Zesty, whimsical performance showcases all sides of instrument

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Gordon Jones
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‘Girl Meets Tuba’ warmly received by audience

Karen Bulmer is a music professor and principal tuba player in the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.

Her musical and conversational interlude, “Girl Meets Tuba,” is an engaging rumination in two voices — human and instrumental — on the relationship between the player and her chosen instrument.

Casually dressed in jeans and boots, Bulmer enters with her encased tuba and proceeds, with good-humoured, self-deprecating, dead-pan narrative to take us on her journey from school to college to university to concert orchestra, practising and practising and learning to master this large and demanding instrument.

And, at close quarters, you are reminded of just how big and impressive it is. And of how its sound and appearance make you smile.

Punctuated by brief riffs and longer musical passages, Bulmer confesses her love-hate relationship with this instrument that lurks in the back row of the orchestra, something of a  johnny-come-lately, not having been invented until 1835.

The flute was her first love — and so much easier to carry around — but she was evidently fated to become a tuba player, even with nagging doubts about making a living with the instrument.

The confessional narrative is zesty, whimsical, sometimes rueful, generally wryly self-mocking, not avoiding the grosser parts of the use and care of the instrument, not just polishing the convoluted exterior, but emptying the spit valve and clearing sludge out of the innards.

“Some gross stuff grows in there,” she remarks.

“Girl Meets Tuba” is an intriguing and original piece, which was warmly received by the opening-night audience. It is well worth taking in.

After all, how often do you get to hear a tuba solo, and close up?                                                                                           

Directed by Alison Woolridge, written and performed by Karen Bulmer, the offbeat “Girl Meets Tuba” can be experienced tonight in the Second Space of the LSPU Hall, starting at 8 p.m., or you can take it in on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Running time of the show is 45 minutes. Tickets are modestly priced at $15.00, but bear in mind that Second Space seating is limited.

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