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Posts by Laura Ritchie

Cathedral Sunrise

Got it!

Today was the day the sun rose directly behind the Cathedral. This happens twice a year and I do like being here for these moments. Two days ago I took a picture as it was nearly there.

I went outside, stood barefoot (bit cold, but nice to feel the ground beneath my feet) and watched with reverence as the sun rose. You can see the Cathedral, and yes, it is a picture of the sunrise.

you need to look beyond the horizon to see it

 

 

Pivotal Moments & Goals

Over the past month the Earth has handed us a pivotal moment. Two months ago each of us could say: ‘I had plans to…’, whether that be an everyday activity or a career aspiration. We are interested in whether the global events of the past two months have impacted your attitude toward your planned goals.

This is the opening paragraph of my current research study. I invite you to consider completing the questionnaire.

I am very much hoping to gain insight about the perspective of people across the world from all walks of life.

The questionnaire has gained Ethical Approval from the University of Chichester, and is 100% anonymous. The first page gives all the details & information for you to give informed consent before completing it (no names, just a tick box). There are four main questions, asking you to think about your goal then and now. Overall it should take 5-10 minutes of your time.

Here is the link to the questionnaire: https://chichpscyh.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9uHU1JblxmpAhOl

Thank you!

Laura

There’s a mouse in the house

Oh crap. Not again. I thought of titling this ‘unwanted visitors’ but at this time of crisis in the world, I did not want to allow for misinterpretation. We DO have visitors and they (the people) are most welcome and wanted. However, I feel very differently about the rodents I found this morning IN MY KITCHEN.

For anyone who knows me, or anyone who read my post yesterday, you probably know that I live opposite a magnificent field. In fact this morning looked like we are one day away from the magic sunrise just behind the Cathedral. This was my view from 6:42 – 6:44 today:

It is pretty awesome.

I admit that when I run out the front door (rainbows shooting out of my early-bird eyes) I *sometimes* absentmindedly forget to shut the door – yes, even when it’s cold out.

In our household people wake up early, and the smell of coffee, breakfast, and the billows of warm air must be appealing to (for lack of a less desirable word) rodents. -and I’m learning that rodents can be smart. They seem to figure out patterns and use them to their advantage- Like, for example THE DOOR IS OPEN AND THERE’S A WARM PLACE WITH FREE FOOD.

Oh fork. Forking hall.

Now we have mice. Not even mouse. Mice, and big ones.

I went into high hear and built a ‘defense’ by the side of the fridge of whatever we had – wheatabix box, plastic bags, found the spare yoga mat fit in the gap well, but when I turned away to get something else to build that wall higher, they still get through.

This was really not what I asked for today. I really don’t like little (or big) scuttly things (8 legged ones are worse than 4, but when you can actually see them look back at you the number of legs stops mattering).

I did get brave and open the fridge, but there was one INSIDE just looking at me. ! I heard they get everywhere, but really !!

The last straw, and the one that relegated me back to my bedroom with the door closed, under two duvets (yep, that’s where I’m typing) was what I found when I went to put the clothes in the dryer. (our dryer is in the kitchen – it’s a UK thing). Holy unmerciful mice, this was the rodent king, looking at me smugly like he just belonged there. <– See what I did just there – that thing was so big I gave IT a person pronoun.

Do not like. 🙁

I hope I’m safe in bed for now. My big children will save me. They can deal with the mice – I’m not sure they will fit in the humane trap (the mice) and beside, they ate all the peanut butter (the children).

Let’s hope the rest of the month is better.

Mouse peeping out on top of my fridge defense

Mouse IN the fridge.

Giant mouse in the dryer

 

 

On Time

I woke up this morning and my first thought was, well it feels good to sleep until 8am. (it was 6:15) I lay there for a while and when I leapt out of bed and opened the curtain, I was greeted with this magnificent sight.

