I am extremely excited to hear my original soundtrack (composed, performed, and recorded) for the documentary film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay come to life at its premier at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol on April 20, 2018. (scroll down within the embedded image below to get to the trailer or go direct to the UN of Photography website) Read more
Posts tagged ‘cello’
There is something romantic about playing a musical instrument, but practice? The emotion, getting caught up in the moment, it looks so graceful and can touch people’s lives – but that’s the finished product, what happens at the moment of performance. What about getting there? Is it all that rosey? Do people wake up and pull back the curtains to the sun streaming in and think – Oh yes! I get to practise for 4-6 hours today! La la la! and then twirl their fluffy skirts as they dance to the music room, humming and skipping with the music already singing in their minds. (featured image CC BY-NC-SA by Rachel Patterson)
Well… there are moments of bliss in any discipline when the learning moves from being an unfamiliar skill to being a known competence. The thing is that even when this happens, it isn’t over. In music it is not like creating a typed script that you can print out and look at. Live performance involves our bodies, which are changing, growing, and decaying every day and without upkeep and use, even after achieving something, it fades.
Practising is one of those ‘how’ questions that is sometimes not so explicitly taught. It involves so many different aspects of the self: musical mind, analytical mind, physical coordination (and that’s very specific to each instrument), and the motivation – to listen, to persevere, to assess, to pursue goals. It can be exhausting. With experience and the different hurdles life has thrown at me, I have learned to practice differently and hopefully better.
I used to while away the days at university just practising all day and that was wonderful. There were certain factors in that environment that made it work there, that are not necessarily present outside the uni environment. I was a part of a wonderful cello studio and had THE most inspiring and motivating teacher that ever walked (still walks, well actually he runs- no time for walking) the planet. We also supported one another. There was competition, but each person was allowed and encouraged to become whatever they were going to be.
One of the things time taught me is that when the factors (in life, in music, in you) change, so does practising. Learning music is not something that can be distilled onto a recipe card. After university, for example, when living in a new place where I practised alone for the entire day, the motivation, recognition of progress, and general stamina that was easy to maintain in a community became tricky to maintain on my own.
Commitments and other constraints on my time taught me to organise, learning to focus, in order to accomplish in one hour what I might have done in three. Listening, analysis, careful repetition as opposed to less focused playing or even indulging in …just going on to that nice bit one more time.
- I now set the clock when I practise and do bursts of concentrated practise for 25 minutes at a time with dedicated goals and then
I GET UP AND MOVE AROUND. BREATHE FRESH AIR. DRINK WATER.
It is important to remember we are more than machines. Our minds, muscles, and whole selves need recharging from time to time.
Without remembering how delicate we are, practising certainly can be a bear hunt. …Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, gotta go through it…. (Image CC BY-NC by Phil Rogers) Perseverance is important. -Musicians should not play through pain or for hours on end for the sake of it. That is unhealthy. There are however some aspects of physical learning that do take time to learn in the muscles and the brain. Yes, there might well be moments of discomfort while you get your thumb callous into shape (I’ve had a blister or two over the years), but nothing should ever ‘hurt’ from normal playing. The nightmare of the bear is quickly dissolved when planned small goals are integrated into a healthy schedule.
If you have a teacher to motivate you – that is great! If you don’t, that is more of a challenge. Being accountable is a useful tool.
- You can be accountable to yourself, or to someone else who is not a musician, but is a friend.
- Sometimes telling someone what your aims are, or making a chart can help.
- Recording practise allows you to look back and see the progress – step-by-step is good.
- Bite-sized is manageable, whereas demanding all at once is just not realistic.
I’m off to practice, as my concert is Sunday! I’ve been recording myself to listen and learn, and the other day, while rehearsing with my accompanist, I caught an oops. I forgot the thing that keeps my cello spike from slipping, and well… you can hear my surprise at what happened for yourself. 🙂
It’s not all daisies, but practising does pay off. Keep at it. (I’m talking to you as well as to me!)
