Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why I didn't write my novel

It is the last day of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and I am still at just over 5,000 words, just one tenth of the 50,000 words required to "win." Obviously I didn't try too hard. The reasons why:

I concentrated the first half of the month on practicing for our orchestra concerts, which took place November 14 and16. I figured I could double my efforts after the concerts and still finish in time. After all, my writing speed has improved somewhat since I began working for the paper, and there are NaNoWriMo participants who have written 50,000 words in a single day. One of the winners wrote over 1.8 million words. I find this hard to imagine. As another NaNoWriMo member commented: Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past had nearly 1.5 million words, and was published in 13 volumes between 1913 and 1927. Or, for more contemporary readers, the biggest Harry Potter book had a quarter of a million words, and all seven of them together are about 1 million words (I think.)

Just before the concert, I came down with a bad cold and sniffled and coughed my way through the next 2 weeks. I didn't feel like writing, or doing much of anything.

My writing for work has to come first.

I wasted time on the Internet. :-)

I blogged every day in November, thus "winning" NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. I knew at the beginning of this month that it might be too much to take on both, as I did last year, but I am glad I at least attempted both. I did do a lot of thinking about noveling, and read some interesting books about writing, as well as some novels, so it was, at least, a month of thinking about writing.

I never really came up with a decent plot. I had ideas, but was not clear where I was heading. And, I was trying to fit too much of my life experience into the novel, rather than imagining what could have, might have been, could or might yet happen. Perhaps I ought to work on a memoir first, or, maybe a fictionalized memoir, just to explore these ideas from my own life, without the expectation of writing a novel incorporating them, and then moving on from there.

My friend Neva, on the other hand, had a very detailed plot outline, and a creative point of view and structure--and she finished her novel with days to spare. I applaud her, and all the others who finished.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Festive Fiddling

My fiddle group played at today at a festively decorated cultural center, a former mansion, made elegant again by a community group. It is a wonderful place, full of music, art, and Christmas spirit. I really haven't been practicing fiddle tunes lately (focusing more on orchestra and Messiah music), but the group is very welcoming, and love playing this music, or what I can of it. The photo above is the first tune ("Old Joe Clark," the tune we traditionally start with), before a friend found me a chair.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Buy Nothing Day

Today is Buy Nothing Day, to counteract the consumer craziness that happens on the Friday after Thanksgiving, when stores open a 4 am with big sales, and stampedes occur at Wal-mart and elsewhere. The idea is to encourage people to live more simply, give their credit cards a rest, and, in general, not partake in the "culture of excess and meaningless consumption."

I'm all for that. Shopping and spending has gotten way out of hand, to the point where people think they can cure cultural malaise or economic problems by rushing to the mall. Especially for those of us who live in the U.S., it's time to change our ways. Stay home (or go out) and play music.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

They may not be the most artistic pies you have ever seen, but they're the best ones I've made in many years, since I rarely make pies. Have a virtual slice, and enjoy the day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve

I find myself with a relatively free day, meaning no deadlines, and Thanksgiving, tomorrow, takes precedence over my Thursday lesson. There is, of course, work to catch up on. I do much of my work from home, and is its always here, to remind me. There is pie-making to attend to, and cleaning, that I feel even cheerful about doing.

But, for a few moments, I am alone in the house, and I am going to spend that time playing the cello.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cellos and immortality

I read a book review of a new book featuring a cellist. José Saramago’s new novel, Death With Interruptions is about a period of time in which death does not occur. Then, death, in the form of a woman, decides death must continue, as the consequences of the absence of death are overwhelming. She picks a cellist as her first victim, but is apparently, attracted to the cello and to the cellist. Here is the New York Times review of the book. I haven't read the book yet, but it sounds intriguing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Short week

I only have two days this week to do the work I normally have a hard time doing in four, so will be brief here today. I love my work, but would like a few more hours in each day, a few more days in each week, to get it all done, and to find time to relax, and, yes, even to clean the house. For now, though, sleep is a priority, if only to beat this cold into submission.

The flute choir concert went reasonably well, though I did notice two retirement home residents leave the concert early; both used to be professional musicians. We were probably hard on their ears, and it must be hard for them to be no longer able to play. Others, with less refined musical sensibilities, seemed to enjoy the concert and even sang along when appropriate.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Flute concert today

Today's musical event is a flute choir concert at the retirement home which has been so generous in providing space for our weekly rehearsals. Our flute choir is actually a quintet, consisting of four C flutes and an alto flute. Occasionally, I play cello instead of flute, to approximate a bass flute, but today I am playing only flute. We are playing an assortment of folk and traditional music, and a Thanksgiving medley. None of it is difficult, but intonation, even on the flute, can be a challenge sometimes.