Every year as the earth tilts on its axis and the seasons change,  I watch the sunrise slowly (sometimes quickly) swing from left to right and back again. When on the left, we get more daylight, the sun rises high in the sky, and when on the right (South-Eastern sunrise) we have more darkness in the winter. In a few days the sun will rise right over the Cathedral. I wonder if the clouds will oblige and I’ll catch it. A few years ago I nearly caught it:

These past few weeks time has melted and stretched all at once. Some days last a month and others never progress past breakfast. I mentioned to a friend someone had said the week now has three days: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I get that, but still time has its schedule. I’m reminded of the sunrise and the changing patterns of the seasons. The baby leaves are just about to burst out of so many trees. I love that, and am so fortunate that where I live there are several types of baby leaves that come out over the course of a few weeks. Spring is not just a few days, like a high-powered microwave thaw setting that links winter to summer. We gently melt into spring – a full, calm, refreshing shavasana accompanied by the most glorious of birdsong.

In this time where we stop moving as we did, and the earth keeps moving as it always has, I wonder if and how we shift our awareness- of time, of task, of people.

I’ve taken the time to look up. I always liked looking up – my pink ipad is engraved with:

Always Look Up

as the sky adores the sun

Looking up, and out is a way to find a different kind of mobility, and even though it seems the shape of time has changed, it’s still there just as it was. I’m reminded of my husband telling me stories of the stars: When Procyon rises before the dawn, it’s time to plant the crops (because it means the Nile will flood soon).

Different time.

Sun time. Star time. Bird time.

We can find our time, it’s not lost and neither are we.

Let the music play!

Home bound does not mean life stops.  But the past week has been challenging and we’ve seen the emotional effects and the physical constraints of suddenly living in close quarters with a house full.

ps I LOVE my family and the extra time from not commuting is bliss, but we tend to do either noisy or physical things and in an open plan big room… I’ll leave you to imagine dance routines, cello lessons, Mario Kart, essay writing, computer programming, and we haven’t even gotten to the art instillations yet. (and yes, I am serious)

One of my beloved weekly activities (in normal times) is leading ECCO, the Encore! Chichester Community Orchestra which is an absolutely lovely, gregarious, inspiring group of adult amateur musicians. There are a regular group of 35-40 who come together to play all sorts of music, and we welcome everybody. The most inspiring thing is how everyone comes together – musically and as a cross-section of the community.

When we disbanded rehearsals, a decision I took on Friday 13th, there was a definite sense of loss. We have a phone group and there was a sudden influx of messages saying ‘thank you for taking this difficult decision, but also I am so sad that we have to do this.’ As the days progressed it became very clear there were going to be no physical rehearsals any time soon.

It was when my friend Duane (who has done super cool things for and with me in the past like this and this) posted this video on Instagram.

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A beautiful song by Queen Liliuokalani “Ku’u Pua I Paokalani”

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He is always doing fantastic things, and I wrote to him to ask if perhaps my orchestra could play it… He came back to me with the best message:

Interesting history of the song. The song was written when the queen was imprisoned under house arrest for 8 months after the fall of the monarchy at the turn of the century. They tried to isolate her but she was allowed to receive flowers from her garden picked by an 11 year old boy, who secretly wrapped them in newspapers so she could at least hear about what was going on in Hawaii. The lyrics talk about the beautiful flowers

He also said that indeed he had the parts, and he would not only send the parts, but sent a video on how to improvise a percussion part. (you can see that video HERE) Duane is a very gifted musician and teacher, and he demonstrated on a case, really clearly exactly how to make the sounds and what rhythm to use. He also gave specific bar numbers with reference to the score so our percussionist could follow.

I wrote to the orchestra with the proposed project… we are going to make a virtual piece! I’d edit the sound and make a video and it will even be shared as a conference presentation at the #OER20 online conference (was going to be in London, but life has changed for us all).

Then these two videos arrived…

You know, some people say there are barriers to so many things in life, including technology. I say poppycock. (that’s a suitably silly thing to say, isn’t it?) Actually generally I say YES I CAN – well, I might not say anything, but my smile will say that to you, and chances are you will find a way. I must admit I never expected this from our trombone player, Mark:

and Dorothy has definitely risen to the challenge of creating a Hawaiian Ipu for her role as percussionist.

