve been struggling to learn to use new or unfamiliar technology, both to stay in touch with people, and to create and record music at home.

I practise the trumpet every day as well. Sometimes it’s for as little as 20 minutes, but as a habit, daily practise is deeply ingrained.

What are you missing the most right now?

I am missing the routine of preparing for whatever repertoire is coming up at the TSO. For me, that’s really at the heart of what I do as a member of the trumpet section. It’s a point of pride to be ultra prepared for the first rehearsal!

I’m also missing freelance work. I had been engaged to play a very demanding solo work at the end of May, with a contemporary music ensemble here in Toronto. It was a big disappointment to see that opportunity disappear.

Right now my wife and I would be planning our annual migration to PEI (she’s from Charlottetown) where I’ve worked in the Charlottetown Festival for the last 31 years. We have lots of friends out there. It’s going to be tough to miss that.

I miss watching all the big pro bike races that lead up to the Tour de France.

What are you reading/watching at the moment?

I’ve been finding escape in Conn Iggulden’s sweeping 5 volume Conqueror series of novels about Genghis Khan. I love historical novels, and I admit this one is a bit of a guilty pleasure. It’s massive, epic, violent, and a bit trashy. Knowing I still have a thousand pages to read makes me feel secure.

Any words of wisdom to get through this?

Don’t expect too much of yourself. These are crazy and disturbing times. Try to focus on one thing at a time. Other than that, look after yourself and those around you.

For more chats with artists in social isolation, read on HERE.

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Michael Zarathus-Cook

Michael is a student at the University of Toronto, a music writer and general arts critic on briband.com He has been published in The Wholenote Magazine, Opera Canada, The Dance Current, Schmopera and more.
Michael Zarathus-Cook

Michael Zarathus-Cook

Michael is a student at the University of Toronto, a music writer and general arts critic on briband.com He has been published in The Wholenote Magazine, Opera Canada, The Dance Current, Schmopera and more.
Michael Zarathus-Cook
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