Nikki’s Observations On The Road

5 June 2014 — Auckland

Working and performing with Maestro Bellincampi and the wonderful Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra was truly a privilege. With its many folk melodies and beautiful tunes, the Bruch Scottish Fantasy calls for a certain amount of freedom and rubato. The Maestro was very clear in how he wanted the orchestra to sound- in the accompaniment and melodic parts, as well as in the tutti sections. It made it all the more inspiring to play since this particular piece alternates between the solo violin part and the orchestra in many of its materials – at times, the violin even serves as obligato to the orchestra. It would really be a dream come true to have another opportunity to work with Maestro Bellincampi in the near future.

Also, nostalgia was in the air as I stepped on stage at the Auckland Town Hall – just a year ago, I performed the Sibelius Concerto in this amazing venue. The moments following that performance will remain vivid in my memory.

8 June 2014

I’ve had a sudden realization that my body has been lacking physical exercise. I feel like a sack of potatoes and climbing into bed is a work out…

Though I’ve just completed my first week in NZ, this is already my fifth week on the road with stops in Montreal, Malaysia, and Russia before going down under. During the school year, I am used to working out about 4-5 times a week rotating between cardiovascular activities, weights, and of course, stretching.

It is a challenge to keep a fitness routine while on the road but I am determined to get back on track! I’ll start with baby steps …. Pinky Push-ups on our drive to Palmerson North tomorrow!

11 June 2014 — Palmerston North

An amazing Maori-inspired transformation of a 1926 Steinway by kiwi artist, Michael Parekowhai.

12 June 2014 — Napier

And of course, the Manually-Injected-Jelly Doughnuts!

13 June 2014

And having lunch with my fellow Juilliard mate, Bryony Gibson

13 June 2014 — Christchurch

Checking out the Christchurch Symphony’s current performance space: The Air Force Museum!

17 June 2014

Now, I am at the halfway mark of the tour and have the luxury of 3 consecutive days “sans” concerts. Here is a list of my priorities (with exception to the first item on the list, it is in no particular order) during this period.

21 June 2014 — Wellington

Causing a traffic jam in Wellington:
Not only do cars drive on the left side, people walk on the left side as well. While trotting along, I occasionally get lost in my own thoughts and start meandering towards the right side of the walkway. There was one instance this afternoon as I was waddling down a sidewalk, clearly on the wrong side, head on to an oncoming pedestrian walking the opposite direction. We both locked eyes at the last second and I managed to catch a quizzical look on her face. She yielded and swayed left, in her direction, to avoid colliding with me. At the same exact moment, I yielded as well except, I instinctively swayed right (her left). Collision was inevitable and to avoid a bone cracking hit, we bear hugged. One regret, I should’ve taken her out for coffee.

How traffic rolls on the streets of NZ:

27 June 2014 — Auckland

Day 3 of Recording for Atoll:
Finally, found the pleasure of studio recording! It is quite a different art than live performances. Especially with an abundance of time, I am able to use this final session to experiment with colours and details and listen back to how it sounds immediately. Huge thanks to Wayne and Paul for being an excellent and supporting team (also bearing with my demands and OCD tendencies!)

6 June 2014

Followed by the most intimidating burger for lunch. The dog’s bollox burger at Fat Dog’s Cafe in Roturua.

I asked my mom, “Why are the portions ridiculously enormous here in NZ? Kiwis in general look quite fit and healthy.” Her response: “you were given those portions because you look hungry all the time.”

8 June 2014

One of the great things about going on tour, is the opportunity to try a different restaurant for every meal. So far, I have been eating very well. TOO well. In fact, this was my breakfast, meant to feed a family of four, in Hamilton.

9 June 2014

Third concert of the tour, finished! Stephen and I checked in at The Nice Hotel in New Plymouth – apparently Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise stayed here while filming The Last Samurai. However, the room they occupied was turned into a bar just yesterday! I’d also take a bar for a room any day. Our charming host, Terry Parkes, offered drinks to toast to his brand new bar.

