Jonathan Stuchbery is a performing artist dedicated to reaching audiences on a personal level and to pursuing joy through artistic expression.

Backstage Vol. 10: Transitions

The first thing I thought after I wrote the title of this blog were eye-glasses. Yea, you know 'transition lenses', the kind of prescription lenses that darken when they are in the sunlight and lighten in the dark so you can…

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Backstage Vol. 9: A chipped nail

10:15pm. Sherbrooke west, NDG. "Do you know the way to the metro?"

5 minutes later. "I'm learning to listen, and to be heard, it's important to have real connections with people in life."

"So what do you do?, what…

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Backstage Vol. 8: Here and there 

It's been about a month since my last post. And I know, I know, the first thing I learned about being a blogger is.... 'Be consistent!' And here we are with a rather delayed 8th backstage blog. Please accept this blog my dear readers.

There are a lot of things I have to share. We'll see what fits with today. This blog may twist and turn. In my head I feel somewhat like a charging rhinoceros who really likes the colour red. And yellow. Oh! And anything sparkly. And purple wigs. And the Maia nebula. And...well you get the point.


I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 100,00


What happens in the space of a month?

One thing for sure. 

I spent a lot of time getting from one place to another. In fact, I think I spent most of my time getting from one place to another. Let's see. 6:30 in the morning the 1st of March, I lifted myself up, transported my entire physical body from my bed to the kitchen..somehow hitched up my mind and dragged it along with me to get my day started. And then there were all sorts of little journeys during the day-to the water fountain, to the window to get a closer look at the squirrel sitting in the tree outside-and there was the 35 minute walk to to campus, and the 35 minute walk home, complemented by any extra travel needed on any given day.

And I'd like to say that at this point in my life I have become pretty efficient about getting myself from one place to another. But have I become good at it?

Let's delay the answer to that question for a moment.

Another good chunk of my time is spent practicing my instrument(s), thinking about music, repeating motions in order to perfect passages and improve technically. Actually when I sit down to practice I'm still working on getting from one place to another. My fingers take many miniscule journeys up and down the strings of my instrument, all directed by the master traffic manager sitting in my brain. And these motions are supposed to create music, but how? It's so easy especially when working directly on technical exercises to neutralize the brain's perceptive capabilities and to just let the muscles repeat their motions over and over again.


Here's what I like about walking. I'm relatively good at controlling my legs to propel me forward. I can pay attention to what's happening around me as I pass through city frame after city frame. My commute is interesting because I often walk the same path twice a day, but even if the backdrop is the same,  each time there are different people, animals, noises, empty pizza boxes, flowers, clouds, name it... Each time I accomplish the same task; that is to get somewhere (usually the same place as the day before). I also enjoy a sense of mental relaxation when I walk. The walk becomes a time of day where I don't dedicate myself to work, but instead I am this thing that is in between places, between my work and between my home, it's freeing, and I get to do this everyday.


Each time I play a scale I accomplish the same task I did maybe just seconds before. Each time I perform a piece, I make the same physical movements I did the last time. There's something to a single movement though. I may press my third finger down on the fret board to play the same note as I have countless other times, but this time it lands slightly different, this time I am thinking about something slightly different and it ends up sounding one way or another.

I have to be aware in the way that finger would be aware of its surroundings if it could see and hear and think. This is how I am able to practice the way I do. There are certainly days were I have a hard time opening my mind to perceive these small events, and on those days working on technical exercises are a real hard chore. But the more I work on perception and the more aware I can be in these working moments I find these tasks that may on the surface sound and look mundane to be full of inspiration.


Sometimes though, I'm not the best at getting myself to a destination. Sometimes it's too far to walk and I need help. Not too long ago I was in one of these situations. Actually it's not so unusual is it, I don't know anyone who can get themselves *anywhere*. Over the past month I've been doing a lot of long distance traveling, from being in Toronto for the Cygnus Trio's last performance, to Kingston to perform there, and I'll be heading back to Ontario in April, again in May, and then to France, and well a lot of places that my two legs would take me a long time to reach. So I rely on other people. I often find taking a cab to be interesting...well either interesting or somewhat awkward...but when you get into the cab you hope for the best. Recently I was heading to the north end of Montreal with my archlute, which as I've hinted at before is often somewhat of a conversation starter. Anyways, the cab driver was enthusiastic to talk about music, and shared with me some information about music from his home country of Nigeria. What stood out to me was the Talking Drum. This is an hour-glass shaped drum with chords tied along it lengthwise and can mimic tones of human speech. He told me that historically it would be used by royalty to address the people, and I even learned that some drummers have names that can be played on this instrument. The idea of mimicking the human voice is not foreign to other musical traditions, but this particular instrument seems to have integrated with language in a unique way. 

