The Isolation Diaries: Flutist Mark Takeshi McGregor

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      With theatres, galleries, stores, and restaurants shuttered to flatten the COVID-19 curve, the Isolation Diaries reach out to Vancouver’s creative sector to find out what they’re watching, how they’re coping, and where they’re finding inspiration.

      The artist

      Mark Takeshi McGregor is one of the country's leading flutists, moving fluidly between classical and contemporary repertoire as a soloist, chamber musician, improvisor, and interdisciplinary artist. He's played around the globe, but you've seen him perform locally everywhere from the Vancouver New Music Festival to the Modulus Festival; he's also served as co-artistic director of Redshift Music Society and artistic director of the Powell Street Festival Society. The musician is keeping busy even through quarantine, creating an at-home Isolation Commission via the Little Chamber Music Series That Could project, and interpreting composer Jennifer Butler's haunting and ethereal Four Directions as part of the Canadian Music Centre BC's new Unaccompanied online concert series (see video at bottom).

      No. 1 thing that’s getting you through

      At the risk of being mushy right off the bat, I have to say that my friends in the music community have been amazing. We'll often joke that we never see one another unless we have a gig together, but these days we've been very proactive about keeping in touch, having online drinks together, and providing support whenever one of us is down. 

      Comfort food

      The other day I made a big batch of okonomiyaki — it's a Japanese-style savoury pancake. I make mine with sui choy, grated carrots, and diced water chestnuts. Once it's fried I melt cheddar cheese on top of it and eat it with tonkatsu sauce and Japanese mayo. 

      Quarantine soundtrack

      I have an old album of Thomas Tallis's Lamentations of Jeremiah, performed by the Tallis Scholars, that might be one of the most beautiful recordings ever made. It's music that manages to be many things at once: restorative, haunting, hopeful, and deeply spiritual. I literally know every nook and cranny of that album, and I'm noticing I'm listening to it more and more lately. 


      Creative or learning outlet

      I'm still practising, but because all of my neighbours are home during the day now, I'm trying to keep the sessions shorter and more focussed, which has had two wonderful results: 1.) my neighbours don't lynch me, and 2.) I have the time and the mental capacity to do other things. So I've started learning Polish on DuoLingo — did you know Polish nouns have seven different cases? Like, the word for "dog" will change depending on where it occurs in a sentence. It is so kicking my butt right now. And I've been drawing and painting, which has been really therapeutic: right now I'm working on illustrations for my Japanese-Canadian re-envisioning of Jabberwocky, called — wait for it — Japawocky

      Streaming now

      I'm a devoted fan of UNHhhh, a YouTube series hosted by two drag queens, Trixie Mattel and Katya. It's basically a show about them talking about whatever they want, quasi stream-of-consciousness. Occasionally it's inconsistent, but at its best it's funny — like, snot-flying-out-of-your-nose funny. 

      Survival tip

      Please god, don't let them close the liquor stores.