Sunday, September 30, 2007

Online Etch-A-Sketch Cello

Ok, it's not the best drawing of a cello, but far better than I could do on this device. Click on "Make Your Own" to draw. There are many impressive drawings on this site. Another way to spend time online. :-)

Make your own drawings at SketchfuMore from this artist at SketchfuShare this drawing from Sketchfu
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AMAZING Mozart 3 - 3rd movement Cadenza

A friend sent me this video--an inspiration to improvising musicians of all kinds! According to Wikipedia, Gilles Apap is "a violinist who plays gypsy music, swing, Irish music, and bluegrass music, as well as the masterpieces of classical music."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cat eyes

I drew these cat eyes following a color pencil tutorial in the (this from the forums, not the lesson area). Just a tiny, introductory slice of cat. Perhaps I will eventually draw the whole cat. There is a ton of free information online (this site and many others) about how to draw and paint. It's astounding what you can [attempt to] do with only a virtual teacher. :-)

Back to work, for now. Things have been so busy, though I do take time for cello and art breaks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Basic Drawing

I started a basic drawing class tonight at the adult ed program. There are about nine people in the class, all of whom have taken previous classes, so it isn't strictly beginner. I have taken art classes too, long ago, before the kids were born, and then again when they were little. But I haven't done much drawing lately, so decided to take the most basic course.

After seemingly obligatory Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain introductory exercises which bore no relationship to anything we did afterward, we set about drawing a still life consisting of a brown teddy bear perched on a brown hat-box-shaped box, with a brown tin container on one side and a brown wicker basket on the other side. The teacher walked around and made humorless comments like, "your drawing is too small," "you are including too much of the table," "you are not leaving any space for the bear," "your basket is not properly shaped" (this to me, as well as others). And my favorite, "er, why don't you start over?" I didn't see any of the other drawings, but they sure sounded dreadful!

It can only get better! I will try to whip my basket into shape before the next class. One advantage of drawing over playing the cello: the eraser. But for both, it's practice, practice, practice.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Happy Again

I finally took my cello in to have the soundpost re-positioned, and my cello and I are feeling fine again. The luthier is a cellist who lives at the other end of the Cape, so my husband and I journeyed out together to enjoy a few minutes on the endless white sands of Nausett Beach. Not too long, as the cello was in the car, but long enough to bask in the warm fall sun.

This evening I attended the Scottish fiddle workshop which, it turns out, was sponsored by the Scottish Fiddle Camp people. It was good to see some of the campers again, as well as local fiddlers. It was a great session, though I only played a few notes correctly. We learned two tunes and ornamentation for them. Douglas Lawrence spoke of putting joy and lightness in your playing and admonished against playing too fast and out of control. Ah, this too-fast-and-out-of-control comment made me smile. I have a hard time keeping up with the fiddlers most of the time and often have this feeling that the music is played too fast to sound good, and, even when it does sound good, too fast for the brain to take in, enjoy, and savor. His comment may not slow down any fiddlers, but it pleased me.

He did give us the sheet music so I can work on the tunes we learned tonight. Actually he gave me the sheet music early, recognizing that I was [still] having trouble with the learn-by-ear element (especially as the only cellist in a room full of fiddlers), so that I could play the chords. I enjoyed the session, not because I learned a new tune, but because I learned a little more about the style of Scottish fiddling, what gives the music its distinctive sound, and how one might ornament it and accompany it. Doug Lawrence is a very talented fiddler, and I enjoyed just listening.

Oh, and Doug told a cello story for me, about the time he shook hands with Rostropovich, when, on stage, after a performance, the cellist mistook him for the second violin section leader.

The monkeys were happy to see the cello again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Scottish Fiddle Workshop on Monday

I just found out that Johnson String Instrument of Cape Cod is having a Scottish Fiddle Workshop this coming Monday. So, for those of you in the Falmouth, MA area, here's the official notice: (I will be there with a cello.)

Scottish Fiddle Workshop At Johnson String Instrument

Douglas Lawrence will conduct a workshop in Scottish Fiddle at Johnson String Instrument in Falmouth on Monday, September 24, 2007 from 6 to 8 p.m. The suggested donation is $20.

Douglas Lawrence hails from Buckie in Banffshire where he was born in 1957. He started playing the violin at the age of nine when given the instrument by his grandfather. At school he was given violin tuition from Steve Merson, who then introduced him to Hector MacAndrew, one of the greatest exponents of Scottish fiddle playing.

Douglas went on to become Hector's most distinguished pupil, winning every major fiddle competition, including the International Gathering Of The Clans in 1977 and the Golden Fiddle in 1979. Douglas excelled equally as a composer, his compositions winning at the Elgin, Banchory and Kirriemuir festivals.