What does this have to with walking and practicing and performing? Well perhaps this is just a particularly sparkly rock that distracted me this afternoon, but on the other hand it's an example of a means of communication. Communication is not just something that I'm trying to improve between my mind and my movements, but I'm also trying to improve my communication as a performer, with you, a listener. I don't have an instrument that mimics human speech, nor am I usually speaking while playing a piece of music, but I do experience new things everyday, and I'm always learning about what makes me notice, remember and relate to them. My goal then is really to be you. No, I don't mean I'm going to try and steal one of your hairs or something and brew up a potion, don't worry. I mean I want to become part of my own audience, to react to what I hear, to be able to anticipate, to be surprised, to perceive in real time.

So did you guess the number?


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Backstage Vol. 7: Lost Islands

Adieu ces bon vins de Lannoys,

Adieu dames, adieu borgois,

Adieu celle que tant amoye, Adieu toute playssante joye,

Adieu tout compaignons galois.


De moy serés par plusieurs fois

Regretés par dedans les bois

Ou il n'y a sentier ne voye;

Puis ne scaray que faire doye,

Se je ne crie a haute vois:



Some of the lyrics of a famous chanson by 15th century composer Guillaume Dufay. This tune Adieu ces bons vins de lannoys is a sad farewell to pleasant times, and a rather bleak description of the speaker's life in the present. You can listen to a good (although frustratingly incomplete) recording of this piece on youtube here In english this excerpt reads

Farewell, you fine wines of Laon,

Farewell ladies, farewell townsfolk,

Farewell she whom I loved so much,

Farewell all pleasing joy,

Farewell all bawdy companions.


You will frequently by me

Be missed, in the woods

Where there is no track or way;

Then I shall not know what to do,

Unless to cry out in a loud voice:



There is another verse that talks of not finding beans and peas, and being frequently bored. If you don't already know this song, you may still find the text to sound familiar. A bitter departure, longing and nostalgia are all things that I've experienced, and will certainly experience again. Actually these are all things I am reminded of and feel when I listen to this music. 

Why am I starting my blog with this sad song?

I am filled with these feelings right now; feelings that are particularly relevant to the Cygnus Trio concert coming up this Thursday. Memory, place, loss, nostalgia. What wonderful ideas to make music about. As you can see in the text of Dufay's chanson people have been singing sad songs far longer than you or I have. And why not? The emotional intensity is captivating.

The Lost Islands program that we will be performing came about when Ben, Erica and I were brainstorming and suddenly hit upon a subject that moved us emotionally. This is what I want to share today; I want to explain the genesis of this project, and how we have put it together.

Programming is at once extremely enjoyable, like coming up with an exciting dream to realize, and difficult. I don't want to simply create a list of pieces to be played in public, I want to craft a program that is emotionally, and intellectually engaging, something that is structurally cohesive so as to create a path the audience member can follow through the concert experience. That being said, I also don't want to prescribe a specific way of experiencing the concert for everyone. How is this done? There are obviously many ways: it can centre around a specific piece of set of pieces, or a particular style of music. This wouldn't be an interesting read at all though if I just listed a bunch of ways to design a program, which is why I will focus on Lost Islands.

Here's where it started. We had Arie van de Ven's 'Algoma Miniatures' which were looking for an opportunity to premiere, and needed to fit this piece into a program. We spent some time looking through our existing ensemble repertoire and thought Anita Perry's 'Okanagan Vignettes' complemented 'Algoma' nicely, it being another piece inspired by a specific region of Canada. Next step, can we incorporate more Canadian elements into the program? We searched for folk stories and here we found something inspiring. Lost Island stories. Islands discovered and even inhabited for a time which disappear. This got us thinking about the 'Islands' in our lives. Ben and I, having spent formative years growing up in Okanagan Valley reflected on our returns to this former home after our move away, and how in a sense the 'Island' is lost to us. Think about a meaningful place from your past. It could be a childhood home, or a schoolyard, a town, a forest trail. In my mind, memory collects the experience of these places, so that when I go back later in life (on a new set of strings shall I say) the experience is of course, different. It could be wonderful, I could think it is better, it could think it's worse, or it could be neither, but it is different. My memories could be beautiful, I could be longing to go back to them (De moy serés par plusieurs fois / Regretés par dedans les bois / Ou il n'y a sentier ne voye;) they could be painful, but regardless the emotions of a certain part of my life become attached to a place, or the memory of a place.

These thoughts made the three of us emotional. My eyes were tearing up. We were on to something.

This idea of memory and loss was particularly poignant to us at the time. Some of the key components of our upbringing were changing. For Ben and me, our parents were moving from British Columbia (where we both spent the first 18 years of our lives) to Toronto, a connection to our long time home was disappearing. At the same time Erica's grandmother moved out of the home she built with her husband decades ago. The home that was the focal point for family gatherings all through her life. In addition to this it was a couple weeks before Ben and Erica's wedding! Not a minor life event for them to say the least. In the midst of all this change we had found a folk story tradition that spoke directly to us.

