Sunday, December 30, 2007

Clutter free, maybe

One of my standard new year's resolutions is to rid the house of clutter. I make progress every so often, then the clutter creeps back. This year, I am trying a quantifiable goal: Spend two hours a week decluttering. It's not lot of time, but, if I am consistent, I might make some headway, especially if I can get a family member to help.

I am thinking about clutter today because there was a story in the paper today amid the "Highlights of the Year 2007" about a woman who was involved in an auto accident in February because her car was so full of clutter that junk rolled under the gas pedal and she couldn't control the car. Then the authorities then went to her home and found it so full of stuff and junk that the only way in and out of the house was through a window! Yikes. Stories like that make me throw everything out right now! Well, except for all the music and art stuff...and some of the books....

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Handel's Messiah Sing/Play In

I have not yet gotten up the courage to play at our local Messiah Sing In/Play In, but I did attend this year, in part because I really want to play next year. It is a lot of music, and, as a cellist friend of mine who did play said, "It's relentless. You just keep playing." Nevertheless, she and others enjoyed it immensely. Another cellists friend showed me where to get free sheet music online:

http://scores.ccarh.org/handel/messiah/

and the cellist who played loaned me her own copy of the music so I would know which sections are played. The cellists use the Carl Fischer version.

Many towns and cities have Messiah Sing-ins with accompaniment by professional (or good amateur) orchestras or quartets. I think it is unusual for the orchestra to be "drop-in" too. Any string player who wants to play can play. This year there were three cellists, three violinists, and a violist, as well as a baroque trumpet player. There is a only one short rehearsal an hour or so before the public performance.

I wrote an article for the paper, and the people I interviewed encouraged me to play next year. So I will. I have a whole year to work on this--and some friends who want to try it too. In the past, the orchestra consisted of as many as 20 musicians. I hope we can approach that number next year. The bigger the better, as far as me and my cello are concerned!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This is one of my favorite Christmas presents this year, a drawing done for me in a "Secret Santa" exchange at Drawspace.com. We each made a list of things we wanted for Christmas, and our Secret Santa chose one to draw for us.

I have always loved toucans. We had a painting of a toucan on the wall when I was growing up, and I have enjoyed drawing them myself. This one is very cheerful, and I like the flowers, leaves and greenery background.

The picture I drew was of a $21,200 electric guitar I found online (the most expensive guitar I could find). My recipient wanted an electric guitar and did in fact receive one for Christmas, so she liked the drawing. I am not so pleased with it myself--the many lines that should be straight are not, and I could not think of a suitable background, so left it blank. But I 'm posting it here anyway. The guitar has a lot of mother-of-pearl, which I tried to duplicate using metallic colored pencils, but I do not have the technique down yet. Onward and upward! We had a great Christmas with my daughter, son, and his girlfriend, playing games, eating, and talking. Hope your holidays are wonderful!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Solstice wishes


According to the local library, it is a New England custom to observe Winter Solstice, which occurs at 1:08 AM on December 22, by making a solstice wish. Here's what to do:

Take a five-inch square of parchment paper and write on it in red ink the word that best represents the trait you wish to have born in yourself when the sun is reborn. Take three holly leaves and place them in the center of the paper. Fold the paper closed with the holly inside. Then light a red candle and light the paper from its flame. Voila, your wish will come true.

I don't have any real parchment paper, just some stationery described as parchment. I don't have a red candle either. (How could I be without a red candle at Christmastime, you might wonder. I both love and fear candles, and my fear that someone will burn the house down usually wins out over the romance of candles.)

I do have a pink birthday candle, and I have some holly, but I don't have my word yet, the one that I have to write in red ink on the paper, to best represent the trait I wish to have born in myself.

I am thinking maybe "productivity" or "efficiency." While I get involved in lots of activities, I don't always do them as well as I should. This specifically applies to practicing and generally to cleaning the house.

Maybe "energy" or "discipline" applies better to cleaning the house and doing all that other stuff that is not so much fun as playing the cello (and to practicing), but it also applies to nurturing creativity.

More "talent" would be helpful, although I think this relates to "discipline" and "efficiency."

This is sounding a bit like a New Year's resolution, but I think the idea of the solstice wish is that you don't have to expend the effort to stick to a resolution; you just automatically become a better person when the new day dawns. Sounds good to me. I just have to think of the right word in the next couple of hours. Hope the pink candle works--and doesn't burn the house down.

Happy Solstice to you, however you may or may not celebrate it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Movies, and Concerts, and Plays, Oh, My!

I went a little crazy this past weekend and saw two movies, a concert, and a play. I used to have no time to attend such entertainment events, but now my job almost requires it. I am having so much fun. I reviewed the play (a variation of "A Christmas Carol") and will write a short review of the concert. I may wait to see another movie before writing a shortish article on Christmas movies for kids. Tomorrow, I am interviewing a choral director.

All of which, plus Christmas (which I have been thus far mostly ignoring, except musically) have left me little time to blog. One little update: I took the transposed version of "Gesu Bambino" to my cello teacher today, and she gave me magical new fingerings. I'm feeling pretty good about it now, provided I allow enough time to practice between now and the performance on Sunday.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Please pass the honey

It's interesting how little things you do or say can have a lasting impact on others.

Several years ago, I was coordinating a concert with a friend of mine. We used to sing in a women's chorus together, and she also directed a chorus at the nursing home where my flute choir rehearses. Her chorus members are members of the Alzheimer's Unit at the nursing home, so her job was challenging, yet rewarding. We decided to do a joint concert for the other nursing home residents: some songs with just the chorus, some pieces with just the flute choir, and some with all of us together. We chose "Sound of Music" for the joint pieces because we have an arrangement for flute choir and vocal choir.

My husband helped us set up for the concert, or brought me something I forgot (a music stand, perhaps?), and then had to leave. I called out to him, "Thanks, Honey!" as he left.

Skip ahead a few years to yesterday when my friend and I ran into each other again at a cello concert given by a husband-and-wife cello duo (their two children are talented cellists too). My friend happily introduced me to her new male friend, and she told me that, when I called out to my husband that day, her thought was "I want a 'honey' too."

So she set out to find one, and after a couple of years, found a very kind and loving man, her "honey." They are both well into their retirement years, but young at heart and enjoying the cello concert--and life--together. It is heart-warming to have unwittingly nudged her in this direction. :-)

Oh, the cello concert was great, too. Beautiful cello duets, set in an historic mansion (now arts center), festively decorated for Christmas, with views of gently falling snow through the large windows. That gently falling snow quickly became quite a mess, but it sure was lovely at the time!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Grumble, grumble

I went to rehearse my Christmas cello pieces with the organist and vocalist yesterday. The vocalist, who used to play the violin, wanted me to lower the pitch of the cello one whole step because there is a note in Gesu Bambino that is too high for him to sing. Either that or transpose the piece from the lovely key of G to the key of F. Not so bad, except the middle section is now in four flats, just like "O Little Town of Bethlehem." I am going to have to transpose the piece now, and I was reading it so well in treble clef!

I did try, briefly, to lower the pitch of the strings, but quickly decided against it. I have two pieces to play and no way to leave the front of the church to tune in between pieces. I do have two cellos, but my new one sounds so much better than my old one that I am reluctant to use the old one for such an "exposed" performance, when I need all the help I can get.

