Sunday, August 31, 2008

Flute Trio today

I woke up this morning at 9, coincidentally the time I was supposed to meet the other two women in our flute trio to perform at the Unitarian church I am loosely a member of. I had been up late working last night, intermittently reading scandalous rumors on the Internet about Sara Palin's baby boy having been born to her daughter, not to her, and other scandalous rumors saying the first rumors were started by people wanting liberals like me to react with condemnation against this woman "whose only crime was protecting her daughter," or would have been, except that the rumors weren't true. It's all very confusing.

I also discovered that Sarah Palin plays the flute, or at least played the flute as her talent when she competed in beauty contests. I have not been able to find anything on her views on the arts, but I think she may be, at least, the only musical instrument-playing national candidate. (I am totally at odds with her stands on other issues.)

Interesting woman, though, and it is stories like these that make me despair of ever writing fiction. Real life is just so much more convoluted.

Anyway, there I was, groggy at 9 AM, and the service started at 9:30. We were playing "The Water is Wide" and the first movement of the first trio of "Haydn's [four] London Trios." I opted to play the flute on the third part, rather than cello. This was a big event (Sunflower Sunday, in which the fellowship was dedicating its solar panels and promoting energy conservation and renewable energy), and I didn't want to worry about intonation.

I couldn't find the flute part to the Haydn, so grabbed the score, the flute, etc., threw on some clothes (my husband had gotten them out of the dryer for me while I was brushing my teeth), and my husband drove me to the meeting house, which is only a mile away. I was worried about parking problems, so thought it would be quicker if he just dropped me off.

I got there with about 10 minutes to spare, not enough time to rehearse, and only a short time to warm up and tune. Nevertheless, all went well (despite my missing a note or two when I had to turn pages of the score), and we all agreed it was our best performance. The audience was very complimentary and one woman wanted to buy our CD (which we haven't recorded yet, but I have started to think we should...).

I decided to walk home, and, for once, was glad I had the flute with me, and not the cello.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Playing at the Art Fair

Members of our newly organizing orchestra played, in various combinations, at the art fair a couple of days ago. This was sort of a last minute thing and we had very little time to rehearse, but I think it came together pretty well, all things considered.

For once, I played cello better than flute, for the simple reason that we rehearsed the harpsichord, violin and cello music two or three times before the event, and we mostly sight-read the music for the flute, oboe, and clarinet ensemble. Practicing--it makes a difference! Other groups performing were flute and harpsichord, Irish flute and harpsichord, and fiddle and string bass.

We intend to do it all again at a harvest fair in September. Hopefully, we will have a few rehearsals in between.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Day at the Beach

would be nice. I only managed a couple of hours today, but it was glorious. We've had great weather all summer, yet, with beaches within minutes of my home, in all directions, this is the first time we actually went to the beach. To plop down in the sand and read, and to swim that it; we did walk along the beach under the full moon last week.

I have such a busy schedule, but the beach, the sand and the ocean, is rejuvenating. Maybe I should have made a pledge to get to the beach every day in August (instead of, or in addition to, practicing).

I missed another 2 days of practicing this week, but, all in all, things are going well.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Orchestra news

Well, we seem to have our community orchestra up and running. Rehearsals will start September 18. In the meantime, some of us are playing at an art fair on Thursday, in part to promote the orchestra and in part to raise some funds for it. It's a five-hour arts fair, so we will be taking turns in small ensembles. I am boldly playing cello in a trio or quartet, mostly confident of my new-found grip on intonation (these are easy cello parts in which you can focus on intonation), as well as flute.

I am excited about the orchestra; we have a great group of people organizing it, and a very capable conductor. I am looking forward to playing with the other cellists, most of whom are better than I am. That should help with intonation too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cleaning up

I gave our cat a bath today. She was very tolerant and did not attack me, as I had feared. I had to do it since she had not really been keeping herself very clean recently. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that she had a lot of matted fur on her hindquarters. I started gently pulling them out, and soon most of them were gone. Apparently she was helping out.

But she still had something that looked like dandruff, felt a little grungy, and she had fleas. So I bathed her in the tub, filling it with a couple of inches of water, and I used flea/conditioning shampoo. She is silky smooth now, and all fleas are gone.

And she is a lot happier than she looks in this photo. She is next to me, purring, as I type.

My theory about the matted fur is that she may have been depressed about the loss of our other cat, who was hit by a car a few weeks ago. They weren't very close, but I think she was missing him.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Midway, more or less

Just a quick update on my "practice every day in August" pledge. I have practiced all but two days, and those were days I was home only to sleep. I am feeling good about this, especially after going most of July without practicing at all. A couple of the days bare minimum practicing, as little as 10 minutes, but most days were at least an hour, sometimes 2, and occasionally 3 hours.

I am trying to focus on intonation and sound quality, not on repertoire, but sometimes the repertoire takes over for a while. I played with the fiddlers yesterday, so worked on some fiddle tunes this week, and I played both flute and cello at a church this morning, so worked on those pieces as well.

When I told my teacher earlier this summer of my plan to work on intonation and sound quality, using scales and etudes, she suggested a new book. I sighed because I have several scale and etude books already and had planned to use one or two of them. Finally, after a couple of weeks, I bought the book, A. C. Piatti's Method for Cello. Starting with book 1. Yes, I wanted to do simple pieces, but was dejected about starting on book one, all over again. She allowed that we could start midway through.