The trick for us at this point was to create a concert program that can share all of these emotions and be general enough to be able to invite the public to experience these feelings with us. We don't want to stand up in front of crowd and say "This is how I'm feeling because this happened to me...blah blah blah..look at my specific experience...relate!!!" No, we want to invite people to have their own experiences. So how do we do this? In order to make this work, we thought that we couldn't lay it out like a traditional concert where we play a piece, audience applauds, we bow, play another piece, more applause, we bow... etc.. etc.. To create an immersive experience, more akin to a theatrical performance we decided to string our musical selections together with poetry to be read by a professional actor to create a mixed media presentation, allowing the program to flow and with the added effect of not exhausting an audience with a long sit through of one kind of material.

We had a solid concept, and we had two pieces of music. With these ideas floating around it suddenly became quite easy to recall a piece that would fit nicely into the program. I remembered a solo guitar piece written by my first classical guitar instructor Selwyn Redivo called 'Okanagan Landscapes", Erica proposed Missy Mazzoli's 'Dissolve O my Heart', another piece imbued with references to past experience, and we rediscovered some of my folk song arrangements.

Also integral to our program are our collaborators: composer Arie van de Ven, actor Paul Hopkins, and poet Nancy Holmes who's work, skill, and gifts will make this experience possible!

Here's what our final program looks like.

Lost Islands

Okanagan Landscapes - Selwyn Redivo

Grassland Equations - Nancy Holmes

Okanagan Vignettes - Anita Perry

The Lake Isle of Innisfree - William Butler Yeats

Dissolve O my heart - Missy Mazzoli

Off the Path, in the Dark Woods - Nancy Holmes

Simple Gifts - Traditional arr. Jonathan Stuchbery 

I Saw Three Ships - Traditional arr. Jonathan Stuchbery

Ferries - Jane Urquhart

Algoma Miniatures - Arie Van de ven

Black Bear - Nancy Holmes

Teardrop Waltz - Reg Bouvette


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Backstage Vol. 5: Changing Strings

The other day I had a bit of a disappointing experience. I had restrung my guitar the day before, played them, settled them in, and when I went to practice the next morning... well, I didn't like how they sounded…

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Backstage Vol. 3: Walk in the Park 

The majestic metre and a half long span of the archlute's extended neck instantaneously transforms into an awkward and ridiculous burden when it's put in its case to be carted around town. In particular, the lute I am frequently using…

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Backstage Vol. 1: A Musician's Life

Dropping the statement, 'I am a professional musician' at a social gathering, or at the dinner table with the extended family is almost always met with these two responses: *surprised, smiling face* "It's great to hear that you are doing…

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Previous events

Montreal OFF! Festival Baroque

La Sala Rossa, 4848 boul. Saint Laurent, Montreal

OFFicial invitation to a baroque music night, completely over the top! ꧂

Surfing the wave of Festival Montreal Baroque to present what the youth is doing, in a festive context, full of freedom.

The program was put together by 17 students; 16 from McGill’s Early Music department, and one from l’UDM.

❥ Pleasure and theatricality to be expected!

♛ Admission ♛

10$ étudiants/students 15$ réguliers/regular

♔ Musiciens/Musicians ♔

Alto baroque/ baroque viola:

Isabelle Douailly-Backman Tatianna Friesen

Archilute, théorbe, guitar baroque:

Antony Harvey Jonathan Stutchbery


Justin Luchinsky Sébastien Mitra

Flûtes à bec-Recorders:

Jérémie De Pierre Élyse Lamanque-Girard

Haut-bois Baroque:

Floris Tijmen Van Vugt

Trompettes Baroque:

Duncan Campbell Christopher Price

Violes de gambes:

Tristan Best Ryan Gallager

Violons Baroques:

Isabelle Douailly-Backman Marie Nadeau-Tremblay Élise Paradis

Violoncelle Baroque:

Ryan Gallager


Gabrielle Cloutier, Mezzo-Soprano Sarah Dufrenes, Soprano


Melos Choir and Period Instruments - Sound Ground - Chaconnes and Ostinato Basslines

St George's Cathedral, 270 King st E, Kingston, ON

Be wow’ed, soothed and uplifted by a myriad of compositions, 16th-18th century with ostinato basslines. Choral, solo and instrumental works by Bach, Lully, Monteverdi, Rossi and more.


And then there were Lutes: Jonathan's McGill lute recital

Redpath Hall, 3459 McTavish St, Montreal

For my Early music major recital I will be presenting Spanish, Italian, and French music for the baroque guitar, archlute and theorbo! Joining me for this recital will be soprano Mikayla Jensen-Large.

