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Posts tagged ‘orchestra’

Connecting online: A shifting reality

I’ve been thinking and watching and experiencing as time unfolds, and the different processes and interactions in my life adapt to the new reality of physical separation.

‘Online’ has unquestionably become more and more a part of life.

 

Are interaction and engagement the same online?

Is it *just* that there’s a screen between us?

No. Yes. Well no, but, maybe

– it’s complicated.

Actually it is different.

Everything is different. It is a different mode of being, and unlike what we’re used to, there are different parameters being applied not only to working/playing/talking online, but to life itself and this impacts how we engage.

For example, several months ago when I chose to type something online to someone, I knew I could also go see them. It didn’t matter if they lived a continent away, the possibility existed that I could go see them (maybe not right away, but in a month or a year I could) – and that put a different sort of expectation of that mode of communication in the array of possibilities. Of course I could go see someone, that’s what people do. Physical presence was primary, even if it was a distant possibility or might not happen frequently.

Not now. That possibility as we knew it has been removed and this impacts our conception and approach to engagement. What was a supplement is now primary and we have not necessarily recognised or acknowledged, what has been removed, and certainly haven’t replaced it.

I experienced this in working with my orchestra,

who are a dedicated group of adults all eager to learn, make, and experience music together.

Over the past few weeks the orchestra has met online a couple of times, in one of these group meetings with lots of little tiles on the screen. I did warn them that we can’t all play at the same time online… but they wanted to. Nobody wanted to mute their microphones, and what resulted was like a pixelated sort of aural indigestion mixed with a touch of sea sickness. Don’t get me wrong, it was a joyous rehearsal, but definitely not anything like the traditional in-person experience. The publicly available video conferencing tools are optimised for speech not music, and in conversation, generally one person talks at a time. When everyone talks at once the software can’t cope, and when a bari sax, violin, bassoon, and oboe (amongst a dozen other instrumentalists) all compete to be heard it definitely has a hard time deciding which participant should be prioritised.  There is no real chance of amalgamating the sounds at once, and in terms of hearing what’s going on, there was also the delay factor – that is what gives it a touch of sea sickness.

Where does this leave us? Does this mean rehearsing online is a failure or has no purpose?

Not at all.

It is DIFFERENT.

After the second rehearsal, I found myself really using every ounce of my teaching knowledge to understand the experience of all those online – the learner/rehearsal participant and me as the leader/teacher. Now I know the person in the fancy shoes (I’m avoiding saying ‘standing at the front’) in a teaching setting should not be a “leader” (yes read that with a cliche definition of ‘leader’ with all the stereotypical baggage that goes with it) but there is a WHOLE lot of unspoken perception and awareness that goes will skillful facilitation of a group to enable each person to both come to the experience and give of themselves during the experience in a way that feels free and acknowledges their individual value. That sort of leadership is needed. Maybe it should be called ‘thinkership’ or something. (answers in the post please)

I was, and am, thinking –

what is missing? what do we want? what do we need?

How are we impacted by what has been taken away and how can we recognise this and then (possibly) heal those gaps and move forward?

Can we move forward without recognising this?

I don’t think so really. We may tread water, but not move forward. Ultimately there are cracks in our reality and without seeing them, it is difficult to be able to look at what we do have – technologically as well as at our physical disposal (wherever we are) – and then figure out how to use these things.

One important thing is not to attempt a direct substitution. It goes wrong with the best algorithms… lemons become lemon cleanser or this absolute cracker from a few years ago:

 

sweet toy, but the family might be hungry…

One thing does not equal the other, even when it sounds the same.

We’re just having our lecture online. Um, no. not just.

I was struck by the orchestra’s last rehearsal – because they are all so open, honest, and forthright. We all TALKED on the session, and afterwards, discussing what was good, what was missing, and I am the first to admit that I do not have a solution.

Good things came out of those online sessions:

  • We saw everyone. oh that was nice to see others!
  • People’s names went with face and instruments at the same time. -sometimes in a big group that gets lost, and it brought people together
  • It was good to interact with me – I conducted with extra life-sized gestures.
  • They heard themselves individually- at home you hear your own part.

It was a different focus with a different outcome and it was definitely a different experience.

We have to have the opportunity to think in new ways. This is a challenge and I don’t really have answers yet, but at least with the orchestra, we are carving a new path – together. In the meantime we are still meeting, but the focus has shifted. It’s not the same, and these new directions are both challenging and exciting,

and yes, I’m learning too.

Featured image CC BY-SA-NC by Arts Electronica

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)

 

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

Dear Orchestra, I love you.

There are many things that we do in life, and this is one of my best. It’s funny how these things make themselves manifest. Every week I meet with a group of people who come together to form an orchestra and we enjoy learning and playing. We make music. We are an orchestra. I know very little about the people. I have no idea where they come from, what their jobs are, if they have jobs, what they believe, like or dislike, what they eat for dinner, what they do or have done in their lives, and yet we do amazing things together.

