Thursday, January 31, 2008

Early Valentine's cards

I participated in the Valentine artists trading card (ATC) exchange at Drawspace. I drew nine cards and will receive cards from others. It's fun drawing for others, and collecting other people's art. (Wish we could do this somehow with the cello--maybe a joint CD--wouldn't that be fun!)

The cards are small, only 2 and a half by 3 and a half inches, just big enough to experiment with. They are just about the same size as they look on my blog. Since it is not even February yet (though quite close to it), I am posting only a couple of my cards. These are all colored pencil and ink on Stonehenge drawing paper (thick, like posterboard).

(Yeah, I know, it should have been a bass clef, but we play in treble clef too.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lots of Snow

I was not expecting this snowstorm! (These are tall trees, bent to the ground with snow.) Fortunately, my husband parked at the end of the driveway to minimize shoveling. Then he drove me to work and picked me up afterwards. An easy day for me. Hope others are warm and toasty. Or at least as warm and toasty as one can be with the thermostat turned down.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cello Blogiversary

It's been a year since I started this blog. So, it is time to reflect on its history. I first discovered blogs about five years ago. I was indexing a periodical on information technology, in which the author mentioned blogs, cautiously, as a source of business research. He said you could find weblogs on many subjects. So I searched for weblog + cello, and found only AMK's cello log (at that time he had a blog entirely devoted to his cello lessons; now cello is only part of what he writes about). I found it fascinating, as he working on Suzuki pieces that I had recently worked on. His blog was not interactive though, so you couldn't communicate with him.

Nevertheless, inspired by his weekly summary of his lessons, I decided to start an offline lesson diary, to keep track of my own progress, or, rather, to facilitate that progress. Sometimes it seemed that my teacher was telling me the same thing every week. Oh, yeah, I would remember, we have talked about this before.

I was not successful in writing after every lesson, but do have entries through last March. It became more of a music diary than a lesson log, detailing struggles and accomplishments, frustrations and goals. I will try to reactivate it, now that I have remembered it again, as it serves a different purpose than this blog.

I can't remember when I discovered the Internet Cello Society's cello forum, but that was the next step toward this blog. I have never been a very active poster in that forum, but it was fun, occasionally, to join in the discussion and "meet" other cellists.

It was probably in December 2006, I discovered three very informative and entertaining cello blogs, Cellomania, If at First You Don't Succeed, and Cello Dreams. These bloggers also find other cello bloggers and have built a wonderful cello community online. At the same time, I was thinking about writing. I index books, and have co-authored/co-edited a book, but I really wanted to write one. I thought maybe blogging might be a step toward writing more regularly for publication (more in the sense of feeling comfortable about making one's thoughts public than as a means of finding a publisher).

So, since I read only cello blogs, I decided to start a cello blog. An excellent idea! Now, a year later, I have contributed regularly to this blog, communicating with family and friends, as well as the "unknown reader" through it, "met" many interesting people, written a "novel" for National Novel Writing Month, gotten interested in photography and re-interested in art, and I work for the local newspaper. A newspaper is not a book, but I quite happy with it, and the publishing process is much shorter. Getting involved with and being part of National Blog Posting Month introduced me to many other blogs, even, non-cello blogs!, and that has been enriching. It's been a good year. Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for blogging.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Writing reviews

I finally finished my review of the "Triple Concerto" concert. It takes me hours and hours to write reviews. I wish I could do it faster, but maybe that will come with time. I should have a lot of practice this winter/spring season, with seven or eight concert reviews to write.

I started writing reviews 3 or 4 years ago because the previous arts reviewer for the local newspaper did not feel qualified to do so, and the professional musicians did not want to critique their colleagues. I fell into that middle ground of enjoying music as an amateur musician, though I do not have a musical education, besides flute and cello lessons, and enjoying writing.

I said "no," the first time I was asked to write a review, saying I was not qualified, but the person on the other end said that my cello teacher thought I would do a great job. How can you argue with that?

So, I e-mailed my sister, who is not only a professor of music, but also teaches English, including how to write a review. She gave me a lot of excellent advice, and suggested I get a recording of the music to be played to become familiar with it before the performance, do some background research, talk to people, etc. For that first concert, I actually bought a Music Minus One recording of the solo violin piece and studied the score, listened to the CD, and read the very detailed and interesting performance notes. I bought CDs for all the other pieces of music being performed and researched them, too. It turned out to be a very expensive concert, even though I got the tickets for free. I invited a friend to join me for the concert. She does have a music degree, and she teaches music at the elementary school level. She had a lot of insights, including some nonmusical observations, such as the fact that a violist was chewing gum throughout the concert.

So, many reviews later, I am now the arts and entertainment editor for the local paper. I no longer buy CDs for each performance, but I do listen to online performances, such as the Triple Concerto, and I do as much background reading as I can to better understand context of the piece. And I talk to friends who attended. (It was great to talk to Carol about this last concert!) I view reviews as an enjoyable part of my own self-administered music education. There is nothing like going to lots of concerts, and writing about them, to teach music appreciation.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Beethoven Triple Concerto Oistrakh Rostropovich Richter 4/4

This is part 4 of 4.

Beethoven Triple Concerto Oistrakh Rostropovich Richter 3/4

This is part 3 of 4

Beethoven Triple Concerto Oistrakh Rostropovich Richter 2/4

This is part 2 of 4

Beethoven Triple Concerto Oistrakh Rostropovich Richter 1/4

We went to a performance of Beethoven's Concerto in C for Violin, Cello and Piano last night. It was good, but not as good as this YouTube version of it with Mstislav Rostropovich on cello, Sviatoslav Richter on piano, and David Oistrakh on violin. This is performed with the Moscow Philharmonic orchestra, Kyril Kondrachin, conductor, 50th Anniversary of the Moscow State Philarmonic Orchestra, Moscow Great Hall, 1970.