Redpath Hall


D minor suite - Santiago de Murcia I. Prelude II. Allegro III. Allegro IV. Grave V. Allegro

Codice san Saldivar - S. de Murcia I. Otros canarios por la A II. Cumbees

Sonata 7 - Giovanni Zamboni I. Allemanda II. Giga III. Sarabanda Largo IV. Fuga

G major suite - Robert de Visée I. Prélude II. Chaconne III. Muzette en Rondeau

Ma bergère tendre et fidèle - Michel Lambert Vos mépris chaque jour - Michel Lambert

Free admission!


Royal Winter Music - Classical Guitar Recital

Pollack Hall, 555 Rue Sherbrooke O, Montreal

April 26th, Jonathan Stuchbery presents a program of music from the 20th and 21st century, including Hans Werner Henze's monolithic First Sonata on Shakespearean Characters. Joining him on stage with be the Cygnus trio to perform two works recently composed for them: Amalgam by Charles Zoll and the Canadian premiere of Trio for four instruments by Patrick Walker. This recital marks the graduation of Jonathan from the Schulich School of Music. Free admission.


Lute Recital

A program of solo music for baroque guitar, archlute and theorbo, visiting the music from Spain, Italy and France. Joining Jonathan on stage is Mikayla Jensen-Large to perform several airs de cours français. Location TBA Free admission

Les Méandres - Le grand naufrage

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-secours, 400 Paul St E, Montreal

Les Méandres vous présentent le dernier concert de la saison 2017 / 2018.

Lorsque François Ravaillac assassine Henri IV en 1610, c'est un des derniers chevaliers de France qui s'éteint. Le pays est alors profondément déchiré par les puissantes familles du royaume qui se font la guerre, ainsi que par les affrontements entre Huguenots et Catholiques qui persistent. La poésie du XVI et de la première moitié du XVIIe porte en elle les blessures de cette violence. On se méfie de la cour et de ses intrigues, on cherche l'apaisement dans les bois et l'amour est source de tourments. Les restes de la Renaissance sombrent dans l'oubli pour laisser place à l'État et à la réforme de Richelieu.

Joignez-vous à nous pour un concert mettant en vedette un consort brisé de flûtes et de violes qui interprétera des airs de cour. Le programme présentera, entre autres, des œuvres de Charles Tessier, Pierre Guédron et Girard de Beaulieu, dans des arrangements inédits préparés avec soin pour l'évènement.

Le concert aura lieu à la Chapelle Notre Dame de Bon Secours le 10 mars 2018 à 19h au coût de 20$ / 10$ sur présentation d’une carte étudiante. Les billets seront disponibles à la porte le soir du concert.

Élodie Bouchard - Soprano Simon-Charles Tremblay Béchard - Ténor Jérémie de Pierre - Flûtes à bec Élyse Lamanque Girard - Flûtes à bec Tristan Best - Viole de Gambe Ryan Gallagher - Viole de Gambe Jonathan Stuchbery - Archiluth & Guitare baroque Justin Luchinski - Orgue

Lost Islands: The Cygnus Trio

Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren Avenue #3, Toronto, Ontario

Lost Islands A reflection on personal geography and memory

Thursday February 22, 2017 at 8 pm Tickets $25/$10 Student (cash only at the door) Reserve tickets at


Okanagan Landscapes - Selwyn Redivo (b. 1953)

Okanagan Vignettes - Anita Perry (b. 1960)

I Saw Three Ships - Traditional arr. Jonathan Stuchbery (b. 1995)

Dissolve, O my heart - Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980)

Simple Gifts - Traditional arr. Jonathan Stuchbery

Algoma Miniatures - Arie Van de Ven (b. 1995)

Sound, music, images, geography: all these concepts influence our memory. Think of a place from your childhood. What do you hear, what do you see? How can you describe this feeling of remembering the past? In a sense, the places we have made our homes and have now left are lost to us; we may be able to physically return, but our memories preserve it in a different way. Stories of islands which disappear after a first discovery or even after being inhabited for a time permeate Canadian folklore, from the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence to more isolated islands in the Great Lakes and beyond. The prevalence of these stories suggests a deep collective sorrow for remembered times and places which, once gone, are gone forever.

The Cygnus Trio, in collaboration with composers with deep geographical ties, offers a program of music and poetry reflecting on this loss and the relationship between memory and location. The program features works by four Canadian composers, folk tunes and poetry. Anita Perry and Selwyn Redivo offer musical meditations upon the landscape of the Okanagan Valley, past home of brothers Ben (flute) and Jonathan (guitar), and the trio will premiere Ontario native Arie Van de ven’s Algoma Miniatures. The musical components of the program are tied together with poetry by W. B. Yeats, and Nancy Holmes, tying a deep sense of place to the remembrance of the past.

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