Last night I had the pleasure of performing a recital accompanied by my friend and colleague on the University’s lovely 1876 Dancy D Steinway piano. Oh I love my cello and I love to play for people. Performing for me is interesting because I am trained to do it, but in life I do many other things as well and this kind of solo performance is a slice of the pie. Finding balance is a quest. (recordings from the concert are at the end of the post, in case you want to skip the reflective part!) Read more
—Sarah-Jane (@sarahjfc) 20 September 2017
I felt privileged to be there. Really, it was moving. You reminded us of what we do and sometimes as teachers we forget- Seeing him get it and the look on his face. When he looked at you like that, that is what it’s all about. Witnessing that learning happen was really something. -Holland Otik
What was this all about? I was invited to speak at the Hereford College of Arts 10th Annual HE Symposium to speak on ‘the value of a creative education’.
It’s time to think ahead and book for this year’s Cello Weekend! This is a chance to come together and study at the University of Chichester campus for a weekend with teachers and students from the university as well as cellists from across the wider professional musical community. Cellists of all ages are welcome, and there is something in the programme for everyone – from the orchestral experience of playing the classics of Mozart and Bach in an all-cello orchestra, to exploring aspects of performance, practice, and technique, to having a go at experimenting with modern techniques used by folk and jazz players as they go beyond just playing the notes. You can even have a play on a 5-string electric cello… or you might stick to the classics and watch others perform.
This year we welcome two outstanding professionals: Angela East and Kay Tucker. Angela will lead a musical surgery entitled “Any Questions? Your opportunity to find the answers to issues that have puzzled you for years!” Angela is inviting every participant to submit a question in advance of the weekend. Kay will be speaking, of course, about String Babies! and how our approach to reading and understanding music impacts all of us.
We also welcome two fantastic student-professionals who are both currently studying for their MA in Performance at Chichester: Nikolai Krinitsky and Joe Chilcott. Each of these people brings insight and understanding that will give you a fresh look at your own playing and at how you understand music. Full biographies and information about our guests is listed below the poster (scroll down!).
There are opportunities at the Cello Weekend to learn, explore, play, and meet other musicians. For more information, please contact me. My email is on the poster below. Local accommodation is also available for those travelling to get to the weekend.
Angela has combined playing and teaching throughout her career. At first, she taught in a number of schools including Haileybury, Leighton Park, Epsom College and Eton, where she taught the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. She also taught adult beginners at the City Literary Institute, where she had the largest classes in the music department. At this time she was freelancing as a modern cellist, mainly with the London Mozart Players.
In 1979 Angela acquired a baroque cello and became co-principal cello with the English Baroque Soloists under Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Known for the ‘elemental’ style of performance (The Times), Angela East is highly regarded as one of the leading continuo players of the Early Music Movement., having played with many of the foremost baroque orchestras in London including Principal Cello in the first performance on original instruments at Glyndebourne under Sir Simon Rattle.
Angela trained to become a Suzuki cello teacher in the 1980s and is a level 5 teacher and a teacher trainer. As her playing career developed, she began to develop her home teaching practice and has taught numerous children, some of whom chose musical careers and many of whom still play.
In 1997 she became a member of Red Priest. As well as having performed all over the world in some very interesting and unusual countries, this group has provided her with the opportunity to perform as a soloist, to make arrangements of unlikely repertoire such as Handel’s Messiah and she has been a partner in Red Priest Recordings, with whom she made two solo recordings, one of the Bach Cello Suites and one called ‘Baroque Cello Illuminations’ that includes pedagogical material. This CD was chosen as CD of the Fortnight by Classical Music Magazine.
In 2005 she enrolled with the Brighton School of Alexander Technique and graduated in 2009, providing an extra string to her bow. As well as teaching young children, she now teaches beginner adults by combining cello with the Alexander Technique and, on the other hand, gives Alexander lessons to a number of professional cellists. She has now devised a course and is writing a book for parents of children who wish to learn an instrument (any instrument, any teacher) and her self-run teacher training courses are now in their fourth year.
Angela gives regular recitals; one of her programmes is entitled ‘A Tale of Five Cellos’ in which she plays the viola da gamba, the bass violin, the baroque cello, the five-stringed cello and a Ventapane cello of 1828. Her repertoire extends into the 20th century with the Kodaly Solo Sonata and a number of jazz pieces by Aaron Minsky and Mark Summer. She has performed many times on radio and television, including Open University programmes and has been awarded an ARAM for her distinguished services to the music profession.