So, I started on page 1 anyway. I like the book, after all, and find I am learning things, even from page 1, and the point is not what page I am on, but whether my sound is improving, and I think it is. This is a completely different approach from Suzuki, of course, and it introduces some things, like G# and half position and key signatures up to 3 sharps and flats, much earlier. It introduces 1st to 4th positions, and ends with 5th, 6th, and 7th position, in tenor clef.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Extreme Cello: Mountain Climbing

It's hard enough to play the cello, but to play it on top of a mountain, after you have hiked up that mountain with a cello on your back, is quite a feat! The Extreme Cellists recently climbed four mountains with their cellos: Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England, Snowden in Wales, and Carrauntoohil in Ireland, and played trios at the peaks. These are the four tallest mountains in these countries, and they started from as close to sea level as possible, for a total climb of 14,581 feet of climbing.

The endeavor was called the Four Peaks Challenge, and it took place between July 21 and 30, 2008. The purpose of the challenge was to raise money for Aspire, an organization providing rehabilitation assistance for people with spinal cord injuries, and Mountain Rescue, in all four countries. They raised £3,573 so far, and are happy to receive online donations.

You can read more about their adventures on their blog: Latest From the Extreme Cellists and, of course, they would be happy to receive additional contributions. For more information, see their website at: Extreme Cello. This is only one of several extreme activities they have undertaken.

These people are inspiring; not only to they find time to practice the cello, they make time to hike up mountains, blog about it, and work for worthy causes. I will think of them, next time it seems like a Herculean task to just practice.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Practicing, or Why Not

Ok, I have to admit I skipped practicing two days this week, already failing to practice every day in August, but this was a really tough week to insert practicing into. I have had a very full work week, events to attend every night, and yesterday performed in two flute concerts. I thought one or both would be rained out, but the ominous clouds departed, and both went on as scheduled. I was kind of expecting, kind of hoping that the second one would be rained out. We had had so little time to prepare for either event, and I am the least accomplished player in both groups.

The first was with a woodwind trio (flute, oboe, and bassoon). It turned out pretty well. We were background music for a luncheon, so occasional flubs went unnoticed, and people came up to us telling we were "perfect." The oboe and bassoon were giving their players problems in the humidity, and the oboe player had to swab out her oboe after every tune, so we had plenty of rest time in the two hours we played.

Next, I played in a flute trio (all flutes) at the Falmouth ArtMarket, a weekly artists fair. We played for two and a half hours. This was set up more as background music than as a concert, but our music was sent to all corners of the art fair via a sound system. It's best not to even think about that while you are playing. It went well, for the most part; one piece (Haydn's second London Trio, which we had not rehearsed much) was messy, and some others were flawed, but Haydn's first London Trio drew applause, and we were praised by a flutist in the audience, who may join our group, and attracted the attention of a woman looking for entertainment for a wedding.

My whole body was aching by the end of the second performance, but it was only 5 PM, time to join my husband for a quick dinner out (it was our anniversary), before joining my son and his girlfriend to see the Woods Hole Theater Company production of The Rocky Horror Show. It was flashy and zany and lots of fun for all, even if the words were somewhat incomprehensible, in part because the very excellent band was abundantly amplified.

Before I crawled into bed, I played two or three scales on the cello, just to get back on track.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Me and the Fonz

This was so much fun! Henry Winkler will be conducting a piece at the Boston Pops concert (with Keith Lockhart) in Hyannis tomorrow. Tonight there was a VIP reception for him. I brought one of his children's books (they are chapter books, for ages 8 to 14) and asked him to sign it. I don't think anyone else had one of his books, as this was a music-oriented event, and he was so pleased.

His series is about Hank Zipzer, a child who struggles with dyslexia. The stories are autobiographical, about Winkler's own learning disabilities, his own bad teachers and strict, disapproving parents, etc. The books are funny, and of course Hank triumphs in the end.

Winkler was warm and friendly to all, and very funny during the fundraising auction for the local arts association. His contribution to the auction was an autographed set of all his books (there are 14), plus to name a character in his next book after the winning bidder. He coaxed the bid up to $5,000, and then offered a second identical prize to the losing bidder for the same amount, bringing in $10,000.

I didn't bid on anything! But I did practice when I got home.

Every Day in August

I haven't practiced cello for a while, though I do play it occasionally. Yesterday, the first of August, I decided to make an effort to practice every day in August. My lessons start again in mid-September, and I have put Suzuki aside for a while to concentrate on scales and etudes (and maybe a little Scottish cello music, in the style of Abby Newton), to improve tone and intonation. I need to add orchestra music into this mix, but not until mid-September.

So, my plan is every day in August, even briefly. My work schedule remains busy, as is my entertainment schedule (I have four plays to review this week, and a concert and a reception to attend, not that I am complaining!). I am playing two flute background music performances with a woodwind trio and with a flute trio this week, 11 to 1 AND 3 to 5:30 on the same day, perhaps a little crazy. Tomorrow there is a 2-hour fiddle performance, also more or less background music at an art fair, that I am contemplating taking my cello to.

So, if I write here that I will practice every day, maybe I will make that extra effort to actually do so. I practiced yesterday, though not yet today, and am off to another art fair now. Later!