After that, I will check out the Messiah vocal rehearsal; it starts at the same time as the flute concert, but will go longer. The singers have more rehearsals than the instrumentalists. We rehearse only on Dec. 18 and 2 hours before the performance on Dec. 21. I have been practicing, and feeling optimistic.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fiddle time

I haven't been fiddling in ages, but plan to attend the women's fiddle group today, to try to get back into the spirit. I enjoy the women's group. We play relatively slowly and sheet music is allowed, at least initially. The goal is always to play by ear or from memory.

We are working on a waltz today, Gold and Silver, which gives me half a chance to keep up. But, then, again, it is a long waltz, and the A and B parts don't really repeat, so one has to learn (by which I mean memorize) 32 measures in each part, rather 16, repeated. There are also a couple of those little tricky parts.

I might spend the rest of the day in bed, though, to rid myself of this lingering cold, catch up on some reading, and even get some writing done. Or sleep accomplished.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Duo cellos and piano

My friend Carol and I are playing cello duets with three different piano students and went to rehearse with them today. (Thus the pieces are actually trios.) The students are, like us, people who started lessons as adults, in retirement or approaching retirement. We will do one performance with and for all the piano students, and another one at a nursing home.

All seems to be going well, though, at today my ears are clogged from my relentless cold and/or from the cold medication I am taking, and my cello sounded twangy to me. I could barely hear the other cello, and didn't want to hear my own, but played on anyway. Everyone loved it, or said they did. Hopefully my ears will unclog by the performance, two weeks hence, so I can enjoy it too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

G.F. Handel - Messiah (01 - Sinfonia)

I started working on the Messiah in my cello lesson this morning. My teacher was enthusiastic and agreed with my plan to play only those movements I can play well by performance time. And she will play too. I am excited. She said to listen to a recording of Messiah every day, score in hand. I am not entirely sure where my Messiah CD is, but, YouTube is right here at hand, and this is the opening movement, so I will start here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christmas is almost over

Working for a local newspaper, I have been beset with announcements of holiday activities for the past couple of weeks. Not Thanksgiving (the harvest fairs were in September and October), but Christmas. There were a round of holiday fairs this past weekend, and more coming up this weekend and next.

Not to mention holiday performances. Like other groups, our orchestra has to schedule its concert carefully so as not to get lost in the deluge of Christmas/Holiday concerts. Events seem to peak the last weekend in November and the first weekend in December. After that, I guess, we're all too busy shopping.

The Messiah sing-in/play-in is different, taking place the Sunday before Christmas. I went last year as an audience member (one of the few as everyone else was singing or playing) and as a reporter. It was a peaceful respite from the busy-ness of the season. I'm going to attempt to play this year. Anyone can show up to play; there are only a couple of rehearsals. Last year there were about seven string players; this year we expect a lot more, as the orchestra has finished its season, and members seem to want to keep playing. It probably won't be as serene an experience for me this year, as it was last year, but it should be fun, provided I find some time to practice between now and then.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Second Concert

This is a view of the Falmouth Chamber Players orchestra from the upper balcony, taken prior to the concert. Not shown are brass and timpani off to the left. If you look closely (click on the photo to enlarge it), you can see there are two groups of cellos, the first cellos in about the middle of this photo, facing the audience, and the second cellos, to the right, in front of the harpsichord. I am the cellist turned away from the camera in that second cello grouping. This playing position was a little disconcerting to me because I couldn't see any of the other cellists, and couldn't confirm that I was bowing in the proper direction, but, if I was off, I don't think anyone noticed. The performances were great fun, the setting was warm and festive, and it was thrilling to be on the receiving side of an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New strings, and sad news

I finally got around to buying new strings. It has been a year and a half, at least, and I usually change strings once a year. Cello strings have really gone up in price since my last purchase. I worked at the string shop Saturday afternoon, but spent quite a bit more than I earned. In addition to the strings, I bought a soft cello case for my old cello to replace the large and unwieldy case it is now stored in. Also for those times when I have to carry my other cello relatively long distances; the soft case is definitely lighter than my hard case.

I am sad to say the string shop is closing. The last day will be Christmas Eve. The "mother store" in the Boston area will remain open, two of the shop personnel will remain as local consultants, and purchases can still be made online, but the Cape store will be gone. Not only will I miss the convenience of being able to buy strings, sheet music, and miscellaneous stuff from the shop, but I will miss the camaraderie, the classical, folk, and fiddle concerts we have had there, the parties, the recitals, the special events. The shop was open for seven years. I started working there in its second year, on my birthday, and worked about 10 hours a week for four years. The last few years I have worked less and less often, on an as-needed basis, when others were on vacation, traveling, performing, or otherwise unable to come in.