She has contributed articles to journals such as Arco and Early Music Today, has published editions of the Donizetti String Quartets and her book ‘Play Baroque’ has been published by Stainer and Bell, with several pieces having been chosen for the ABRSM syllabus. She has contributed articles to Early Music Today magazine and to ESTA and Suzuki newsletters. She has taken part in over 200 recordings including some by the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Led Zeppelin and Eminem, and has founded two groups of her own – the London Baroque Soloists and the Revolutionary Drawing Room, with whom she recorded eight CDs of Boccherini and Donizetti, one of which was chosen by Stanley Sadie in his ‘Critics’ Choice’.
She has been a member of ESTA since the 1970s.
An alumni of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Kay has been playing the cello since the age of 12. She gives recitals both as soloist and ensemble player and is a professional cello teacher. In 2002, Kay was invited by Trinity GuildhallExamination Board to select cello repertoire for the 2004 strings syllabus. She has recently completed setting the cello repertoire for the new Trinity Guildhall syllabus, running from 2007. As a member of the British and International Federation of Festivals, she has adjudicated at well over 100 national & local festivals throughout the UK. She is a Music Mentor for the National Festival of Music for Youth
Kay is passionate about the cello, and in teaching others to play well, whatever their age. She strongly believes that establishing a sound technique is fundamental to maximum achievement and enjoyment on the instrument.
Kay is widely experienced in teaching cello at all levels and to all ages. Over the years she has organised and given masterclasses & workshops. She is also a deputy teacher at the Royal College of Music. Students have gained music scholarships and exhibitions to independent schools and a number have been awarded places at the leading conservatoires. Most of Kay’s students have continued to enjoy the cello well into adult hood, some professionally
Kay encourages all her students to participate in chamber music and orchestras. Students have gained places in the West Sussex County Youth Orchestra, Surrey County Youth Orchestra, Brighton Youth Orchestra and the National Children’s Orchestra. Kay has had a number of works composed for her and her students; most notably ‘Mellow Cellos’ by Howard Thompson, and ‘Deep Space 5’ by Douglas Coombes.
Joe is a singer/songwriter who plays the guitar. He has just started playing the cello, but his strengths lie in his creativity with the use of his guitar. Joe is able to imagine a world of sounds and to create these on his acoustic guitar, using every part of the instrument. You can listen to some of Joe’s work here. He is studying for his MA in Music Performance at Chichester and notably, he was in the semi-finals of the UK Open Mic competition in November 2016. I promise his session will produce smiles and beautiful music.
Is a cellist who comes originally from Moscow. He studied in Moscow, and completed his undergraduate degree at the Royal College of Music. He is now studying for his MA in Music Performance at Chichester. Nikolai possesses an impressive level of technical skill, and surprisingly, also a great humility as a performer. These two do not always go hand-in-hand. He is gentle and approachable, and has a way of encouraging performers to find the joy of the music they are playing. His insight comes from years of performing and also from his own skill as a composer for the instrument. He has composed many cello studies, caprices, and a sonata. His performance class is sure to be inclusive, encouraging, and full of genuine appreciation for music making.
This is session two of three in this round of the Connecting Classes project. What’s happening here is a different sort of teaching where actually you control the pace, and how and when you pause, reflect, and interact with both the content and with others. For this class, we have core lectures like many classes, but we do various things alongside this project as well. I record/archive all my lectures so that students can look back for a particular reference or find a bit of analysis that they might have missed or not quite taken in during the class. We use of an interactive reading list, so they can click straight through to the university’s subscription material and have the references I’ve used at their fingertips. This Connecting Classes project is one more way to engage, and for me it is possibly the most fun.