The vocalist/ex-violinist tried to convince me it would be easy to change the tuning, but I think this must be an entirely different matter for a violin vs. a cello and think it would loosen the strings too much. I am curious though whether anyone else has tried changing the pitch of the strings to accommodate a singer or for some other reason.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Me, the Arts and Entertainment Editor

I started a new job today: Arts and Entertainment Editor of the local newspaper. I'll be editing press releases as well as writing articles and reviews of concerts, plays, movies, and other events for the newspaper and, eventually preparing online content. It's the perfect job for me. I have been writing classical and folk music reviews for the newspaper for the last couple of years and am familiar with the local music groups and arts organizations, either directly or through my kids or my friends, so I know the territory. The staff is friendly and easy to work with. And I love editing other people's writing. :-)

I've been self-employed, working at home, as a book and web site indexer for the past 17 years, and have been a little reluctant to get a real job in a real office because of the flexibility of being on one's own. Yet, on the other hand, I work until the wee hours of the morning far more often than I would like, trying to deal with multiple conflicting publishing deadlines. So, when this A&E editor job became available, I decided it was just the job for me. Daytime office hours! The arts! What more could you ask for?! (For what more could one ask?)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

More Happy Holiday Cards

I made some more holiday trading cards for the Drawspace.com exchange. They are just slightly larger than they appear here. It's been fun doing them, and I kind of hate to send them away, except of course, I will be getting little works of art from the other participants and I get to share them with you here. Happy Holidays!

(There should be one sharp in the violin music. Three points if you can name that tune.)






Friday, December 7, 2007

Busy!

I took a week off from work this week, and found myself swamped with the details of everyday life, and barely got anything done, including practicing. I did attend four rehearsals, and, in each one, thought to myself, I really should practice/should have practiced this more. The performances are the 20th, 22nd, and 23rd, so I have another 2 weeks or so. Hopefully, that will be enough time to work out some of those tricky spots!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rice and Vocabulary Improvement


I found this link on Paulette's blog. I can't verify the authenticity of the rice donations, but it's a challenging vocabulary test, which adjusts itself to your vocabulary level. Maybe you will find some words to use in your blog. :-)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Christmas Carols

I love Christmas music, and, over the weekend, I discovered that Christmas carols sans sheet music can be a great learning tool for those who want to improve their ability to play by ear. I'm usually working on memorizing fiddle tunes, but playing fiddle tunes by ear is different. When you are playing by ear, you know where the next note is and your fingers know how to play that note. When you are memorizing a tune, I am more apt to think of a series of fingerings and patterns than the actual melody. The two processes are related, but playing by ear has some advantages over relying on memory.

The Fiddlers played at one of the downtown historic homes yesterday, after the annual Christmas Parade. To prepare for that, we rehearsed some Christmas carols by playing them by ear. (We don't use sheet music in our performances and we didn't have any Christmas music on hand.) It was surprising easy. We picked easy keys, of course: G or D, an occasional A. No four flats for us! It was great fun, and you could concentrate on playing the notes, rather than on remembering the tune.

I heard that Sunday's fiddle performance was very well-received by an enthusiastic and dancing audience. I was not able to go, as my daughter had a Christmas choral concert the same afternoon (which was also wonderful), but I think I will add "playing Christmas carols by ear" to my practice schedule this month.

Friday, November 30, 2007

NaBloPoMo thoughts


I'm not sure what the Pillsbury dough boy has to do with it, but today is the last day of National Blog Posting Month. I have thoroughly enjoyed the month and found many wonderful new blogs and blogging friends through it. I have found it is not so easy to post something worth reading every day. On the other hand, participating in the event has allowed me to experiment with posting in ways that I might not have otherwise and not to worry about whether anyone is reading.

I am happy to report that Katie (see yesterday's post) did indeed finish her NaNoWriMo novel and said my NanoRhino helped. She really helped me enormously, too, and I thank her for that.

Today is also the last day of my most recent crazy-round-the-clock work schedule, and I look forward to having a little more time for practicing next week, and for art and reading. And perhaps twiddling my thumbs for a bit. Christmas is upon us, but we've decided to keep it very simple this year.

Unfortunately my flute/cello group will not be playing our regular holiday party this year. The sponsoring organization has decided they need the space we would ordinarily take up for more party-goers. They did invite us to attend as guests, but that is not the same! We will probably play at a nursing home instead, but we have a two-hour program of music and will have to cut a lot to play our usual 45 to 60 minute program for a nursing home. I love playing Christmas music and hate to cut any of these pieces! One year we had five performances during the holiday season, including New Year's Eve performances in two different towns, but perhaps that was excessive. :-)

There are two fiddler events this weekend, the women's practice session, and a performance of the whole group on Sunday as part of the weekend's Christmas parade and activities (we start early). However, it will be just fiddle tunes, no Christmas fiddling tunes, unless we learn some really quick!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NaNoRhino


This NaNoRhino is especially for Katie, who also likes to draw, to encourage you to scamper across that 50,000 word finish line before Friday's deadline. Good luck!

Just imagine he is chasing you. I know it doesn't even look like he can stand up straight, but just imagine. I know you can do it!

(The rhino is from this week's Drawspace challenge. )

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cello lesson

I brought my four-flat version of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and my treble clef version of "Gesu Bambino" to my lesson this week. My teacher gave my a few fingering improvements on them both, but all in all she was very happy with my playing of both pieces. I am feeling good about them, and still haven't transposed the Bambino to bass clef. Hmm, maybe I can actually read from treble clef now. It's probably better to play from the score anyway, so I know where the vocalist is.

The organist has said that the vocalist likes to sing freely not according to any strict tempo. Fine by me. A fiddler once told me, at a fiddle session, that I was holding out some notes too long. He said he could understand why, because they sounded so beautiful on the cello. :-) I took that as a compliment, though I could tell he was frustrated because I wasn't playing the tune (Star of the County Down) the same way he was.

He was playing 3 quarter notes per measure. I was playing dotted-quarter, eighth, quarter in certain measures, so yes, my first note was more drawn out than his, though not because I was mesmerized by the music, but because I was playing the standard version of the tune. In a typical fiddle session, the person introducing the tune gets to play it the way she or he wants to, so I eventually won that discussion. I will apply the same logic to Gesu Bambino. However the singer wants to sing it is fine with me (so long as all three of us can all stay together).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

5 things about the New Yorker

Melissa tagged me for either the 5 Things or the 7 Things meme recently. Since I already did the 7 Things, I'm going to just do 5 today (I'm tired).

Because I was reading the New Yorker when I was thinking about this "5-Thing" thing, I have decided to do this one, as "5 Things about Me and the New Yorker."

1. I have subscribed to the New Yorker since I was 18 (42 years).

2. I used to read the New Yorker front to back, story by story, looking at cartoons in the order they appeared. This was in the day before the New Yorker had a table of contents. It just seemed the right way to read it. It the New Yorker didn't want me to know the contents, then I would just let it be a surprise to me. Now, I read the cartoons first, and more often than I care to admit, the cartoons only.

3. I used to be an abstractor/indexer for a quasi-government research agency in Washington D.C. I would read research articles, write a summary of them and select keywords to describe the articles. This was all done on worksheets, because computers were huge things kept in large rooms, not on people's desks way back then. I used to open the New Yorker on my desk and spread my research articles around it so that I could take a break and read the New Yorker when the research articles got dull, and no one would know the difference (today's equivalent would be surfing the web when you should be working). Despite this distraction, or maybe because of it, I was always the most productive worker.

4. I have always wanted to be a cartoonist for the New Yorker. I have never even had an idea for a cartoon, so it seems unlikely this will happen. I appreciate the cartoons though. My mother always admired the little filler drawings in the New Yorker, not the cartoons. Because of her, I admire the filler drawings too.

