Later this month the principal violist will share the stage with concertmaster Gwen Hoebig as the featured soloists in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in Mozart & Brahms.
In his 26th year with the orchestra, we find out what new found hobby Daniel and his sons have discovered during lock down, the special Winnipeg connection behind his viola and more in this edition of Meet the Musician.
We have already marked the one-year anniversary of this pandemic lock down. What have you learned about yourself during all of this?
I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed building things! My sons and I tore apart my wife’s teaching studio/office and rebuilt it entirely and I’m pretty proud of how it all turned out! I’ve also been known to help rebuild docks out at Lake of The Woods!
Can you tell us about your viola?
My viola was made by a Winnipeg luthier, Garth Lee in 2016 specifically for me. Garth is a wonderful maker and we are very fortunate to have him in our community. My viola is truly beautiful aesthetically and from a sound and playability standpoint. It makes me happy every time I pick it up!
What made you fall in love with the viola for you?
My first experience playing the viola came at a summer chamber music camp in Regina, when I was a teenager. I fell in love with the sound and the size of the instrument and looking back I realize that this was my voice – one that I really identified with. I never looked back. One of my favourite things I’ve been able to play is a complete cycle of Beethoven String Quartets with the Clearwater Quartet, which is Gwen [Hoebig], Karl [Stobbe], Yuri [Hooker], and myself. That was truly an amazing journey for all of us!
What role does the viola play in the orchestra?
I feel like the role of the viola is so multi-faceted. We play a very strong supportive role in all types of music. We are the harmony, the melody and countermelody. We are rhythmically integral and part of the heart and engine of every ensemble. My teacher, Gerald Stanick, who grew up in Winnipeg and played Principal Viola with the WSO, used to describe our role as fundamental. We are the heart.
As well as being principal viola for the WSO, you are also principal viola for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, a core member of The Winnipeg Chamber Music Society and the Rembrandt String Quartet. During a usual season, how do you juggle all of these ensembles and what do you get out of it?
I also conduct the Winnipeg Youth Symphony and teach at the University of Manitoba! I love the variety of work with all of these organizations. There are times when it can all seem a bit overwhelming, but I’ve learned how to stay organized and not stress about things that are beyond my control at any given point. I think that playing and working for different ensembles within our community provides me with a unique perspective on different types of music and audiences and helps to make me a more aware and engaged performer.
Your wife is accomplished cellist Andrea Bell who is also part of the Rembrandt String Quartet. What is it like performing together?
That is a lot of fun for us to do! We’ve done many duo performances in a variety of venues from concert stages to private parties in homes. We have also done quartet concerts with our two sons, Peter and Luke, who play violin and studied with Gwen Hoebig. That is something that both Andrea and I treasure very deeply.
What is something people might be surprised to know about you?
I am an avid runner having completed over a dozen half-marathons. As a family we would spend our winters downhill skiing (if we could!) I also love making bread. I have a sourdough starter that’s a decade old that has been passed around to many friends here in Winnipeg and across the country. As a family we have travelled over 150,000 km camping around North America!
This is my 26th year as Principal Viola with the WSO!
Originally from Regina, Daniel studied at the University of Regina, McGill University and at the University of British Columbia. He was a prize winner at the Lionel Tertis Viola Competition, the most prestigious event of its kind, held on the Isle of Mann. Daniel is the Principal Viola of the Winnipeg Symphony and is a member of the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society, the Rembrandt String Quartet, and a founding member of the Clearwater Quartet who are Artists in Residence at the Desautels Faculty of Music, University of Manitoba. As a solo artist, Daniel has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Musickbarock, the Okanagan Symphony and the Vancouver Chamber Players. Daniel has also toured Europe with the Nordic Symphony of Tallinn, Estonia as Guest Principal Viola and been invited as guest Solo Viola of the Liceu Opera Orchestra in Barcelona, Spain.
Daniel is an instructor of viola and chamber music at the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba as well as the conductor of the Winnipeg Youth Symphony Orchestra. Daniel also adjudicates for many of Canada’s major music festivals. He has performed and taught at many of Canada’s major festivals and is a faculty member of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Rosamunde Summer Academy in Winnipeg and the Amici Summer Stringfest in Calgary. Daniel was also invited to perform and teach in Perth, Australia by the Australian String Teachers Association and the West Australian and New Zealand Viola Society. Daniel has commissioned many new works for the viola by Bramwell Tovey, T. Pat Carrabre, Jim Hiscott, David Scott and many more.
Favourite thing about Winnipeg:
What are you obsessing over right now? (A particular cable series or artist you’re listening to, a book/author, a particular activity)
I have been working out very regularly this past year. In addition to my running I have been doing daily online workouts that I really love.