PS If I may offer a word of advice to Mr. Parkes, I would like for him to consider adjusting the name to “The Nicest Hotel”

12 June 2014 — Napier

I will remember this day – June 12, 2014 in Napier, NZ. It marks the first time in my life to ever break a string in a performance. I’ve gone 21 years with the string gods watching over me. I noticed my strings not speaking well and squeaking a number of times during the first half of the concert. Ironically, while backstage before playing the De Falla Suite, I told Stephen “I Gotta change my strings tonight!” We then walked on stage, started the DeFalla, and during Suite Espagnole (the 4th song) BAM!!! My E-string broke!

12 June 2014 — Napier

Only at Mister D’s in Napier, will Stephen fall astray from his Zen-like being and scuttle around in curiosity like a giggling teenager.

15 June 2014 — Nelson

Seeing this parked in front of our hotel.

18 June 2014 — Auckland

This morning, I had a short session at TVNZ to record a clip for their Good Morning series. I chose to play Bach’s Gavotte en Rondeau from his Partita No.3 in E Major for Solo Violin. I thought this movement would be appropriate – pleasant and refreshing for viewers enjoying their breakfast at sunrise. I did two takes of the piece – during the first run through, I accidentally hit the microphone with my bow a few times, thus, the need for a redo with more disciplined bow strokes.

23 June 2014 — Blenheim

Desperate measures come in desperate times. #ramencravingat3am

25 June 2014 — Auckland

Day 1 of Recording for Atoll: The Mics sure look intimidating! Time to channel darkness, brood, and ferocity – Prokofiev Violin Sonata in F on the menu.

28 June 2014 — Auckland

As I head to the South Islands for my last 2 performances of the tour, it is farewell to my wonderfully gracious hosts, Peter and Gerda. Their house has been my “home” this entire month. Thank you both for your generous hospitality and for putting up with my eccentricities (finding cooking utensils used in the middle of the night; unmatching socks; my viola playing).

11 June 2014

After performing Programme 1 for the first time in New Plymouth, Stephen and I both felt that something about the performance didn’t feel quite right in terms of pacing. The first half had the ease and brilliance of works that should finish a concert – beginning with those pieces felt uncomfortable since it felt like we began with the climax and the introduction happened after intermission.

Programme 1:
De Falla Suite Espagnole
Gershwin Preludes
Ravel Sonata in G for Violin and Piano
Intermission –
Beethoven Sonata No 3 in E flat major, Op 12
Jack Body Caravan for solo violin
Ravel Tzigane

In response to create a more natural flow to the programme as a whole, I decided to reorder the pieces for my next performance of Programme 1 to this:

Beethoven Sonata No 3 in E flat major, Op 12
Ravel Sonata in G for Violin and Piano
Intermission –
Jack Body Caravan for solo violin
De Falla Suite Espagnole
Gershwin Preludes
Ravel Tzigane

This will happen in Palmerston North and I will assist the audience by announcing each piece before we play. Please bear with us!

12 June 2014

I would like to dedicate this entry to my partner in crime, Stephen DePledge.

I have the utmost respect for him (mostly because he has tolerated me so far) as a musician and as a person. It is so refreshing to see a musician of his caliber be in such a good place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

At times, the music business does wonders to the self – egos, ambition, competitiveness – to the point that it effects the people around in a negative way. So hats off to Stephen.

PS Stephen, if you are reading this and don’t like what I say, I’ll know why you are pushing the tempi in the last movement of Ravel Sonata.

16 June 2014 — Back to Auckand

Having tasty gelato with my fellow Curtis alumn, Amalia Hall

19 June 2014 — Auckland

Nikki with NZ pianists Rae De Lisle and Stephen

21 June 2014 — Wellington

Good morning from Wellington! I’ve unlocked the secret to getting anime-like hairdo sported by superstar pianist, Lang Lang: it’s bed head.

24 June 2014

Our plane to Invercargill. I swear I can knock that pipsqueak of a vehicle over with my kick of fury.

26 June 2014 — Auckland

Day 2 of Recording for Atoll:
10am start – I am still warmed up from yesterday’s late evening session. Ravel Sonata for brunch!

28 June 2014 — Auckland

Packing for the last stretch! My secret to happiness: LaColombe/Nestle bag freshener. #tasteofphilly