5. My mother also subscribed to the New Yorker. She read the articles, but did not like the contemporary fiction and I have to agree that much of it seems pointlessly plotless or unnecessarily incomprehensible. Here is an article I like on certain types of contemporary fiction: A Guide to Literary Fiction.


And, because they haven't been tagged for anything lately, I tag GottaGoPractice and Guanaco for this 5 or 7 Random (or organized) things about yourself. Have fun!

Monday, November 26, 2007

NaNoDone!

I am very happy to announce that I have crossed the 50,000 word mark and am officially a NaNoWriMo winner! The novel isn't actually done yet. There is still the big concert at the folk music festival and the resolution of the environmental pollution/cartoon animation mystery, but that should be no problem to wrap up, making up chemicals and chemical interactions as I go.

However, I have decided to completely reorganize this novel-like object and start all over again, from a different viewpoint, in a different point in time, and with slightly different characters. The new novel will have sparkling dialogue, creative wordplay, subtle intellectual humor, and a twisting and turning plot that ultimately makes sense and leaves you with a nice fully resolved feeling in the end. My current novel is lacking some of these things! But I can't tell you how happy I am that I participated in NaNoWriMo, and that I made it across the finish line.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My review of August Rush

Not enough cello.

Even when Lila is playing the cello, the guitar music from her lover's band across town overwhelms the sound of the cello, and Lila seems distracted by his music and not fully involved in her own cello playing.

My daughter loved the movie and thinks I am much too critical. You have to go see this movie with the idea it is a fairy tale, not a real story. It does have an nice, fully-orchestrated sappy, feel-good ending designed to reduce one to tears. Love and music! What more could you want?

Above is an interview with Keri Russell about playing the cello in the film.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fiddle practice


I practiced some fiddle tunes today, and finally came up with an arrangement of Arkansas Traveler for cello that I like. There are so many, many ways of playing this piece, and sometimes you get attached to a particular way.

The way I have written it out here will work with the way our fiddle group plays it, but avoids shifts to fourth position because our group plays this very fast, and shifting takes time. Well, for me, anyway. So, this is my "Easiest, Speediest Arkansas Traveler for Cello." You can make it even easier by playing every other note, as quarter notes, in measures 10 and 11 and 14 and 15.

Friday, November 23, 2007

November 23 is Buy Nothing Day


Today, I just found out via NaBloPoMo, is Buy Nothing Day in North America (it's tomorrow in other parts of the world), a day to try to counteract rampant consumerism, especially in the U.S. See the Buy Nothing Day (U.S.) site or the New York Times article for more information. I'm all for it, and my husband and daughter, who are both working in retail today, would probably appreciate it too, if maybe a couple of people decided to stay home. I guess I am going to have to go see What Would Jesus Buy, too, although my guess is that the movie industry contributes quite a bit to consumerism.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

My daughter's handiwork

I am happy to be spending Thanksgiving Day at home, cooking up an embarrassingly large quantity of sumptuous food for a fairly small number of family members and friends, and looking forward to enjoying everyone's company later in the day.

I am thankful for family and friends
for art and music, and especially the cello
for the natural beauty of the land and sea
for warm smiles and hearty laughs
for love, and hugs and kisses all around
and for this huge pile of ultimately rewarding work
that I must buckle down and catch up with
while that turkey is cooking.

I wish you all the joys of the hoilday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh, Little Town of Four Flats

I agreed to play a couple of pieces on the cello at a friend's Christmas church service: "Gesu Bambino," in which a male vocalist sings the solo and the organ and I play accompaniment, and "O, Little Town of Bethlehem," in which I play solo cello with the organ.

"Gesu Bambino" looks fine, though I will have to transpose the treble clef to bass clef. I can read treble clef, but not reliably in stressful situations like a performance.

"O, Little Town" is in four flats. My first reaction, was, oh no, I can't do this, especially as a solo. I'll transpose it to E minor, an easier key for me. But, then I decided to give it a try. It is more challenging in F minor (4 flats) than it is in E minor (one sharp), but it is not impossible. It will give me practice with lots of different positions, and it is a nice slow, passionate tune that I can sing along with when I practice it. According to Wikipedia, F minor is "a key often associated with passion," so I'd hate to change the key arbitrarily, even though every other version of "Little Town" that I have found is in one flat. I have a little over a month, surely enough time, even for me. It is, after all, a short, repetitious piece, and this particular arrangement with the organ looks good.

I will let you know how it goes. :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Two-Thirds and Merry Christmas in Vegetablese!

Today marks the 2/3 point through NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo. Whoopee!! At this point I am about 70 percent through my novel (word-count-wise, not in the sense that it has any relationship to anything you might actually want to read), just slightly ahead of schedule. I am hoping to finish it over the weekend so that I will have the remaining week in November to write some coherent blog posts--because I probably will only have the energy to write about three posts in December. :-)

No Plot, No Problem, the guide to NaNoWriMo, suggests that, this week, participants draw colorful and detailed maps of the settings for their novels: perhaps the city where the action takes place, or the layout of a house or other building. Sounds like fun, and useful, too, and I will try to find time to do it.

Rallentando
mentioned the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra in a recent post. Thanks to Donna's suggestion, I was able to find several Vienna Vegetable Orchestra clips on YouTube. The orchestra members hollow out veggies and play them like recorders or ocarinas, but most of their instruments are not melody instruments, but rhythm-based percussion created by slapping one veggie against another. It's nice, but sounds like a drum circle not an orchestra. Perhaps it is difficult to get the carrots to play in tune with the broccoli.

I came across another guy in Japan who plays tunes on his veggies. I found him very entertaining, and I hope you do too. Here are my favorites:

First, his rendition of Angels We Have Heard on High, on large broccoli ocarina.

Next his Old Castle's Moon on carrot pan-flute. (You will recognize this from the Suzuki books).

Finally, Old Folks at Home, on slide carrot ocarina.

If you like these, there are more at heita3's page.

I could not find anyone playing an instrument made out of a potato. There is a sweet potato ocarina, but it is made out of clay, not a real potato. How disappointing!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mini Piano



I am really, really busy today! No time to blog. Here's piano to play while I work. Have fun!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy Holiday Cards

Every year I decide to make my own Christmas cards, and most years I never get around to it. This year, in the nano spirit, I signed up for an Artist Trading Card (ATC) exchange of holiday cards. Participants create small (2.5" by 3.5") cards in any medium for other participants, and each person ends up with a set of cards by different artists. This is done all year round by dedicated artists, usually with seasonal themes. The one I am involved in is holiday or winter themes and there are 12 participants, which means I have to make not one, but 11 different designs. Sounds like fun. :-)

I have already made numerous cards, often redoing cards several times before I am satisfied with them. By satisfied, I mean, I don't think they are going to get any better. So here are a few, most still in draft form, for your amusement. They are cartoony, drawn in ink and water colors.


This is the third time for this design. The chocolate chip cookies still look like potatoes. It represents those calm happy warm social moments of the holidays.



This is a small version of a card I made maybe 25 years ago. In the larger original, there is a tree cookie cutter, so you can tell the intent is to make Christmas cookies. This is based on my cat and kitchen at the time. And I still have the canisters. The original was more festively colored, and I will probably do this one again.

This is a poinsettia. I have since downloaded a zillion photos of poinsettias from the Internet and even went out and bought a poinsettia--before Thanksgiving!--as a study for this. I have done this several times, and will probably do it several more times.


This is not a Christmas theme, but I like it, just the way it is. I am going to try to make it holiday-ish, perhaps by tossing in a poinsettia!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Annie

We went to see the Falmouth Theater Guild production of the musical "Annie" last night. It was excellent, casting was wonderful and included many very talented child and adult actors/singers, many of whom we knew through our kids, school, and past productions.