I’ve learned that being physically apart does not mean ‘isolated’. This will be joyful, and already it has generated well needed smiles and laughter. We will create our virtual performance and record it by April 1. Watch this space! If you’d like to be an honorary ECCO (encore! Chichester Community Orchestra) member, you are welcome to join in with the project HERE.

In the meantime, in whatever way you can, please – let the music play on!

(featured image by violscraper CC BY-NC)

 

Mind & Body: Dance!

Sometimes I do things that maybe not everyone would do, and this is no exception. What have I done? I joined the first year Jazz Dance class at my university. I’m not a sideline guest with special privileges, just one of the people in the class. Because the class is for first year Musical Theatre students, and I don’t teach these people normally, the students just thought I was a (possibly really old?!) student for the first two weeks. 🙂 That was my personal triumph.

I am profoundly interested in learning, both my own learning and how people learn different types of things. This is one that requires both mental and physical integration at a precise level. There are also understandings of what and how the learning takes place that are hugely challenging. A dance unfolds in physical space over time, and by nature has rhythm and directional motion. Elements of the rhythm are akin to music making (thinking of my experience with either cello or singing), but the motion is something completely out of my experience. This directionality, I’m learning, is completely natural, yet you (or at least I) have to free my mind from any solid associative thinking in order to do some of it.

By now you may have guessed I have 0% experience with learning dance. I endured the classes in 8th grade where someone very old (they were probably 40, but when you’re in 8th grade all grown-ups look 800) tried to teach us to fox-trot. I was not one of the children who went to ballet class; I went to math class. I was one of the slightly brainy, odd ones who ended up as the wall-flower. The point is that although I don’t have experience, I LOVE rhythm, motion, and music and oh my goodness what a delicious challenge and privilege it is to be able to learn.

When shown some choreography, the student is expected to retain it. <– That sounds so basic, but for me the assimilation of mental and physical genuinely makes my brain turn to dough. As I get more information the dough in my head rises and then my head nearly explodes – or I simply find I can’t directly do bits of the dance – at that moment. I will get it, but for me that will require slowing it down and consciously putting the bits together. Today I realised that I use some of my other, already established, learning methods to cope – for example in the dance room one wall is mirrors. That means you can watch yourself in real time, as well as watching the other people in the class. I simply watch the best ones and realistically I let them lead me (by about 35%). It is cheating and at least I realised I’m doing it. How did I find out? Easy. When in class we had to do what we had learned in groups of 3, and half of the dance was facing the wall without mirrors (!) I realised how much I didn’t really know yet!

Besides retaining and internalising the choreography, a student is expected to go away and learn it on the other side. So if the dance goes to the right, you have to go home (if you’re me, otherwise you just do it) and learn it all going to the left. -and then the teacher also has the option to change it up.

Musically speaking it is as if you learn a piece of Bach and then the teacher says- I expect it in another key next week, and actually instead of doing that cadence at the end of the first half, let’s change it a bit – I’d really like to add some Chopin-esque elements there. It is a completely different way of thinking and although it looks effortless when done well, I certainly respect the craft more for getting inside of it a bit.

What are the takeaways for me so far?

Oh it is exhilarating! I LOVE to move. and you know what? I can. I am not perfect by any means – and I do regularly drop moves because I am genuinely working to figure out which bit of body goes where, and I am sure I look like the game QUOP. (that’s where you manually move the thighs and calves of a runner and make them go. You can see my best is now really so good here:

Of course I like the teacher – I gravitate to excellent people who are inspiring. He is good at his craft, explains with clarity, demonstrates, and also says it like it is – both in terms of praise and things that need to be improved. The other thing that I really, really like is the other students. They have not taken a second glance at me – they are there to learn and so am I, and they help one another and they’ve helped me too. I’ve asked to copy people’s notes, asked for explanations of basic techniques that they, as trained dancers, already know (you’ll see from the picture of my notes that I’m not exactly using technical language, I’m scribbling down whatever I can in the momentary gaps in class), and even really basic questions like where do I go to buy the right shoes. 🙂

My goal is to be able to do the end of semester exam material. I have lots to practice between now and then.

