Tag Archives: local 247

Message to Home

Mark Reed

If you’ve ever been touched by the Muse you won’t be surprised to learn that the seed for Mark Reed’s lifetime work, Message to Home, was planted in a dream sequence: “It only lasted about 15 seconds, but it inspired me to consider how an objective observation of life on Earth might look,” says Reed, of Local 247 (Victoria, BC).

Those insightful moments ruminated through decades, until finally emerging as the epic tale of an extraterrestrial traveler whose mission is to bear witness on Earth, and report back to the home planet. What interplanetary traveler Jonnē Krōm experiences oscillates between absolute joy and ultimate despair.

Reed and his piano offer joyful trills and somber refrains, rendering Message to Home a science-fiction oratorio/musical featuring singers and a collection of Local 247 members on guitar, cello, double bass, violin, percussion, and keyboards.

john tachoir

Jerry Tachoir: The Good Vibes of a Jazz Percussionist

john tachoir

Marlène and Jerry Tachoir of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) with their instruments. In the jazz band the Jerry Tachoir Group, led by Jerry, the vibraphone is the lead instrument. The group performs original music throughout the Nashville region, across the US, and Canada.

While a vibraphone is not often thought of as a lead instrument, that is how Jerry Tachoir of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) conceived his band, the Jerry Tachoir Group. The group also features his wife, pianist and composer Marlène Tachoir, bassist Roy Vogt, and drummer Rich Adams, all members of Local 257.

“As a vibes player, I’m forced into a leader role, since most musicians and bands seldom consider hiring a vibes player to replace a keyboardist or guitarist,” he says, explaining that the most difficult thing is proving how versatile an instrument it is. The vibes have become closely associated with jazz, but at clinics Tachoir tells students he can play anything—country, Latin, classical.

“You have to be creative, to create job situations that allow the vibraphone to be used, or your phone will never ring,” says Tachoir. “Once people hear it and realize I can play what a piano player or a guitar player can play—chords, lines, counterpoint, whatever you need—it’s cool. It’s such a novelty instrument it piques curiosity. When you roll it in, they either think it’s the dessert cart or a gurney.”

Like legendary vibist Red Norvo, Tachoir uses a four-mallet technique, with two mallets in each hand. Other influences include pianists Bill Evans and Chick Corea of Local 802 (New York City). Tachoir says he tries to apply his four-mallet technique to a three-octave aluminum bar instrument and play as a pianist. “My left hand is my accompanist, my right hand does the soloing, and the other mallets fill in chords with additional notes.” 

As a young classical percussion player growing up in the Pittsburgh area in the ’70s, Tachoir was known as the “mallet guy.” He performed with many orchestras, namely the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, Wilkensburg Symphony, and the International Orchestra in Switzerland. Tachoir attributes his solid foundation in a range of percussion to his teacher, Eugene “Babe” Fabrizi, who insisted that his students become well-rounded percussionists, not just drummers. Because of Fabrizi, Tachoir learned all the percussion instruments: xylophone, marimba, vibes, tympani, and hand percussion.

In 1972, Tachoir had a chance meeting with vibraphone virtuoso Gary Burton at a jazz festival where Local 802 (New York City) member Herbie Hancock was playing. Tachoir had never seen or heard anything like it. He was struck by the spontaneity and camaraderie of the jazz players—in stark contrast to the conventions of orchestra playing. “Herbie Hancock would play a line, [bassist of Local 802] Ron Carter would respond. It was the communication I picked up on. They were creating it on the fly, improvising. They were laughing, smiling,” Tachoir remembers. After that show, he immediately went out and bought Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew.

Tachoir told Burton he wanted to learn more about jazz improvisation, and Burton suggested he study with him at Berklee College of Music. Once Tachoir realized he could transfer rhythm skills and play melodies and chords, he was hooked. The tuned bar side of percussion became his emphasis. “I became a mallet player devoted to jazz,” says Tachoir who designed his own degree program in applied vibraphone and mallet percussion, graduating Berklee in 1976.

Now a Grammy-nominated artist, band leader, and author of books on method and approach to the vibraphone and marimba, Tachoir is considered one of the foremost authorities on vibes. He’s recorded with his friend Danny Gottlieb of Local 257 (a Pat Metheny Group veteran) and the late session great Tom Roady, among others.

The Jerry Tachoir Group tours the US, Canada, and Europe, with stops at jazz events like the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, the Montreux Jazz Festival, and the International Festival de Jazz in Montreal. Marlène Tachoir, a prolific composer, writes the group’s original music. A native of Quebec, she studied classical organ at the Quebec Conservatory.