I thought for sure I had seen "Annie" before, but I didn't remember the depression-period theme. I was starting to get a little depressed myself, due to recent talk of recession, but Annie managed to cheer me up. Annie gets adopted in the end, of course, by rich Daddy Warbucks, and all is well.

I wonder if anyone has written a sequel to "Annie," how her life changes after she is wealthy. Maybe when I finish my current novel-like project....

Friday, November 16, 2007

How to Draw a Cello

Step 1.Draw three potatoes stacked on top of each other. Big one on the bottom, medium one on the top, and small one tucked in between. You can also think of this as an awkwardly constructed snowman.



Step 2. Connect the potatoes and add "cello corners."



Step 3. Erase the parts you don't need.



Step 4. Add a celery stick at the top and a toothpick at the bottom, held in place by a gumdrop.



Step 5. Add a crescent roll on top of the celery stick and decorate with four lollipops.



Step 6. Turn it around, and there's your cello.


With apologies to B. Kliban and his "how to draw a cat" cartoons.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Halfway

Halfway through NaBloPoMo, I have run out of things to say, so today's post is a short one (for me) about the effects of nablo and nano.

Visits to my site are way up, according to Sitemeter. Some of this is due to other nablos and nanos visiting my site, but most of it is a result of people searching for information on the movies or cellists and musical groups I have mentioned, and a fair number are people looking for information on how to draw cellos and celery. Yes, people are looking for information on how to draw celery. I am happy to provide that.

The problem with nablo is that I don't have time to write some posts that take a little more time to write, like a thoughtful post on drawing celery and cellos, or playing Scottish fiddle music on the cello, or reviews of two wonderful CDs by Scottish cellists, Seylan Baxter and Christine Hanson. I will write these reviews, but, for now, all I have time to say is that I recommend them both very highly!

As for nanowrimo, I have discovered that I can write a novel if I just sit down and do it. My novel will require a lot of editing, but there is definitely a plot, characters, and even humor in it.

I have met some interesting people in both nablo and nano and am tonight meeting with another nano novelist with whom I have a lot in common. She's even a musician. It is great to talk to her and others about this noveling experience. I am also in touch with a very energetic nano writer and college student, and her enthusiasm helps keep me going.

I feel a little the way I did when the kids were little. This is loads of fun, but could I take a nap, for just a day or two?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fiddle Women

I attended the second gathering of the women's fiddle group last night. Before the gathering I spent some, but not enough, time learning "Booth Shot Lincoln," which the larger group has been playing for a few months now. It is a perky little tune, despite its name, and repetitious, which makes it both easy and initially confusing to memorize. It's in the key of A, which is not so easy on the cello as it is on the fiddle. I'm playing around with the octaves on the B part of the tune; I like the low sound on the cello, but the high octave might suit this tune better.

It took me forever to tune my cello last night. Perhaps it did not like the journey out into the cold because it usually holds a tuning very well. I finally got it in tune as the group was finishing up "Booth." Because this is a kindly group, we played it again later so that I could practice it too. This is a good tune because it is played at a speed I can handle, though I didn't quite get all the notes last night. Obviously I need to practice the tunes every day, not just the day before the session. We played the Scottish tunes I brought to the group last time, as well as some others we've been working on. All in all it was a good session, except that the host's dog insisted on barking loudly at the cello. Frequently. I've never had such a negative reaction to my playing!

I like this group for many reasons, not the least of which is that we are focusing on a small group of new tunes, rather than playing a whole selection of new (to me) tunes each time. The people (9 women tonight) are good and dedicated players, we tolerate sheet music, we play a little slower than the main group of fiddlers to better learn the tunes, and we meet only once or twice a month, which fits into my schedule. All I have to do is remember to practice between sessions, and all will be well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Martian Child

My daughter and I went to see Martian Child over the weekend. I don't go to movies very often, but I've been reading No Plot, No Problem (a guide to novel writing for NaNoWriMo), and one of the suggestions was to take a break and watch a television show or go to a movie and think about plot development. My daughter picked the movie, but it turned out to be a great one for my purposes. The protagonist is an author (a very successful one, kind of a science fiction version of J. K. Rowling) who decides to adopt a seven-year-boy who thinks he is from Mars. He's single, a widower, so the movie is all about the connection between the father and his unusual son, without the bother of interaction with a mom or even a nanny. It all works out fine, of course, because this is a movie, and the father writes a novel based on the experience, guaranteed to be a feel-good best-seller.

The real-life book that the real-life movie is based on is "semi-fiction" by [apparently famous] science fiction author David Gerrold who adopted a six-year-old son as a single parent. In real life the Gerrold and his son played a game about pretending to be Martians; the child didn't really believe he was a Martian, as he did in the movie. In real life Gerrold is gay, and the father in his real-life book is gay. I guess introducing the whole issue of gay parenthood would have changed the focus of this movie. Perhaps they could have made his sexual preferences ambiguous, though, instead of making him a widower still grieving over his dead wife. The book was originally a short story, then revised as a novelette.

My NaNoWriMo novel (also more truthfully a novelette, estimated to run only the minimum 150 pages) is "semi-fiction" too. It's based on an experience that happened to me about ten years ago. I am making lots of changes to "novelize" my story, but sometimes truth is so much stranger and more satisfying than fiction, and sometimes I just want to tell the story the way it happened. I have introduced several other characters, and I made myself a proficient cellist in the novel, though I did not take up the cello until a couple of years after the events in the novel took place, and I am not yet as proficient as the narrator of my book. I threw in a harp player for good measure. Adoption was a factor in my real-life experience so one of my characters is an adoptive parent. In my novel, the two main characters, who would not have done this in real life, collaborate to write a musical instead of a novel. I needed to depart from reality a bit and wanted a feel-good ending. :-)

So, it was the perfect movie for me to see, legitimizing the "semi-fiction" novel and allowing me continue merrily on my novelization path. I just hit the halfway mark of 25,000 words and added a word-count widget to the sidebar of this blog so that those who are interested can see how I am doing.

Next, my daughter and I plan to see August Rush, another adoption tale, this time with cello. Hmm, I wonder who will play the cellist when my book is made into a movie....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Crooked Still changes

I saw a notice for a Crooked Still concert the other day, and the photo did not appear to include cellist Rushad Eggleston. I finally got around to checking the Crooked Still web site and found that Rushad is, indeed, leaving Crooked Still, one of my favorite folk/bluegrass/alternative bands, initially because of Rushad. Their last concert with Rushad is November 18 in Northampton, Mass.

Rushad, according to the Boston Herald, has moved to the West Coast, but neither Boston-based Crooked Still nor the newspaper offer additional information. From his MySpace page, it looks like Rushad's and his new group is called the But, Wizards?, with Nico Georis and Gabriel Cazes. Judging from the photos, these two areas wacky as Rushad. I have to admit Rushad can be too wacky for me, but he contributed so much music and personality to Crooked Still.


The future of Crooked Still looks rosy, though, even Rushadless. The band is adding two new members, cellist Tristan Clarridge, 21, and fiddler Brittany Haas, 20, (sister of cellist Natalie Haas). Clarridge plays multiple instruments, won the Grand National Fiddle Champion four times, and has played with Darol Anger's Republic of Strings, as has Haas. Haas is a well-known fiddler who has amazing played with numerous groups. She is also studying ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton. Impressive, especially for such young'uns!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I'm a genius! You're a genius!

cash advance

As it turns out, it isn't really a good thing to have a "genius" level blog. It simply means your blog is hard to read because you use polysyllabic words and long sentences. The idea is to write so that people can understand you.

