Canadian pianist Rachel Andrist studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Ann Epperson and Warren Jones. In 1997, she moved to Europe and joined the music staff of the Theatre Royale de la Monnaie in Brussels, Belgium. Since then she has been a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival, the Salzburg Easter Festival, and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and has also been on the staff of the Glyndebourne Festival, De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, English National Opera, and Scottish Opera.
Andrist has worked extensively with conductors Sir Simon Rattle, Antonio Pappano, Ivor Bolton, Rene Jacobs, Valery Gergiev, Philippe Jordan, and Kazushi Ono. Since 2008 she has been the head coach for the Young Singers Project at the Salzburg Festival, the head of Musical Projects at the Royal Danish Opera Academy, and a guest at the Chicago Opera Theater. In the fall of 2010, Andrist returned to Canada to join the music staff at the Canadian Opera Company.
In November 2014 she begins the second season of Recitals at Rosedale.
I ask Andrist ten questions: five about herself and five more about her professional life as a collaborative pianist & leading Recitals at Rosedale.
1) Are you more like your father or your mother?
This was difficult to answer so I polled my two wonderful sisters and my amazing brother. They decided I was the best and the worst of both of them.
2) What is the best thing or worst thing about being a collaborative pianist?
There are so many different facets to what I do and there are many good things and many difficult things at the same time. In any given day, I might play a staging rehearsal, a working session (audition) for Alexander Neef, I might coach either ensemble or mainstage singers, plus ( and very important ) do my own practicing. There are always things to translate or programmes to put together and I am also a voice coach at the Glenn Gould School. So, one of the things that I find challenging is changing my “hats” several times a day.
The best thing about my job for me, is when a singer says “I could not have done this without you”.
3) Who do you like to listen to or watch?
To be honest, I listen mostly to Fado and jazz. I also love country music….big fan of the Dixie Chicks. I consider “Takin the long way around” my theme song!
My Father was a jazz drummer and I inherited a lot of his love for Oscar Peterson, whom I did get to hear live once in Bruxelles, and most especially, Bill Evans.
4) What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
Well, I would like to have the skills of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, but if that’s not possible, I wish I could dance really well. And play pool!
5) When you’re just relaxing and not working what is your favorite thing to do?
I am a serious fan of three different sports teams, which right now shall remain nameless because none of them are based in Toronto:) So I can spend lots of time yelling at the TV. I swim several times a week and often get my best ideas for recitals and repertoire in the “medium” lane. I have loved books and have had my head buried in them since I was very young.
Five more about your roles as a collaborative pianist and as Artistic Director of Recitals at Rosedale
1) Recitals at Rosedale is dedicated to art song, employing some of the greatest singers in the country. Please talk about your objectives and what direction you would you like to go with the series .
Recitals at Rosedale was originally the idea of Samuel Tam, who was the music director at Rosedale Presbyterian Church at the time. He had organized a concert for Ileana Montalbetti and I to air some repertoire for a competition she was doing and we “borrowed” the church and invited people. One thing led to another, the church came into the project and now we are in our second season.
Last year, we explored themes that were a tribute to the church…..the Seven Virtues and Deadly Sins and we put together programmes of art song tied together by quotes. My personal favorite was the Love…Actually concert where we took the audience on a journey through the stages of grief. There is so much amazing song repertoire in this world and I love the fact that most opera singers are dying to sing this repertoire. So in the long term, of course we want the series to continue and we will keep programming emotional journeys for people to come along with us.
2) Please talk about your November 9th programme “A Walk on the Dark Side: Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.”
The November 9th programme came from a germ idea after Allyson McHardy and I worked together last year on the Virtues programme. She is such a treasure to collaborate with and at some point in a rehearsal, we looked at each other and said, “we have to do the Zemlinsky songs”. So this programme of fairy tales and myths and folklore was built around those pieces. I played them ages ago in Bruxelles on a programme of songs and words by Maurice Maeterlinck and was fortunate to have had Jose Van Dam for a coach and have always wanted to do them again.
I found some wonderful Szymanowski songs for Leslie Ann Bradley and Geoff Sirett is also featured in a mixed group of songs. We chose three settings of the famous Heine Lorelei ( Liszt, Clara Schumann and Gershwin) and we also have a group based on songs about the Moon. The wonderful pianist Robert Kortgaard is joining me and we are going to tie the groups together with movements of the Ravel Mother Goose Suite.
3) You are one of the busiest artists in town, between your work as collaborative pianist with the Canadian Opera Company, and as Artistic Director of Recitals at Rosedale, now in its second season. At the piano you make it look easy. Between the playing, the programming & the promotion, what’s the most enjoyable part of your work?
Well, everything is, as long as the balance is right. But I guess that can be said about life in general. One of my mentors ages ago said to me that it was important to be able to know when art was art and when it was business. I don’t consider myself a promoter at all but I guess the work I do for the series sort of makes me one, but I hesitate to use that word because I don’t think that part of things suits me.
4) You’re mentoring the very best young talents in this country. If you could talk to the singers who are younger, what would you say, what advice would you have that might make the difference in their development?
Well, at the risk of sounding terribly simplistic, learn to sing. Really learn to sing and when you do then a lot of things will be taken care of. Like what voice type am I and what should I sing and all that stuff that young singers seem so concerned about these days.
Stephen Lord and Sir Thomas Allen were over for brunch at my flat last winter and we were talking about this same thing…..that everyone wants the “diet pill” now and everything needs to be fast tracked. Singing is something that takes a long time to learn to do and its also very important to keep developing and keep studying and keep being open to new things because your body changes at times in your life and you need to rebalance your voice. The best singers I know work like crazy and they coach and they keep getting better. You need to want to sing healthily and well until you are seventy!! And of course there are the other things……if you don’t LOVE words, learn to love them! Read poetry, learn languages, read history. For example, if you are singing any of the arias from Don Carlos and you don’t know anything about the political situation at the time, you are not doing yourself any favours. There is knowledge out there that is so easy to get and so accessible now…..remember when you had to go to the library to find anything out? Be CURIOUS!!
5) Is there a teacher or influence you’d care to name that you especially admire?
I was so lucky…..I worked for Tony Pappano for five years and learned so much about singers and singing, Tony’s dad was a voice teacher and he spent his life playing lessons. I was also fortunate to work a lot with conductors like Simon Rattle, Ivor Bolton, Rene Jacobs….amazing musicians and inspiring people. I would consider Martin Isepp my mentor for art song and of course here in Toronto, I play all of my recital music for Stuart Hamilton, who is always pushing me to do better. For all these people and many others I am very grateful.
RECITAL: A Walk on the Dark Side: Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales
NOVEMBER 9 at 14:30 at Rosedale Presbyterian Church
After an inaugural season that transported audiences from The Seven Virtues to The Seven Deadly Sins, artistic director Rachel Andrist with artistic advisor Monica Whicher are thrilled to invite you to the 2014/15 season. Beginning November 9th with “A Walk on the Dark Side: Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales”, Recitals at Rosedale presents soprano Leslie Ann Bradley, mezzo soprano Allyson McHardy and baritone Geoff Sirett with collaborative pianists Robert Kortgaard and Rachel Andrist.
The programme features works by Mahler, Debussy, Symanowski, Weil, Gershwin and more.