"Arguably the finest performer of the music of the North East today, Douglas is equally brilliant in interpreting the music of the bagpipe on violin. His repertoire includes a high content of pipe marches…” --Doug Veitch

For more information please call Johnson String Instrument at 508-495-5551. Johnson’s is located at 49 North Main Street in Falmouth in the Queens Buyway.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sad and gloomy

My cello case fell against my cello, dislodging both the bridge and the soundpost. No serious damage, but I can't play my cello until I take it in to be repaired. It's a long drive and I don't have time to do it right now because of my work schedule. I do have my old cello, but I am feeling gloomy nevertheless.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pie and Cello lessons

After an enjoyable Simon Sinfonietta concert on Saturday night, which featured a jazzy contemporary bassoon solo (Concert Piece for Bassoon and String Orchestra by Burrill Philips), we had pie and ice cream at Pies a la Mode.

This morning, I played some Scottish fiddle tunes for Danny and Barbara, then gave them both a quick cello lesson. My brother, who is an accomplished banjo player, was able to play a bit of "Old Joe Clark."

My daughter and her uncle bow each other's cellos, while Barbara plays my octave mandolin, which is strung as a mandola.

Everyone loves the cello.

Barbara tries the fiddle.

All too soon, it was time for them to go, and me to get back to work. ~sigh~

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bloggable Moment

My brother and his wife viewing my blog at an local coffee shop. What could be more bloggable? We're having fun, honest, despite the fact that they look like they are nodding off at the very thought of looking at my blog. :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Scottish fiddle practice

I've been swamped with work lately and have not been practicing (or writing) as much as I want to.

Yesterday, though, I worked at the string shop and had a few moments of downtime, so worked on my Scottish fiddle tunes from camp. I sort of learned these by ear at camp, and am now learning/memorizing them by referring to the sheet music. I brought them to my lesson this week, and my teacher noted the discrepancies between what I was playing and what was written in the sheet music. Some differences where those I had decided to make (that was the way I learned it at camp), and others I was completely oblivious of. In particular, there was a part where I felt I was rushing, and could find no way to slow down. My teacher noted that I was dropping an eighth note. Suddenly it made sense. I didn't add the note back in, but extended the previous note. [It's folk music, and, as I said to my teacher, it is my tune now. :-)] She suggested a bowing change, which was a great improvement. She recommended marking in all the bowings on the music, even though I don't use the sheet music when I play, just to clarify to myself what I am doing. Also very helpful.

There is much more I want to say about fiddling. I have had some good discussions with various people, including Seylan Baxter, a Scottish cellist who plays with harpist Cheyenne Brown. You can hear their music on their MySpace site. We've been talking about learning by ear, what octave to play in, and other interesting topics. More later, when I have a bit more time!

My brother and his wife are visiting, and I would like to wish my in-all-ways-beautiful sister-in-law Barbara a very Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years Ago

Like many others, I spent 9/11/2001 glued to my tv set, watching the terrible news unfold. Actually, I could only bring myself to stand in the doorway to the room where the tv was, unable to move any closer than that. I was unable to work; it seemed inappropriate to work. I was in touch with my client via e-mail. From her window in New York City, she watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. My brother was there too, experiencing the horror at ground level.

I had a rehearsal scheduled that night, a Tuesday night that year as it is this year. At the time I was playing flute in a trio with another flutist and a cellist. We were working on Haydn's London Trios. I did not call or e-mail the other two to discuss canceling our rehearsal. No one else did either, and we all showed up and found comfort in the music.

Many people have died or have been injured since then, in the war on terror, in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the world, and in other violent and unhappy ways. Music can't really change this, but it can bring peace in small and enduring ways. On this day, and all days, I wish you music and peace.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Geoffrey Allison, crafting violins in Iraq

This photo of Sgt. Allison is from the Cape Cod Times, Associated Press.

Today, the Cape Cod Times ran this story of U.S. Army Sgt. Geoffrey Allison, who crafts violins in his spare time. Now stationed in Huntsville, Alabama, he made 6 violins while on his 13-month tour of duty in Iraq, 30 since he began learning the craft. What an excellent use of downtime! I trust it also provided some stress-relief and spread the joy of music to others.

I particularly like this part of the story: "I've just been dying to make cellos. It's probably the most beautiful instrument, maybe even surpassing the violin. When you hear a cello play, you know it's a cello. It's got such a rich, deep sound."

Saturday, September 8, 2007


The leaves are starting to turn. I went to the beach anyway. It was very windy, but I, and numerous others, stood our ground against the changing of the seasons.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Fritz and Laura played a Handel violin sonata last weekend, in front of the folksy quilt background. They sounded great!

Also making beautiful music together are my inlaws, Ralph and Bernice, who celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary today. Happy Anniversary!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Back to School!

This is the first year in a long time that neither of the kids is going back to school. No back-to-school supplies to buy, no tuitions to pay. I wish they loved school, or at least saw the value of it, but both have given college a try and found it was not for them, at least for now. I'm hopeful, though!

I am going back to school. Cello lessons resume next week, and I am also going to sign up for an art class. I used to take art lessons, and, while I know I could draw or paint without the lessons, it helps to take a class, just to find the time and space.