Here's a discussion on readability and another chance to test your readability and analyze the results: Juicy Studio: Readability Test.

Even more information on readability can be found at, where else?: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Readability Tests, but Were Afraid to Ask.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading my blog. At least now you know you're a genius for doing so.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's Almost Christmas


Ok, we have another month and a half to go, but if you are a musician, you are probably already rehearsing holiday music and making performance plans.

If you're in the Cape Cod area, do make plans now to attend the annual Holiday Music Open House at Johnson Street Instrument in Falmouth on Thursday evening, December 20 from 5 pm until 10 pm.

Bring your instrument(s), and we will play fiddle, early, and traditional holiday music. All manner of instruments are welcome, even those without strings. We'll provide sheet music (for C instruments only) and an assortment of delightful refreshments. We will fiddle from 5 to 6 pm, and play early and traditional music from 6 pm on. The shop will be open for last-minute gift buying.

Feel free to comment or e-mail me if you'd like more information.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The insurance adjuster, or It's always something

I'm waiting for the insurance adjuster to come by and take a look at my car, damaged by last weekend's storm, when it was hit by a tree limb.

He just called to say he would be late getting here. He ran into a pothole and damaged his wife's brand-new car. Oh well, I hope she will get a quick resolution! Me, I'll be waiting a while longer.

What Instrument Should You Play

The first time I took this quiz, the answer I got was that I should play the piano. I kept changing my answers to try to get the cello. I got an accordion once, and the drum, but after a while, all I got was the harp. The harp isn't bad though, and "It's just your style to play an eccentric, hard to transport instrument" sounds familiar. Excuse me while I go play my soulful cello.


You Should Play the Harp

You are a sensitive soul, with a great admiration for beauty. You definitely have what it takes to make beautiful music, but most instruments are too harsh for you.

You are subtle, shy, and even a bit spoiled. You're very picky about most aspects of your life. It's just your style to play an eccentric, hard to transport instrument like the harp that few people consider.

Overall, you have the relaxed demeanor of a leisurely upper class person, and your music would reflect that. Your calm yet soulful harp playing would be sure to help people forget their troubles for a while.

Your dominant personality characteristic: your zen-ness. Your secondary personality characteristic: your quiet independence.



Bonus question for the day, found on NaBloPoMo: Is it Christmas yet?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nano update

It's hard to believe we're already one week into November. One week into the month of daily blog posting for NaBloPoMo and of writing a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo. That and a Nor'easter will wipe a person out.

Thus far, I have posted to my blog every day (allowing myself a post I didn't quite post until the next day because of the storm), I have written 14,120 words of my novel-like construction (an average of 2,000 words per day), and I have met many interesting bloggers, novel writers, blogger-novelists, blogger-musicians, and blogger-artists.

The NaBloPoMo site is great for getting to know people and finding blogs of interest. About 6,000 bloggers are participating and there are a multitude of special interest groups (including cello bloggers). I have joined groups for people who are doing both the novel and the daily blogs, people who love books, people who love music, people who live in New England and people who live in Massachusetts, people who are creative, and people who sketch. I have a bunch of "friends," some of whom I have actually communicated with. I have checked out many people's blogs and they have checked out mine. It feels like a bustling social, colorful endeavor, and it has been fun meeting people.

(Even if you are not committed to writing a post every day, you might want to visit NaBloPoMo just to see what's happening and maybe find some new blogs of interest. You can still participate, even if you know you're not going to "win." If you are a member of CelloBloggers, you can just use your ning login information.)

Curiously, before November, I always had plenty of ideas about what to blog about, and I blogged frequently, though not quite every day. Some days, I would have to choose between 3 or 4 blogworthy (in my opinion) topics. Since the start of blogwriting month, I have been starting to wonder if I can find enough topics to make it through the month. I'm sure I can, but there is a little stress about this that I didn't expect to feel. I am thinking of starting a notebook of blog ideas, kind of a journal about a journal.

NaNoWriMo is a little different. It is hard to meet people there because the website is very slow, mainly because there are, I have heard, about 100,000 people writing novels this month. All my "writing buddies" on nanowrimo (except for one) are people I met on NaNoBloMo or Drawspace.
Even if you don't talk to your writing buddies, they are good to have because you can compare your word count with theirs, and, if they post an excerpt from their novel, you can read it. It is also possible to go to local gatherings of nano novelists and meet them in person. There is a meeting nearby tonight, and I might stop by on my way to early music rehearsal.

Both nanos have forums where you can read and post to your heart's content when you are not blogging or noveling. On the novel forum, I read the posts of a college student whose self-imposed goal for the month is to write not one, but three novels, and not 50,000 word (about 150 pages), but 100,000 word novels. (And you thought college students went out partying to relieve stress!) She finished her first 100,000 word novel on Monday, I think, about five days into the month. That is a lot of writing. She says she types very fast and she does not go back to edit. She or another fast writer said that they do not pause to think of exactly the right word or turn of phrase; they just plow through the writing. Well, to each his own, but 50,000 words is enough for me. And to me, writing involves a lot of thinking of just the right word to use.

Am I writing a decent novel?, you may ask. Probably not, but I am viewing this as practicing, kind of to figure out what I want to write, and where I want to go from here. It's experimental. I am glad I am doing this, and I have to say that I wouldn't be writing a novel if it weren't for nano. I would have quit the first day, saying this is just too busy a week (every week is) for writing. But, I am committed to aiming at 2,000 words a page. It is not that hard. I've been doing about 1,000 in the morning and another 1,000 in the evening, at one or two sessions in the morning and one or two in the afternoon. In terms of word count, 2000 words a day is really quite achievable, and a draft novel in a month, or even two, is quite doable, so long as you persevere. Of course it will need to be edited, but I usually enjoy that part of writing.

Because I have been so organized about writing this month, I have also been more organized about work and cello practice. Believe it or not, I am practicing more than usual, and also spending more time with family. I may collapse at some point, but, for now, all is well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Last Class

Last night was the last night of my seven-week Basic Drawing class. I could barely drag myself there. I was so tired and the anticipation of another drab still life to draw did not do much to encourage me. We are drawing in pencil, so I guess the teacher thinks it appropriate not to include colorful items. I hadn't done my homework (finishing last week's cello drawing) because, well, I just didn't have time. I actually fell asleep a couple of times while drawing last night. I could tell by the stray pencil marks on my teddy bear.

I have to say the class has been valuable, despite its limitations. For one thing, it gets you over the staring-at-a-blank-page-and-wondering-what-to-draw stage. There is something intriguing about drawing, even if the subject matter is a not what you might have chosen. And there is nothing like someone saying, in essence, "draw!" to get you moving.

I also learned that sketching is not always a quick and easy process. It takes time and you need to allow time. Drawing the final picture takes even longer. It's tied in to this concept of talent. People tend to think only people who are talented in art or in music can draw or make music. Talent does play a role, but practice may play a bigger role.

Erasing and revision is part of the process. I remember the teacher telling someone that their celery was in the wrong location in relationship to the bowl, and suggested that she erase her celery and redraw if closer to the bowl. The woman protested, "It took me so long to draw that celery." The teacher replied, "You did it once, you can do it again." (This reminded me of ensemble rehearsals when you all get through a tricky passage, and someone says, "Let's do it again, to cement it." And you're thinking, "I don't want to! I just barely made it through that time!" But, you did it once, you can do it again--and, in cello playing, you should!)