“Talk about vibes not being popular,” Jerry jokes. “You don’t carry your classical pipe organ to gigs!” At Berklee, where the two met, Marlène switched to piano and composition. “Her piano playing is unique and complements my busy vibes playing,” he says. “It just works.”

He also credits Marlène’s perfect pitch and ability to scat sing with adding “a wonderful nuance to what has become our signature sound.” Jerry explains, originality is at the core of the group’s identity. “We’re going for a certain style, a composition that works with the band that’s identifiable with us.”

It’s a challenge to write for the vibraphone, but after nearly 30 years working alongside her husband, Marlène now imagines her compositions in terms of the way they would be played on the vibraphone. Her styles are varied: jazz, swing, a lot of blues, Latin, classical elements, and occasionally rock. As independent artists, she says, “We have to make things happen for ourselves.” Of their partnership, she adds, “It’s nice to have an ally.” 

Her recent concerto, Jazz Mass for World Peace, was performed by the Jerry Tachoir Group for the International Day of Peace. Indeed, she views peacemaking as part of the musician’s role, saying, “Hopefully we reach people through music.”

In addition to numerous concerts, Jerry presents jazz improvisation clinics and mallet master classes at colleges and universities in North America and Europe. “College students really dig jazz. They’ve outgrown their high school music of the moment.” When teaching jazz clinics, he says, “I always do a lot of playing to allow the students to see and hear my technique.”

Jerry cautions students about going into music nonchalantly or without completing college. He explains that he has seen too many young drummers attempt to bypass college. “They’re not getting the preparation needed to excel, to become a pro, and compete,” he says.

Having lived in New York City and Los Angeles, the Tachoirs headed to Nashville in 1979, where friends told them there were opportunities for musicians with skills like theirs. “In the good old days people were running from session to session at specific times. Today, that’s not the kind of routine that has made careers for a lot of the session kings in Nashville,” he says.

Now everyone needs to be more flexible because a lot of musicians are recording in home studios. With great microphones, digital equipment, and computers, Jerry says, you can do anything. “I record all my projects in my own studio, and mix it at my leisure.” The space was designed to accommodate his sound, and he says the quality is better than any major studio he has recorded in.   

Jerry becomes nostalgic when he talks about the days of vinyl. “It had a story. Now, it’s shrunk down to a CD.” Worse yet, with iTunes and similar services, you typically buy a track, not an album. The sense of ownership that came with a record is gone. Still, he recognizes the need to move on. He’s changed with the times, making technology work for him. “I teach people all over the world via Skype and Facetime. The industry has evolved. It’s not great, it’s not bad, but different.”

What hasn’t changed for Tachoir is his love for the music. At 61, he says, “I still love what I do.”

Pablo Diemecke Playing with Heart: Violinist’s Versatile Career

Violinist and Local 247 (Victoria, BC) member Pablo Diemecke is frequently asked to give master classes in Canada, the US, and Mexico.

Violinist and Local 247 (Victoria, BC) member Pablo Diemecke is frequently asked to give master classes in Canada, the US, and Mexico.

Violinist Pablo Diemecke has a wide-ranging career that has taken him around the world, throughout Europe, North America, Asia, Russia, and Iceland. After two decades as concertmaster with the Victoria Symphony, he opened a private music studio, and founded his own group, the DieMahler String Ensemble.

“Since then, I have been teaching and training young performers in chamber music, in Canada and in Mexico,” says the Local 247 (Victoria, BC) member. He runs the academy in Canada, while his sister manages the family’s music academy in Mexico, both under the name Diemecke Music Academy.

Diemecke, who is affiliated with the Royal Conservatory of Toronto as a private teacher, was born into a family of classically trained musicians. His father, Emilio, was a cellist and a renowned conductor. His mother, Carmen, was a piano teacher. Together, they opened a music academy in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, during the 1960s.

“The house was always filled with music. We listened to recordings of famous violinists and orchestra music,” Diemecke says. And the number of children—eight in all—was perfect for competing quartets. “I was first violin and concertmaster of my father’s orchestra,” he remembers.

Diemecke’s father first bought a violin for his younger brother. “My father was teaching Enrique how to hold the instrument and I was watching. My father asked if I wanted to try—and that was the beginning. Once I held the violin, I knew I wanted to become a violinist,” he says. Enrique, a member of Local 542 (Flint, MI) is now conductor of the Flint Symphony Orchestra, the Bogotá Philharmonic, Politécnico Orchestra in México, and music director of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra. His brother Augusto Diemecke of Local 380 (Binghamton, NY) is violinist and concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes.

Other generations have also secured a place in the family’s legacy: Pablo Diemecke’s daughter, Jeanette Bernal-Singh of Local 145 (Vancouver, BC) is assistant principal violinist in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and his son is a violinist and violist in Australia, with the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra.