The idea (for those of you not in the room) is that we, who are in the room will all be listening and commenting on the three interviews below. We will use our own devices to listen. That means the room will look odd to a passer-by. They might peep in and see a room full of silent people with headphones on who are tapping into computers or their phones. I promise we are all on task! As we listen, we take notes and all our comments, ideas, questions, are typed and shared as Tweets. The tiny detail that makes this useful and a pedagogical tool is that we TAG our notes with both the project hashtag and the class hashtag:
The beauty is that you (who could be across the world) are also welcome to join in when and where ever you can. The value of using Twitter is that anyone can join in, and with the tags, we can add your comments to our group notes. The live event is happening today, 4 Nov. 2016 at 11 am GMT, so you will see lots of activity then…
Let’s get to it!
Today we are listening to three interview with professional musicians on the topic of Romantic Music. They total 30 mins, and I suggest you give yourself an hour to listen and comment. If you can look on Twitter for the hashtag #MUL316 you will see other people’s comments too and maybe you can reply to someone – you may have the answer they are looking for! Enjoy!
- Our first musician is Katherine Schultz, a cellist from Portland, Oregon. She speaks to us about practising and approaching this music in the following 10 mins. of audio.
- Next Jonathan Plowright, concert pianist and Head of Keyboard at the University of Chichester, speaks about understanding and context within this music. He himself is preparing to record the complete piano music of Brahms:
- Finally we hear from a vocalist. So much of the great Romantic music literature is for voice. Mezzo-soprano and Head of Voice at the University of Chichester, Susan Legg (@susanlegg) takes us through the first song in a song cycle Frauenliebe und-leben by Schumann, identifying key features and explaining how the voice and piano work together with the words. She finishes the interview by performing the song. Beautiful!
I am hugely grateful to our musicians for allowing me to interview them, and for their willingness to share their expertise and knowledge with us.
Please keep listening and adding comments. This is meant to be a catalyst for further discussions and is by no means limited to the 11am time slot. If you tag them #CClasses and #MUL36 I will be able to find them and add them to the story! (I will share that via this website, so the public can see)
Join us next week as we hear from composers and conductors on their views about having their music performed and performing the music of others (relating of course to Romantic composers!). I am telling you the topic in case anyone would like to do some prep homework and come up with a spectacular reference to the views of a known or unknown Romantic composer on this topic for our discussion next time!
Featured image CC BY-NC by Smackfu
I love the idea of dressing up and why not do this with a melody? There is so much that can be learned from listening to other people and other instruments doing the same things. Today I went did this with Cry me a River. This morning I went in search of people to help me make a backing track and I was extremely fortunate that my colleague Rob Westwood agreed to play the chords in the key I requested so I could go home at the end of the day and work on it for this post. Melodies played by different instruments is not a new idea. There are transcriptions of music for so many instruments – whether it is because the saxophone was invented just over a century ago and that instrument is perfectly capable of playing music that was written for another, so there are transcriptions to help that instrument access the centuries of music that came before across various styles or just because something is beautiful and someone wants to play it.
There is also something to be said for understanding music as it is played/sung/performed on another instrument. As a cellist, I do not need to breathe in order to make sound. Well of course I do, but If I hold my breath I can still produce sound, whereas a singer or wind player actually needs to breathe.
As my last post for this week’s topic on What makes a melody? I decided to take a melody that is typically performed on an instrument different from mine. So what about process? Did I just look up the music and go?
and listened some more.
Then I played it.
Then I listened some more.
then I played it while thinking about the words.
If I had more time than a short spell in an evening to spend on it, I would refine … links where different words are emphasised, and perhaps I don’t want you to hear a bow change, or maybe I do want you to hear a bow change.
As an aside, I am also learning to sing this (yes, I have singing lessons – I’m a student too!) and I wonder if having played it on my main instrument will have an impact on my capability to access emotional and technical expression when I sing it.
It’s a new topic for those of you following #MUS654 tomorrow. Hope you have enjoyed thinking about melodies in all their forms this week.
Featured image CC BY-SA-NC by Guy Mayer
Thinking about melody, there are a few components that are common to all music – pitch and rhythm. None of the topics in #MUS654 deal distinctly with rhythm, but it is interwoven into everything. Yesterday in my made-up melody example, I used different rhythms to give meaning to the notes. It made me think. There are some pieces of music where the notes are constant, and then what? It is not always the rhythm that points to the melodic line. The components of music can be shuffled so that one comes to the foreground while something else, that maybe more constant, fades more into the background. Read more