You get social support for your art in class. There are others trying to do what you are trying to do, and you can encourage each other. It was only in the last couple of weeks that people in this class started talking to each other and showing each other their work, or at least not hiding it and saying it was awful. I was so impressed with the progress of the older (than me) woman who sat next to me. She only started drawing in July and last night showed me her very intricate drawing of a harbor scene with a multitude of buildings and surfaces. We talked a bit about how to draw rock outcroppings. You can also get this social support online, in places like DrawSpace, where you can chat with others, participate in weekly drawing challenges, and upload your art for all to see and comment on. In fact, there is probably more support in the online group than in class, but I do appreciate the face-to-face contact in art class, and the real-life smiles.

And, finally, class is valuable because you have to set aside a certain huge amount of time (in this case class was 2 hours) just to draw. That's not always possible at home, where everything else seems more important. Going to art class allows you time to draw and gives you motivation and validation for it.

So, I'll probably take another real-life drawing class, after the quickly approaching holiday season. Meanwhile, I'll work on the online lessons, perhaps using color pencils--when I have time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Extreme Cello Playing


In this month of extreme blog posting and novel writing, I thought it would be nice to mention Extreme Cello Playing. I found this site while looking for cello photos on the Web, and there are lots of great photos of cellists on this site. Extreme cello playing is, essentially, playing the cello in extreme locations. Here is a quote from the site:
Extreme Cello Playing was born after three cellists from Sheffield [England] read about, and watched on television, the sport of "Extreme Ironing", in which contestants iron clothes in locations such as up mountains, up trees and under water. They are judged on both the extremity of the location and quality of the ironing.

... This gave them an idea: if a household task such as ironing can be performed in extreme locations with such panache, why not a creative activity like music making?

So, they play on the top of cathedrals, on playground equipment, and, most recently, at each of the streets included in the London version of Monopoly--all in one day. I'm not up for playing on cathedral rooftop myself, but I must admit I find this sport of extreme cello playing appealing. Two concerts and a nap might be my limit for one day though.


Powered up

What a treat to walk into the house this afternoon and find every light ablaze. The power has been restored and the temperature of the house has risen from 55 F to 65 F, warm and toasty. :-)

I will be busy catching up for a while, but it is nice to be back.

Flute Choir Concert

I have to admit that I did not practice very much for Sunday's flute choir concert, except for rehearsals, until Sunday morning, in my colder than normal house. We were not satisfied with our last rehearsal, and joked about telling our audience that this would be an open rehearsal, not quite yet a performance. But, everyone must have practiced. Things went pretty well, I think--much, much better than our last rehearsal. There were no major screw-ups, and, at times, I thought we sounded quite good. I played flute this time, not cello.

We played for the residents of the assisted living center which gives us a place to rehearse every week. It's a great arrangement, and we love playing for them because they are so friendly and appreciative. Perhaps they were more appreciative than usual yesterday, given we had arrived just as the electric power was being restored, and prior to the cable television being restored. Everyone wanted to see the big game (football, the Patriots), but were quite happy with us while they waited. We brought muffins and cider, and dressed in autumn leaf colors--quite festive!

I should mention that we are really not a flute choir; we're a flute quartet. In the past we have had as many as eight players, but most flute choirs have 12 or 20 players with a full complement of piccolos, alto flutes, bass flutes, and even odd flutes like E flat flutes. We have one alto flute player. I love the sound of the alto flute. I sometimes play bass flute parts on the cello. I'd buy a bass flute, but they are way too expensive, around $4,000, and the bass flute parts are often optional and thus not always inspiring to play.

Next rehearsal, we start in on the Holiday music. For the past five or six years, we've been playing at a local library's holiday party. We're background music and play for about two hours, taking a break to sample the many wonderful snacks people bring. It's one of my favorite events.

Still no electric power at home.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

If a tree falls.....

So, I was working at the violin shop yesterday, during the storm, when a woman walked in and asked me if I had a green Saturn. Yes, I do.

"A tree fell on it," she said.

"Was it damaged?," I ask.

"Yes," she says, looking at me gloomily. She was holding a driver's side mirror in her hand, evidently ripped off my car in the process. I took it and went with her to the parking lot behind the shop.


A large limb had, indeed, fallen on my car, but it only punctured a hole in my hood. The mirror in my hands did not belong to my car, but to another car that had already left the scene. I was overjoyed. My car was still in running order, and I would be able to go to the movies as planned. (See yesterday's post.)



The woman who had brought me to my car seemed to think I was nuts to be so happy that the damage was only minor. But, you know, in the scheme of things, this is fixable; this is irritating, but temporary.

We lost electric power at home at 2 pm yesterday, and it is still out. The symphony trip was canceled, and we did not go to the movies. About 55,000 homes lost power here, and so did the movie theaters and restaurants. Police were advising that people not travel unless absolutely necessary.

My daughter and I played board games by lantern light (battery-powered, no flames!) all evening, huddled under blankets and afgans, listing to a portable radio, eating apples, cheese, and crackers for dinner. I have not turned the heat on yet this year, as temperatures have been mild, but last night, if I had heat, I would have turned it on! It was 59 degrees F inside this morning.

I didn't practice. I didn't blog. I didn't work on my novel. I didn't work. I thought it best to stick together in a storm, and we do enjoy board games. We played Cranium and Eat It (a trivia game about food).

I got up early this morning to work and to practice the flute for today's flute choir concert. It is sunny and bright, but still no electric power or telephones. I need to catch up on work today, but am looking forward to getting back to noveling as soon as I can.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

It was a dark and stormy....

Note: I wrote this blog post on Saturday, but was not able to finish it and post it before we lost electric power. Since it is NaBloPoMo, I am claiming this as my Nov. 3 post! We still have no power. I am at my home-away-from-home, the violin shop, which is closed today.

It is a dark and stormy afternoon here on the Cape. We're waiting for the Nor'easter (remnants of Hurricane Noel), which is scheduled to slam* into the Cape sometime this evening. It is already battering* the Northeast coast. Already it is raining and the winds are gusting*.

(*Note that these are required words to use when writing about a storm.)

I do hope it clears up a bit this evening, as forecasted. My husband is planning to help chaperone a group of 7th and 8th graders to a symphony performance tonight. I opted out (having done my fair share of chaperoning when the kids were in high school), and hope to go to the movies with my daughter.

Going to a movie is actually a suggested exercise in noveling month. No Plot, No Problem, the official guide to NaNoWriMo, suggests that you take a break from writing during the first week to watch and analyze a tv show or movie for plot, character development, resolution, etc. A movie is, of course, not a book, but there are similarities.

I'd almost rather stay home and write, provided we still have electric power this evening, but I do need a break.

Some NaNoWriMo participants have actually finished their novels already, or at least claimed that they have. I find this hard to believe. I would write more if I didn't have these pesky work and family responsibilities, but I see no point in careening through this novel. It is kind of fun creating the characters and subplots and even going back an editing a little as I find my story diverging from earlier concepts (though you are supposed to hold off on editing until National Novel Editing Month).

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cello sketch no. 1


At my drawing class this week, we brought in photographs to draw from. I drew from a photo of me playing the cello on the deck. This is the small sketch that you do before attempting the larger drawing. I didn't finish the larger drawing. So far, the larger drawing is a better drawing of me, but I am playing a sadly misshapen cello. I like the cello in this sketch though. I have a feeling it will take me a few sketches to get what I want. And I will probably put myself in a long, flowing gown, rather than in the t-shirt and jeans. The teacher wanted me to put in the deck and trees, which I hadn't intended to do. Maybe in the next version I will eliminate the railings. Or maybe the horizontal lines are good, balancing all the vertical lines. Maybe I should just draw them straighter. You can probably tell I didn't want to put them in.