Success came quickly for Diemecke, who made his professional solo debut at 17 years old, and began studying under renowned violinist Henryk Szeryng at the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra, in Toluca. He became concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico at just 26 years old.

In the US, he studied with Hungarian virtuoso Robert Gerle and with Daniel H. Majeske, the celebrated concertmaster of The Cleveland Orchestra. In 1980, he became assistant concertmaster of the Washington Chamber Orchestra, and would occasionally play with the National Symphony, then under the direction of Mstislav Rostropovich.

Diemecke credits the AFM Showcase in Washington, DC, with presenting further opportunities to perform, meet other musicians, and acquire contracts.

Diemecke’s 1994 recording of the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy. In 2002, he received a Gold Medal Grammy Award for his live recording of the Carlos Chavez Concerto for Violin, with the National Symphony of Mexico. He was also presented the Lira de Oro (Golden Lyre) award from the Musicians Union in Mexico.

The dynamic of living in a large musical family taught Diemecke to balance solo and ensemble performances. “A soloist has achieved the highest level in an instrument. You transmit all your emotions to the audience. In chamber music, you share the responsibility with the other instruments and musicians,” he says. To communicate that emotion, Diemecke encourages students to come into their own, drawing on his father’s advice to play from the heart.   

Whether it is in Canada, an international venue, or in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, Diemecke makes time at least once a year to perform with his siblings. “I just played ‘Ginastera Concerto’ in January in Mexico and will be performing it again in Argentina, with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, where Enrique is the music director,” he says. At 65 years old, he says he is playing better than ever.

OCSM/CFM Unity Conference to Be Held in August

by Robert Fraser, OCSM President and Member of AFM Local 247 (Victoria, BC)

In my March 2014 article in the International Musician I pointed out that 2014 marked the 40th anniversary of the meetings that led to the formation of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM). OCSM’s first stand-alone meeting was held in Edmonton a year later, in 1975, and OCSM’s inaugural conference was held in Toronto the year after that. So this summer will be our 40th Conference. We are pleased to announce that it will be held alongside the AFM Canadian Conference in Windsor, Ontario, from August 7-11. August 8 will be a shared day between the two conferences. Details will be provided in a future issue of the IM.

In Between Conferences

Like the other symphonic player conferences, OCSM is a network of orchestral musicians that works within the AFM, and with other interested industry partners, to advocate for its members and to share valuable information. Readers of the IM are well aware of the work we do with the AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) to prepare the wage charts.

From time to time we deal with other specific issues. For example, a task force consisting of OCSM delegates, local officers, and representatives of Orchestras Canada recently prepared a submission to the Government of Canada about problems musicians and staff have encountered in our orchestras due to changes in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). Occasionally, OCSM orchestras hire non-Canadian musicians, and the new TFWP rules have made it difficult for these musicians to qualify for provincial medical coverage, or to have work permits renewed while they are still under probation. We hope these submissions will produce some results.

Although we are all busy orchestral musicians (the executive included), OCSM delegates maintain open communication throughout the season. This is invaluable when orchestras are negotiating, and when issues arise where we need to seek the advice of colleagues. Each delegate reports mid-season to the executive, and topics are collected for open discussion and action at the conference. Such topics include: health and safety issues, new forms of media promotion of orchestras (especially social media), musician involvement in conductor and executive director searches, and musician involvement in education and outreach programs.

Orchestra London Canada Shutdown

Orchestra London Canada ceased operations December 2014. Their board has not officially declared bankruptcy, but staff have been laid off and all concert dates for the remainder of 2014-2015 were cancelled. The musicians of Orchestra London have rallied to keep music alive in their community, and have continued to perform on their own. You can find out more about their efforts at: https://musiciansorchestralondon.wordpress.com/. A call to action has seen donations from AFM members across North America, with musicians from close to 30 orchestras assisting their colleagues in London. This showing of solidarity makes me personally proud to be a member of this union.

Good Newslets

  • On March 19, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (Montreal Symphony Orchestra) announced a five-year record deal with Decca. That same week saw similar announcements from other orchestras: it would seem that major labels are reviving their interest in orchestral music. Fans of the OSM will know that their international reputation is due in part to the catalogue of more than 80 recordings made on the Decca label with former Music Director Charles Dutoit.
  • The Canadian Opera Company just finished its third production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Handel’s “Semele” in March (previous visits were in 1993 and 2011).
  • Symphony Nova Scotia ratified a five-year agreement that sees its season expand from 33 to 35 weeks with the addition of their first-ever summer season.
  • The Edmonton Symphony recently recorded the score for the CBC TV series The Great Human Odyssey with composer Darren Fung.