Performing Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker was an annual tradition for the Hamilton Philharmonic, and our low brass section used to have a great time down in the pit where no one could see us. My last year with the HPO, I took my camera in so I could have some pictures of the section together. After watching the Snowflake dancers have their little flurry on stage one night, I jokingly suggested it would be hilarious to have a photo of the low brass taken with the Snowflakes. Marc Donatelle, our principal trombonist, simply said, “I’ll set it up.” Sure enough, he talked to somebody with some sway, and the next thing I know, we’re being called backstage at intermission the next night to make it happen. Somehow, though, it had turned from a casual little thing into a full-blown photo op. That year we were performing the ballet with the Kiev Ballet Company. The Kiev people all had their cameras out, and somebody was barking out orders, in Russian, to the dancers. At one point, we gave our trombones to some of the dancers in exchange for their handheld snowflake-twirly-thingys. They didn’t have a clue how to hold our instruments, as you can probably tell from the picture below. The one holding mine looks like she is trying to blow it through the tuning slide! And the one holding Marc’s actually sent his slide clattering to the floor! Oh dear.
I also remember going to Boris Brott‘s house for a reception after the final performance. When the dancers finally showed up, they pretty much kept to themselves – but boy, they could sure put away the vodka!
L-R: Mark Bonang, tuba; me; Peter Collins, bass trombone; Marc Donatelle.
“Never look at the trombones; it only encourages them.” – Richard Strauss
Wow …Mark Bonang… It must be almost 30 years since I last saw you. I haven’t keep up with anyone from Dartmouth NS after moving to Ontario in my last year of high school and imagine my surprise when I stumbled across your name on the Toronto Philharmonic website. After a little searching I realized that you were the same Mark that lived on Portland Street and chummed around with Joey Mason when I first meet you. You were our goalie for all those early morning ice rentals and well and so much more. It would also appear that all those years of lugging that huge tuba around has paid dividends for you. Congratulations on all your success and perhaps I will be lucky enough to catch one of your performances on day. Cheers Mark and all the best in the future! Robert Cavanagh