 

 

 

Jazz Day 2020: Inside Out | Outside In

This is a day-long Jazz Symposium to mark International Jazz Day 2020. You are warmly invited to take part as an active participant in the workshops, to contribute questions for our panel at the roundtable, and to enjoy the concert. It is possible to attend part or all of the event. This Symposium brings together professionals at the top of their field from across the UK as we explore Jazz from the Inside Out as well as the Outside In.

Professor Laura Ritchie will chair the event. https://www.lauraritchie.com/about/

Nick Reynolds Coordinator / Head of Jazz at University of Chichester Conservatoire has organised and brought everyone together to make this event happen.

We share a conviction that musical practice and the every day teaching and learning of music can be enhanced by direct integration with practices from “inner work”, the disciplines of yoga, meditation, psychotherapy, music therapy and it is about integration – from the outside in, and the inside out.

This event is FREE. For more info & booking contact Nick Reynolds: n.reynolds@chi.ac.uk

ESTA Summer School 2020

This August I’ll be welcoming lots of string players to the University of Chichester Conservatoire for the European String Teachers Annual Summer School. I am the Course Leader for the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching, which is a specialist course taught specifically for and by each instrument family. For example woodwind teachers are led by Paul Harris, singers are led by Janet Murno, pianists are led by Emyr Roberts. It is a unique and specialist course designed for private teachers to deepen their practice and gain a postgraduate qualification. Graduates have the option of going on to complete an MA as well.

At the Summer School I’ll be overseeing the course and I also have the privilege of leading the Lower String Pedagogy classes. It’s going to be a great week and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new cellists and teachers!

It was there, waiting

I find stories in my life, and they teach me. This is one of those.

Every morning I prepare the lunches, not because of any female stereotype but simply because I have more time because of a shorter commute than others, it saves us money, and it means we eat good food. Lately I’ve been buying apples on offer – £.79 for 6 British apples. That’s ok?

Today I stopped in my tracks and thought – why? Why am I buying apples when I have more than a shelf in the fridge FULL of apples that I picked? (some of them are for cooking, but there is a shelf full of eating apples)

I went to the fridge, opened the heavy burlap-esque carrier bag and looked in. Sure enough the apples were there, waiting. The one in the photo that is cut is one of them. I picked it in October. I chose that apple, went to the tree and through effort, reached, climbed, shook the tree to get that apple. I only chose the good ones and I took the care to store them well so they would last and could feed us for a long time.

-and then it lay forgotten. under cover. on the shelf. (literally)

So here I am, looking at something that has waited to be noticed, and it was right in front of me. 

Today when I eat that apple I will enjoy it. I’d say that I will think and dream – but dreams are things in the distance that sometimes we wait for. No more waiting, sometimes things sit on the shelf for far too long – rather like… (cue the crunching sound of biting into an apple) 🙂

Hope your Monday is filled with moments of noticing what’s right in front of you.

Cello Weekend 2020

Saturday / Sunday April 18-19

Time: 10am-4:30pm

Venue: University of Chichester

  • Workshops
  • Masterclasses
  • Cello orchestra
  • Chamber music

 

The Chichester Cello Weekend, organised by Professor Laura Ritchie, brings cellists keen to develop their performing skills, technique, and musical appreciation together for a remarkable weekend of music making. All music is arranged to suit participants’ individual levels, and everyone plays in a fantastic cello-orchestra that rehearses throughout the two days. Sunday’s 4:30pm gala concert is open to friends and family.

Music includes from arrangements of popular hits to Bach to a contemporary gamified piece of music by Rebecca Askew and a special commission for the group by Bruno Newman. Participants will have opportunities to work with composers, to play solos for our guest artists: Ivana Peranic and Emma Collingham, and to participate in workshops on working with an accompanist and chamber music, where they can experience playing with a piano trio.

Participant fees: £35 students, £55 adults.                   Book online: http://bit.ly/CelloWE2020

For more information contact Laura on l.ritchie@chi.ac.uk Read more