My husband is considering guitar lessons, and I am hoping he follows through, as it would be fun to play together. I may also attend a dulcimer workshop, to release my lonely mountain dulcimer from the closet for a few hours.

My concentration will remain on the cello of course, and I am going to try to retain the sense of focus I have had since Scottish fiddle camp and really work on intonation, learning by ear, and technique, trying not to be too distracted by the many musical opportunities that continually beckon me. And I ought to try not to keep forming new groups, but I do need sort of a Scottish cello group to play Abby Newton tunes with (perhaps some combination of cello, harp, flute, violin, guitar). :-)

I still have this urge to buy school supplies.... Since I already have buckets of art supplies, I will have to content myself with new highlighters, which I consume by the truckload in my work.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Folk Music transformed, with 5-string cello

Rufus Cappadocio and Bethany Yarrow play "If I Had My Way" at the Great Green American Fest, July 14, 2007

I was a big fan of Peter, Paul, and Mary, especially their gospel/folk/dark sound. Some of their songs are still inhabiting my head, lo these many years later.

So, in the course of my amblings through YouTube, I was excited to come across Bethany and Rufus, a vocalist/cellist duo giving new life to old Peter, Paul and Mary standards. It turns out Bethany is Bethany Yarrow, daughter of Peter Yarrow, and Rufus is Rufus Cappadocia, "one of the leading voices in cello today," though he had thus far escaped my notice. He started Suzuki cello at the age of three, learning to play by ear, and followed the classical path until he was 18 or 20, and decided he needed to play his own music (by ear), a mix of jazz, rock, blues, folk, and world music (and classical), a mix I tend to be fond of.

Rufus plays on an electric five-string cello of his own design, which he calls a bass cello because the fifth string is a low F. He doesn't use flashy electronic techniques; I think the "electric" part is mostly for amplification. See below for a quote from a review of the duo, and more on Rufus' website about the cello.

Bethany and Rufus have a music video, 900 miles. It is not the best one to showcase the cello, which Rufus sometimes plays lying down (they would have appreciated that at Scottish music camp), but I like it for the quality of Bethany's voice and because it is well-produced, not a shakily-photographed concert performance.

Another YouTube video, He Has a Long Chain On, features Peter Yarrow, and there are several more.

To see more of Rufus, see his website.

Also of interest: the Bethany and Rufus web site.

More on Bethany and Rufus from their website:

This fresh approach to folk music also brought rave reviews to Rock Island, the CD that Bethany released in 2003 under her own name. Rock Island featured the traditional slave lullabies and prison songs that lie at the core of the American musical vernacular, yet re-imagined, she says, as "a kind of electronic pop that I called deep folk music." Blending an edgy contemporary style with banjos, dulcimers, harmonicas, slide guitars, gospel choirs, and some sampled voices of the great blues singers, Bethany charted a unique musical terrain that she and Rufus continue to explore in ways far outside of any conventional music box.

Rufus Cappadocia is one of the leading voices on the cello today. He has toured throughout the Americas and Europe with numerous groups and is known for his collaborations with artists from all over the world... from the Balkans to the Caribbean, from West Africa to North America. He has toured extensively with Urban Tap and The Paradox Trio; has just finished a recording with Badal Roy (who played tabla with Miles Davis) and Barney Mcall (who plays piano with Gary Bartz); and has just finished recording a new project, Voudou Drums of Haiti with “Bonga” Jean-Baptiste as well as a CD of unaccompanied solo cello. After years of experimentation, Rufus plays a self-designed five string electric cello that extends the bass range of the cello and through amplification expands the tonal possibilities of the instrument.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day Weekend Concert report

We had an excellent time at the Labor Day weekend concert on Saturday. Both the Flute Choir and the Early Music group felt we played our best, triumphantly sailing through the tricky parts that had derailed us not long ago. The two groups alternated playing for about three hours, a long stretch, particularly for those of us who played in both groups, but we enjoyed it immensely. Our fingers a little sore, we're both going to take this week off from rehearsals!

The Early Music group. I seem to be smiling. My husband is taping our performance. I haven't looked at it yet.

A close-up of me, perhaps not the most flattering shot, but reflecting the intensity of the moment, both listening to others and concentrating on my own music. Or perhaps, fear. :-)

The Flute Choir. You can see some of the art displays to the side. There are six flutists; one is hidden in this photo.

The view from the stage. This was taken while we weren't playing of course, so no one is looking at us. :-)

The "after-concert" concert: The Cape Symphony has just finished playing the national anthem here. Seven thousand was the predicted attendance. I don't know how many came, nor how many visited the art/music building.

Fireworks ended the symphony performance--just like the 4th on the Esplanade! Except, as one flutist put it, "freezing cold."

The next day we dined out at this lovely restaurant, sitting in the vined window on the right. The trumpet vine is over 100 years old. The food was delicious, and the company stimulating.

And still one more day of the Labor Day weekend remains. We're planning a family cookout today. I am also working much of the day, but even that is relaxing. Hope you are having a great weekend!