Monday, February 12, 2007


My teacher is planning a series of group lessons. I am looking forward to them, as I enjoy playing with others and listening to others play. One workshop will feature contemporary-style cellist Eugene Friesen, who has done several improvisation workshops for us in the past. He also usually has a concert in town, always outstanding.

Workshops are usually held in the Woods Hole community center, a rustic building perched over the water in the exceedingly picturesque town of the same name. In one workshop, a few years ago, about 16 students were arranged in a large circle from youngest to oldest (me). After a few improvisation tips, demonstrations, and examples, Eugene took one of three chairs in the center of the room. The two youngest cellists joined him and the three began to improvise together, using notes from a pentatonic scale. After a minute or so, one of the young cellists was replaced by the next one in line. The music kept going, beautifully, effortlessly, as cellists were signaled to join and leave the performance in the center of the room. Themes were introduced, copied, embellished upon. I was very impressed--and both eager and nervous about playing.

Finally, it was my turn, and I joined the group in the center. My nervousness evaporated, as the music continued, and I was part of it, sometimes following, sometimes leading. Finally, we all ended together, somewhat reluctantly on my part.

I haven't done much with improvisation since, except to occasionally improvise on my own, or, at the last fiddle session, to fiddle tunes. I am looking forward to Eugene's return visit this year!

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