This is part 1 of 4.

The soloists in the performance this weekend's performances were all students at New England Conservatory in their teens or early twenties, and are all very impressive players.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mom's Shawl

Today would have been my mother's 99th birthday. When I saw her on her birthday last year, she had an assortment of blankets and afghans to keep her warm, but I was in a knitting sort of mood and offered to knit her a shawl to keep her warm. "What color?," I asked. "Pink," she said.

I had a hard time finding a pattern for an interesting, yet easy shawl, and finally decided on one that called for seven to 12 different colors of yarn, to knit in increasingly wider rows of randomly selected color stripes. It was not easy to find seven to 12 shades of pink, but I bought an assortment of yarns in different colors and textures, including some that were not pink, for interest, including that furry "fun" yarn that was all the rage a few years ago, but now can be had for $1 a ball (down from $4 or $5).

I had imagined creating a gentle, romantic, warm pink cloud. In reality, my jumbled colors seemed loud and not clearly thought out. I kept showing it to people, asking if they liked it. They did, but I didn't really believe them.

When I returned to visit my mother in February, I brought the shawl project, but held off showing it to her. By that time, I reluctantly realized she was dying and just didn't want to see a look of disappointment when I showed the raucous shawl to her. So, I sat by her side in the hospital and knitted while she slept. Finally, I showed it to her and she smiled. A beautiful, heart-warming smile. She actually liked it, and she understood it was for her.

I didn't finish it before she died, and I set it aside for a while. I picked it up again recently and decided to finish it. It's a nice, warm project to work during these cold winter months, and it reminds me of her. I have to say I like it more now. It would have really brightened up that nursing home.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Self-portrait, with cello

I attended a wonderful art show yesterday featuring many unique and creative self-portraits of 55 Cape Cod artists. (For those of you on the Cape, it is at the Cotuit Center for the Arts through February 9.)

One self-portrait stood out for me: Cherie Mittenthal's hot wax painting of herself on the beach playing a cello. The inscription on the painting said: "I always wanted to play the cello because you get to sit down."

I was with a group of fourth-graders, on a tour, and at least half the group burst out that they always wanted to play the cello too, and everyone commented on the rich, warm sound of the cello.

A heart-warming moment, so I forgave the artist her inaccurate representation of the cello. It was her creative vision, after all, and it made me smile.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Concert for the troops

I am playing in a benefit concert on January 26. The price of admission is snack foods, small clothing items, and miscellaneous small amusements (crossword puzzle books, CDs, phone cards, stationery, etc.) for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There seem to be a multitude of these groups raising money or collecting pretzels for the troops. It's sad that such efforts are necessary--on so many levels--but, if the troops need wool socks, granola bars, duct tape, and playing cards, I am certainly willing to play music to make it happen.

I must admit that there is a little grumpiness among musicians associated with this event. Four or five ensembles are playing, and we all get 10 to 12 minutes each. Groups want to play for a half hour or an hour each. I am probably the only one who is perfectly willing to play for 10 or 12 minutes and spent the reset of the time listening to the other groups. It is interesting, to me, to meeting the other amateur music groups in the area, and I enjoy this sort of thing. To me, it is a good opportunity to work hard on a limited number of pieces and bring them to a good performance level vs., sometimes, not doing quite so well on a multitude of pieces.

On the other hand, I must also admit that, since I play in two of the groups who are performing, I actually get to play for 20 to 24 minutes, both flute and cello, and have no reason to be grumpy myself.

Well, I'm off to collect some nice, tasty, nutritious, organic snacks, and hope that someone on some level is working to bring the soldiers back home, where there are snacks and duct tape aplenty.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Directions Cello 2008

I received a notice in the mail the other day about the New Directions Cello Festival, June 6-8, 2008. It's for all non-classical forms of cello playing and will be held this year in Ithaca NY, a mere 7-hour drive from here. I am contemplating going, mostly for the fun of toying with improvisation.

For many years, New Directions Cello was held at the Univ. of Connecticut, fairly close to me, but every year my daughter had a vocal recital that same weekend. Finally, the date of the vocal recital changed, and I was free to go--and they moved the festival to Wisconsin, and then California, too far for me to travel. So, this year, Ithaca sounds close. And according to MapQuest, the best route is through Schenectady, near where I lived when I was about 5 to 7 years old. I could also stop in to see Cellos 2Go.

According to the New Directions website, guest artists will include:

Montana Skies – guitar & cello duo from Georgia
Hank Roberts – group to be announced
Rushad Eggleston's Magic Wizard Band – rock trio
Gunther Tiedemann & David Plate - cello & guitar duo from Germany
James Hoskins - with Trio Sherefe – music of Balkans, Turkey & Middle East
Trevor Exter – with his trio.

I would love to hear Montanta Skies, after hearing some of their music online. Are they really from Georgia? I am not familiar with the others, except of course for Rushad, who has, thankfully, changed the name of his band again.

Is anyone else thinking on going?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

I have spent a lazy day, this first one of 2008, reading, watching a video (Once), and generally relaxing. Soon I will practice. No decluttering yet today, though I had high hopes when I woke up this morning at noon.

Best wishes to all for a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, Creative, and Fulfilling New Year!