For those of you clamoring for news on how NaNoWriMo is going, I wrote 4,081 words on November 1. I haven't had much time to write today, but am nearing 5,000. My goal is 2,000 a day to make the 50,000 word goal before the end of the month and/or allow for days when I have no time at all to write. It helps to compare your output with your "writing buddies." Most of my writing buddies are people who are also doing NaBloPoMo. I haven't communicated with them. I just look at their total word count, and they look at mine. My favorite buddy though is a college student I met at Drawspace, with whom I do exchange e-mail. She is a couple of hundred words ahead of me write now. It's a great motivator--seeing her word count climb!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dia de los Muertos

My Dia de los Muertos skull candle-holder and t-shirt.

Though I don't actively celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), I like the idea of the holiday, to remember, honor, and communicate with the dead, rather than run screaming from them. In Mexico, and other countries that celebrate Day of the Dead, the holiday is for inviting the dead back for a day for food and drink, music and laughter, and maintaining the connection between the world of the living and the world of the dead. In contrast to other cultures in which the subject of death is avoided, Day of the Dead offers a whimsical view of death using humorous skeleton sculpture and paintings, poetry, special holiday foods, and festivities. Music is commonly represented in the skeleton artwork, but I am not familiar with specific Day of the Dead songs. Sol y Canto, a Latin American band that performs in the Boston area, talked and sang about the holiday on a recent WUMB broadcast, but I only heard a small portion of the show.


The holiday does have its grisly aspects. According to Wikipedia, "in the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth." Now skulls are made of sugar and are made as a welcoming treat for both the returning dead and the living.

Because our family and extended family includes people from Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, and Guatamala, I feel a vague connection to this Mexican holiday. I used to produce a musical and educational Latin American Festival in Boston. I bought the t-shirt on a visit to Olvera Street in Los Angeles, while visiting relatives there. And, this year, I think I might honor my parents with a Day of the Dead remembrance, even though they were Irish and Hungarian. Hope yours is a good one, should you celebrate!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

August Rush

Another actor has learned the cello for a movie. In August Rush, a guitarist and cellist enjoy a night of passion, but the cellist is forced by her father to give up her baby. He grows up in an orphanage (what year is this?), but is eventually cared for by Robin Williams, who names him August Rush (why, I don't know). The boy is musically gifted, hears music everywhere, favors the guitar (August Rush is probably a good name for a rock guitarist), and wants to find his birth parents. Keri Russell plays Lyla, the cellist, and Jonathan Rhys Myers plays the guitarist.

Here's a quote from the article linked to above:
For some background, note that Lyla's instrument in the script was a violin, but they decided cello was more cinematic. Russell learned to play in 12 weeks.
Interesting about the instrument change, especially because, in the movie The Soloist, a solo cello does not seem to be sufficient, and the cellist in the book becomes a violinist/cellist in the movie. In the photo above, you can see she is much sexier than the violinist. I don't know what Russell learned about the cello in 12 weeks.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Keri Russell (who in real life had a baby this year, named River):
Did you have to learn to play the cello for the role?
Yes, I did. I had a wonderful cello teacher and they're very difficult pieces I had to play in the movie: Bach and Elgar. I took maybe, like, a year of piano when I was 9 and faked my way through folk songs. I've never played anything this hard.

Couldn't they have just used special effects?
Thank you! That's what I said! The cello is not a simple instrument, but I do think that having a respect and appreciation for it aided my cause with the character. I do find it to be a very beautiful instrument. The sound the cello makes, the reason it's such an emotional instrument, is that it's tone is the closest sound to the human voice.
The first article seems to indicate that Jen Kuhn does the actual cello playing in the movie (she is credited as playing the soloist with the NY Philharmonic and she bears a ressemblance to Russell). According to Jen Kuhn's MySpace page, she recently also "guest starred on the TV show Boston Legal, playing a mute woman who gives her testimony by "speaking" through her cello." Wow, I can barely indicate the basic emotions with my cello, let alone legal testimony. I missed that show of course. What I need is a special TV Guide for Cellists, listing those shows in which a cellist appears.

In any case, the movie opens on November 21. I will have to take a little time off from novel writing and blogging to see it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NaNo/Blo Fun

Love this notion--posting until the Internet explodes! I am participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) this November, only a day or so away. Why? It just sounds like fun. I enjoy writing and find the social pressures of group writing motivating. Doing this as part of a national and international effort makes writing a novel sound less unrealistic and persistently blogging every day, no matter what, less irrational.

There is already a mini-cellobloggers on NaBloPoMo, thanks to Gottagopractice.

I'm also considering my own add-ons: NaCePraMo (National Cello Practice Month) (practice every day); and NaExOcMo (National Exercise Occasionally Month), the latter because, until this morning, I hadn't been to the gym since July. I'm not saying every day for this one: two or three times a week would be a good start for me. Maybe this is really the most important one--I felt great after my session today, though I did tumble off into a nap shortly afterward.

If you are a more creative musician than I am, you can participate in NaSoAlMo (National Solo Album Month), in which you write and record an entire album in a month. Maybe next year, if my novel does not rocket to the top of the best seller list.

NaNoArtMo, (National Novelist Art Month, though you don' t have to be a novelist to participate) in January, sounds more doable. You only have to create 10 art projects in ten different media in a month and do an "artist date" every week (I don't know what that is). I could only find a link to NaNoArtMo 2007, so don't know if there is a 2008 effort.

If none of these appeal to you, you can always invent your own. Or not. :-)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sunday's Performances


Yesterday was a busy day.

In the morning, from about 9:30 to 11:30, the fiddlers played along the route of the Cape Cod Marathon, to encourage the runners on. In the photo, you can see my chair and cello (I used my old cello for this event because it was cold and I wanted to make sure nothing happened to my good cello before the afternoon concert). The runner at the far right is applauding our efforts, as many of the runners did.

Long ago, I used to run what was then called the Bonne Bell women's 10K in Boston, and it was energizing to run past MIT dorms, in particular, because the students would play loud rock music on their radios for us. I hope the fiddle music helped yesterday's runners. There were several other musical groups along yesterday's route. Too bad there are no college dorms.

Another cello blogger (CelloGirl) wrote recently about the good players sitting toward the front in an orchestra, and it is kind of the same with the fiddlers. Although there is no "assigned seating" in fiddling, some of us who doubt our playing ability tend to stand or sit in the back. This can be awkward for me when most of the others are standing. A couple of times, a fiddler stepped, obliviously, on my end pin, and I had to pull my cello to safety. Toward the end of the two-hour gig, though, we took a little break and when we reassembled, the rest of the fiddlers stood behind the cello. What an improvement for me! I could hear so much better and it is possible I played better. And I didn't have to fear for the safety of my cello. I am going to have to try this deliberately sometime.

For our efforts, we received official Cape Cod Marathon Volunteer jackets. Very nice jackets! The marathon was sponsored by Dunkin' Donuts. Much better to have the jacket than the donuts.


To keep my hands warm I wore some polar fleece practice gloves (Wristies) that I bought at the violin shop where I work occasionally. They kept most of my hand warm. The fingers were still a little cool, but it was a great improvement over playing with bare hands. (Nice for typing in an unheated room, too.)

My Wristie (also demonstrating that the leaves are still green here, in late October).

After the marathon, I raced home to change clothes from fiddler blue and purple to church-appropriate black, switch cellos, and grab my music. I got to the church in time for their pre-concert potluck lunch. Good thing, too, as I was hungry.