Last night was our concert. It is nice to recognise where you are and a concert is a way of doing this. We framed it as an informal playing of our pieces: anyone can come, it’s free, we all bring food and drink to share, and we make music. We were in the University Chapel, and I had (not so) jokingly told everyone to dress warmly as the main preparation. Where we are it’s winter, and although it is not sub-zero, the winter in England is cold and wet, and it gets in to your bones. The Chapel is very beautiful, but it is a big, big space with two giant stained glass walls that was built before people thought of insulation or heat retention, and let’s just say that heating is a challenge. There was no problem last night – the place was packed and with 100+ bodies in the audience it was toasty.

Our policy is that anyone can come to be part of the group and basically you turn up when you can and when you want to. Something must be going right because we had 46 people listed as performers on the programme.

What’s so special about this group?

We do it. We make music and it actually sounds good and it’s not conventional and it’s not your usual group makeup, and sod that, we do it anyway and I have not remembered a more purely joyful collaborative concert experience in a very long time.

We have saxophones (who actually save the day more often than not) in the group. We have 5 flutes and 9 clarinets, as opposed to the traditional 2 or maybe 4 in an orchestra. Dorothy is a killer percussionist who even bought her own cymbals for our Tchaikovsky and next term is going to debut on drum kit. Hubert and Eunju bring their daughter to every rehearsal and she is amazingly patient and sweet. Ray and Mark have taken on arranging songs they want to play with the group and next term we’ll see two of our violinists play a solo, Bach Double Concerto, with us.

There’s music in the air like moisture waiting to form clouds and blow across the sky in wonderful formations – making patterns, giving breeze and shade, and bringing storms as well as rainbows. We bring people together to form those possibilities, and last night we made it happen.

It wasn’t about right notes or perfection. It was just about growth, being a part of, and letting music be the medium that carried us and the audience. And what an audience – it was a full house! The things that people said afterwards were not about how theme A was presented with care and made such a contrast to the B section and weren’t those keys in the development a surprise! No, they said thank you for giving my family such a wonderful evening both experiencing the music and performing. That was beautiful. See music is all the more meaningful when it starts with meaning, and here it wasn’t primarily about the sounds, but about the accomplishments, the audacity of someone to believe that after however many years of not playing they could do it again, that even though they never did a grade whatever or maybe never played with others that they could. You can. You bloody well can, and I’m not going to tell you otherwise. I am going to do everything I can to find a way to help you to do it. -and no, it’s not perfect, but neither am I. My goal in life isn’t to be perfect, it’s to be with people. This music had meaning because everyone in the space cared about each other and collectively worked to make it come together.

I wanted to somehow thank the orchestra, so I did one of my odd-ball things and made them all cookies in the shape of them. Orchestra cookies J You can see the trumpets, clarinets, oboes held out to the side, bassoon, contrabassoon, sax, and the strings… Somehow a little gesture of being willing to spend time thinking about each one of them (and producing something yummy) seemed a good way to say thank you, to celebrate each one of them.

After the concert there was such an air of genuine happiness from all. I heard from one of the players that the musician next to them had turned to them after we finished performing and said – that was really lovely. They all came to hear us. -and the first person said to me, in relaying the story, ‘It’s a bit like a children’s nativity where the parents come and their child is just the best thing, but for us we’re adults, and we were the best thing for our people, and that is really special.’ They are 100% right. It is special and such an important thing to cultivate in life. Celebrating others is the best.

Here’s to the next year of music making. Thank you ECCO Orchestra. I do love you.

Laura

…and we have beautiful photos thanks to Andrew Worsfold: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40432608@N08/albums/72157712128704463/with/49192585592/ 
ECCO Concert 7 December 2019

 

Cello Weekend 2017 – Join Us!

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.

AngelaEast:

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.

Kay Tucker:

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 Chilcott:

 

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.

 

 

Nikolai Krinitsky:

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.

 

Show me and I’ll remember forever

Imagine yourself as an undergraduate student, doing your work, studying hard, dealing with friends, cooking, laundry, love, and everything that daily life brings. Now imagine that you somehow think to yourself, I know, 20 years after graduation, I’ll come back and bring my students to share the same experiences that I had. Yeah, that will be awesome.

Who thinks that? ever??

That’s exactly what happened.

I have had fantastic teachers in my life. More than I could ever have hoped for, and there have been times when I have recounted stories to my university students of ‘when this happened…’ and I am aware that the combination of people and places and the resulting experiences at that time was so influential for me, and naturally I would like to share that. Read more

The sounds of many cellos, and a soprano, and a harp, oh, and some cups

The Cello Weekend 2015 was a blast!

We had 26 cellos playing together as an orchestra, and throughout the two days there were classes and workshops that stretched every one of us- from classical, to pop, folk, and contemporary sounds, here are some visual highlights of the moments we had during the two days…

 

 

Rehearsal:

Masterclass:

cellodown1 celloclass1 celloclass2

We ended Day 1 with some relaxing cello yoga with Maria O’Donnell:

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Workshops on Day 2!

…a fun break with Jess and Pete:

(yes we learned the cup song from the film ‘Pitch Perfect’)

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Waiting for the folk workshop with IzzI:
cellows2

 

 

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cellows4

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the final concert on Sunday:

concert3    concert 2

concert1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you next year for the 10th Cello Weekend ! 

April 9-10 2016

cellodown2