Fight of the Bumblebee (and no, it’s not a spelling mistake)

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Back in December 2013 CBC producer Denise Ball asked if I’d be available to participate in an unusual little project: she wanted to pair me with a rap artist in a “music duel” video. The words “Flight of the Bumblebee” were mentioned. Along with “green screen”. And “director from Toronto”.

I have to admit, my initial reaction was pure, raw fear. I had never been in a video before. I had definitely never worked with a rap artist before. And, weird as it may sound, virtuosic showpieces like Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous little gem are the sort of repertoire I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding — not because I don’t think they’re fun, but rather because I’ve never really seen myself as a “virtuosic” player. Flight of the Bumblebee is a blatant showcase of those aspects of instrumental playing (flying fingers, machine-gun articulation) that I perhaps feel the least comfortable with.

All that said, curiosity quickly overcame trepidation. I wanted to meet this person they were to pair me with: hip hop artist Kia Kadiri. We all met at CBC Vancouver: Kia and her beatmaster, Russ Klyne, along with Denise and fellow producer Jon Siddall. Kia presented her first draft of the “Bumblebee rap” — and it’s safe to say that the entire room was gobsmacked. “Rapid fire” doesn’t even begin capture the what she does. But what is perhaps most remarkable is that through all that vocal virtuosity, there is a core warmth, wit, and humour that is absolutely irresistible.

So I bloody well knuckled down and practised. And I added a few touches of my own (with a tip of the hat to iconic flutists Roland Kirk and Greg Patillo). The result is pure fun: in fact, the video shoot was a scream. Oddly, one of the highlights of that afternoon came from the makeup artist: before the video shoot, she sat me down, studied my complexion and asked what colour of foundation I usually take. When I stared back at her blankly, she put a hand to her face and whispered, “Oh my God… A virgin.”

Well, virgin no longer — bring on that foundation! To watch the video, click the link below.

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