The concert started at 1 pm and lasted about an hour. My early music group played in most of the pieces, either as an instrumental group with the organist, or supporting the choir. I played both cello and flute. The choir sang a few hymns on their own, so we did have an occasional break. I felt I played the Corelli sonata well (the one I had been focusing on), all things considered, but there were a few flubs in this piece, probably caused by not rehearsing enough with the organist. Someone did come up to me afterward and say, "You were really good." (I take the you to mean our instrumental group, rather than me alone.) So, some level of success here. We (the early music group) will keep these pieces in our repertoire and continue to improve them. Our final piece went very well, ending on a happy note.

I have no photos of our church concert, but it was videotaped for local cable access television. It might be a good idea for us to watch it, though that will take a bit of courage.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Seven Things

I was tagged by Paulette, so will entertain you with Seven Things about myself (that I have not already mentioned on this blog) in no particular order.

1. Most of my day is spent sitting in front of this computer, working, and finding ways to distract myself from working. Sometimes I play Sims 2. It tends to be addicting. I used to play it with my kids. My son would play so sincerely, directing his little character to clean up the house before racing off to work. I thought it was very sad. :-) Later, after he learned the money cheat, he just built huge well-designed and beautifully furnished houses, and his characters played the piano all day long, rather than go to work. My daughter, created little families. One day her family (Britney Spears and Sting, with their two children Dindle and Dorkle), were trapped in a house fire, set off when the two kids set off firecrackers in their bedroom. I stayed up until 4 am to save the family. My characters (named after various types of candy and flowers, e.g., Tulip Truffle) lived in awkwardly furnished hovels and had a constant stream of mostly clandestine affairs and too many children.

2. When I was young, I felt art and music were frivolous and dedicated myself to saving the world. I have degrees in international relations and urban planning, worked with on a reservation with VISTA, as an energy program manager, a community development planner, a neighborhood planner, and environmental planner. Somewhere along the way I changed my mind about music and art, of course.

3. I won the freshman term paper award in college. As I was standing on the stage, receiving my award, my honors English teacher walked up to me. He was not a fan of my writing, having given me a D- on my first paper. I expected a kind word, since here I was, being acknowledged as the best writer in the freshman class. He leaned over and said, "This is not for your writing ability." Some teachers do not seem to understand their mission.

4. When I was about 22, I went to England with the intention of moving there. I found this country very materialistic, and I had a friend from Scotland. I visited relatives in Ireland. I interviewed for a job or two, but did not hear back from anyone. I returned home in about six weeks. It seemed so much harder to live in England. Everything was more expensive, and salaries seemed lower than in the U.S. I felt a bit materialistic, returning home.

5. I used to be very active in my various professional associations. After a while I noticed that what I looked forward to most about the annual meetings was getting together with other amateur musicians, both singers and instrumentalists. That's when I decided to forgo the annual conventions and attend music camp in the summertime. (I bring work with me to music camp, so it seems an appropriate turnabout.)

6. For a period of two or two and a half years, when my kids were in 4th-8th grade, I produced a children's television show on cable access TV. My NaNoWriMo novel is based on this experience. It is called For the Children, in an ironic sense.

7. I would get more work done if I blogged less. :-)

You are supposed to tag seven people, but since Paulette only tagged four, I will do the same. You may tag as many or a few as you like!

CelloDonna, a cellist who started as an adult, and who loves to play in community orchestra.
Marisa, another late-starting cellist, who enjoys traveling and has returned to college.
CelloGeek, another cellist who travels a lot, but manages to find time to enjoy ensemble playing too.
Nicole, a fiddler, currently in graduate school and building a wooden sea kayak in her spare time.

Ensemble practice, and a birthday

What a glorious day of practicing yesterday was! I practiced a bit in the morning, Then my early music group meet at noon for a coaching session with my cello teacher. We are playing Corelli Sonata no. 1, Op. 4, for 2 violins, cello, and keyboard on two upcoming occasions. The first is this Sunday at a fundraising concert for a church, where keyboard will be played by an organist, and the second will be my cello recital, in which our second violin player will switch to harpsichord, and the second violin part will be played by a flutist. Thankfully, I am playing cello both times.

This piece has a interesting, fun-to-play, cello part, with just the right amount of challenge so that, if I practiced diligently, I could play it well. Unfortunately, I have not really had the time to solidify all the fingerings and bowings, and the intonation is shaky, in some parts more than others. So, I will play it on Sunday, in perhaps imperfect form, and "perfect" it for my recital.

The coached session was wonderful. My teacher gave us all lots of good advice and encouragement, and we are all sounding better. She was energetic and enthusiastic, and we were all receptive and responsive. We really should do this more often.

In the evening we met up again for our regular Thursday rehearsal, this time with the organist. I missed the vibrant coaching element, but we did well, and I am getting almost all the appropriate fingerings now. We are playing three instrumental pieces at Sunday's concert, and accompanying the choir on five or six hymns. (This is at 1 pm, after my fiddle group plays along the route of the Cape Cod Marathon from 9:30 to 11:30 am. Another music-filled day.)

After the evening rehearsal, my husband and I took our daughter out for dinner to celebrate her 19th birthday, even though she had already gone out to dinner with friends. She took home most of both meals, so should eat well for a day or two. A lovely day of music, friends, and family.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Celery Success

Last night in drawing class we finished up our vegetable still life drawings and presented them to the class. I mentioned my little celery obsession of the past week, and the class responded by saying, "You can really tell that is celery!"

I do want to thank Marisa for her little celery sketch, which made it look so easy.

In a moment of celery fascination, I named my hometown setting "East Celery" in my NaNoWriMo novel. (It's a humorous novel, hopefully.)

Next week we are to bring in personal photos to draw from. I will bring cello photos. I want to draw both a realistic cello and an impressionist one, being played with joy and expression. Marisa (and anyone else), please feel free to draw cellos too. There is apparently a great demand for cello drawings: according to SiteMeter, many of my recent visitors come looking for cello drawings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Classical Music, Alex Ross, and Jamie Foxx

In the October 22 issue of the New Yorker, Alex Ross writes about classical music on the Internet: blogs, information, audio files, and such, concluding that the Internet helps promote classical music. (His definition of classical music includes all that modern stuff).

Ross's blog, The Rest is Noise, looks interesting, though I have not have time to read much yet. There was a reference Jamie Foxx, who played Ray Charles in the movie, Ray (a movie I have been meaning to see, but have not yet found the time for). Foxx is going to be a cellist in his next movie. Here is a snippet from the article Ross linked to in the Daily Record (U.K.)

His interest in ladies is one of the reasons why he's working hard on his new challenge, learning violin and cello for his next film, The Soloist, where he plays a homeless schizophrenic who plays classical cello and violin brilliantly on the streets of LA.

And when the Record arrived at Jamie's hotel, so did a courier with a cello for Mr Foxx to practise on after our interview.

"The guy who shows up to show me how to play the cello is nothing like what I expected," says Jamie. "I thought it would be a stiff guy. But my guy is like a Ninja cellist. He's a really fit, goodlooking Asian dude, and he comes to my place with his cello strapped to his back. The first time he came, there were some ladies at my place when he started to play, they just went all dreamy over him. They were fascinated and when I saw how impressed they were, I thought: 'Oh, my God, I got to learn to play the cello!' "

Whatever it takes! I will definitely make time to see this movie, and maybe even take a look at Ray first. (I thought I read this book, but I don't remember the "homeless schizophrenic who plays classical cello and violin brilliantly on the streets of LA" part. Perhaps I am thinking of another book? Perhaps the storyline has been changed?