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My Day with Amanda Forsyth
By Irena Wight

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On Saturday, April 26, 2008 at the Elmwood School Auction my parents won for me a shadow-day with the NAC’s first cellist, Amanda Forsyth. On Wednesday, June 11, 2008, this prize became reality.

Amanda met me at the backstage security office at the National Arts Centre where I was sitting and waiting anxiously. She started telling me all about things like the different positions of the orchestra, which members get their own dressing rooms, what happens backstage etc. I had never been backstage at a theatre, so it was a whole new experience. Amanda took me into Mr. Zukerman’s dressing room and starting warming up on her 1699 Carlo Giuseppe Testore cello.

During the first rehearsal, the orchestra practiced the Symphony No. 9 in D minor by Anton Bruckner. This rehearsal was split into halves with a 15-minute break in between. For the first half I sat at the back of the concert hall. After an hour and a half, Amanda came to get me, took me backstage and introduced me to different orchestra members. Then she took me down to the Music Library and explained that this is where all of the music is kept. The Librarians told me that they send out music if the orchestra is going on tour, and how they get music if they don’t already own it, or if the composer has not been dead for over 50 years. 

For the second half of the morning rehearsal, I sat in a box on the first row to get a different perspective of the orchestra and the volume of the sound they produce. I enjoyed this view more because I could see all of the orchestra members, and I would try to figure out which instruments were being played at what moment. This half of the rehearsal was not as long as the first half and it ended at 1:30pm.

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Before we went for lunch, Amanda told me that there was a change in the schedule and the afternoon rehearsal, which was planned for 3:00pm to 5:30pm, would now take place from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. This was not a big inconvenience for me.  I just called my mom and told her to pick me up in an hour, because Amanda was going to take me for lunch at Le Café.

For lunch, Amanda also invited her husband, Pinchas Zukerman, her best friend Leanne La Croix, and fellow cellist Wolf Tormann. Since it was a beautiful day, we decided to eat outside on the patio. We talked about Amanda’s experience at The Juilliard School, what it is like to tour, that travelling helps people interpret music differently, and about Amanda’s three-year-old Maltese puppy, Yoji. We took lots of photos, and had a lot of fun.

After lunch, my mom picked me up, and at 5:30pm she dropped me off once more so I could listen to the second rehearsal. Again, this rehearsal was split into two halves with a 15 minute break in between. For the first half, I sat at the back of the orchestra beside the timpani. This was a totally new and exciting experience because I could see the concert hall from the perspective of the orchestra. It made me think that I would perhaps like to be a pianist after all. During this half of the rehearsal, they again practiced parts of the Bruckner Symphony No. 9 in D minor.

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For the second half of the rehearsal, Yefim Bronfman performed a little section of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major, K. 482. For this production, I sat on a balcony so I could see his hands. They were extremely quick, and I was amazed at how he did not overplay the piece, and how he could memorize it all so well that he could start at any point in the piece without difficulty.

The following evening, my parents and I went to the concert where the orchestra and pianist performed the same pieces I had listened to during the rehearsals. It amazed me how much they had improved in only a day and a half!

Overall, I had a tremendously educational day, and it helped me see the performing arts from a whole new perspective.


Top: Amanda and Irena at Le Café
Middle: Amanda, Irena, Pinchas
Bottom: Yefim Bronfman and Irena on the Southam Hall stage at the NAC