I will miss the shop, not as an employer, but as a cultural center, as will the local music community.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sore throat blues

I got a flu shot this year (for the first time ever, only because they happened to be conveniently offering at the mall when I was in Atlanta), but nevertheless feel achey and sore-throaty today, and our final concert is this afternoon. It's been coming on for a few days (I coughed through our first concert on Friday), but seems to have settled in today. I have no time to be sick. At least I am not playing flute, which would be hard on a sore throat.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The church was full to the rafters (there is a balcony), the orchestra played beautifully, and we got an enthusiastic standing ovation at the end. It was a great night, even if I, personally did not play every note. Our program:

Overture to Water Music by Handel
Concerto in E minor for Recorder and Flute by Telemann, with flute and recorder soloists
Scherzo from Symphony in C by Bizet
Andante Cantabile by Tchaikovsky
Kamarinskaja by Glinka
Overture to Rosamunde by Schubert

The Telemann and the Tchaikovsky were performed by smaller groupings of musicians, and I did not play in either one. It was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the music, in the midst of our concert.

We will do it all again in Sunday afternoon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dress Rehearsal

Last night was dress rehearsal--our first orchestra concert is tonight; there is another one on Sunday.

We played for the first time at the church where we will perform. Because the performance area is small, the cellos are awkwardly arranged. For the first half of the program, I was actually more in the audience looking back at the orchestra, facing the principal cellist, rather than behind her. It was disconcerting. In the second half, when the harpsichord is moved off-stage, we moved back to a more reasonable location. Perhaps a better arrangement of cellos and harpsichord can be found by tonight.

Incredibly, I forgot my nicely arranged, heavily marked up music, in my well-organized notebook. I had been practicing before the dress rehearsal, and put it on my cello chair, to remind me to remember to bring my stand, which was with my flute music (I have different stands for travel and home use). I remembered the stand, but not the music.

Fortunately, the four other cellists were able to help. As I said, we were awkwardly arranged, so it was not possible to share stands, but each of them gave me a full or partial copy of a piece or two, and I was able to reconstruct the program. They were mostly out-dated copies (we are constantly changing fingerings and bowings, and some of the music is in Finale form, so multiple copies are floating around), but I was very grateful that they hadn't cleaned out their notebooks of extraneous papers, as I had.

It wasn't in a notebook, though, and some of the page turns were clumsy. And, in the move from the front of the stage area to the back, I left the two middle pages of a four-page piece at the front. I ended up improvising for two pages, mostly air bowing, but it was ok (especially from the back of the stage).

Other than that, and several spots that are still too fast for me, all went reasonably well, and orchestra sounded good, to me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Teaching and learing

Emily Wright at Stark Raving Cello Blog had a very interesting post recently about Teaching Your First Lesson. I read it, thinking, wow, my cello teacher would never recommend that. And I thought of another teacher who was appalled by "instrument petting zoos," in which someone (like me, specifically me) lets others, usually children, try out a violin, viola, or cello, seeing what it feels like to hold a bow and play some notes. She (the other teacher, not mine) thought the danger of my teaching the child something inappropriate was far greater than the benefits to be gained by the nonmusician or prospective musician experimenting with an instrument.

In other words, only a music teacher should be teaching, and technique must be proper from the beginning. You should hold the bow for a week before applying it to the strings, and you should spend another week pizzing. Something like that. Meanwhile, I would teach "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or "Old Joe Clark" to interested attendees at instrument petting zoos, in a half hour or so.

I am happy to see that my teacher is now encouraging "practicing buddies"--pairs of students who practice together between lessons. The less experienced one pays the more experienced one for his or her time, so it is similar to having the more experienced student teach, though still with the training wheels of her lessons for both. It's a nice idea for those lessonless times: summer vaction, Christmas vacation, etc., too. The more experienced student can be any age, even middle school.

In a way, our orchestra sectional rehearsals have been like group practice buddies this fall, except no one is paying each other. It builds self-confidence too, as we offer suggestions to each other and figure out bowings and fingerings, rather than just follow along. I will miss the sectionals and the rehearsals, but could use a little break after the concerts!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I haven't played any fiddle music in ages, yet there are a couple of fiddle performances coming up that I would like to participate in, and the women's fiddling group is starting to meet again, after a summer-long hiatus, so I am starting to think about getting back into playing fiddle music.

I was talking to a fiddler (violin) about playing Celtic music with a small group, which might be more satisfying than playing old-time music at top speed. I have a hard time keeping up, as I have mentioned countless times, but I like the camaraderie of fiddling, and, when I know the tune, I love knowing it, playing it from the heart.

Some Celtic music is slower, or more melodic to my ears, than the old time music we usually play, and I think it might be fun to work out some arrangements with a small grouping of four instruments, maybe a cello, fiddle, flute, and guitar. Someday when I have time.

For the time being, right after the upcoming classical concert (Friday and Sunday), I plan to refocus on fiddle music, well, for at least a week. Then I'll need to work on the music for Handel's Messiah. Our town does a community sing-in, play-in every year, the Sunday before Christmas. I attended last year and was overwhelmed by the intensity, the relentlessness of the cello playing. Still, you know, it might be fun to give it a try.... (forgetting for the moment how long it takes to really learn the music)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why Things Sometimes Fall Apart

Not that I haven't tricked this fix-it technique myself.

Just think what this cat could do with a piano, or a set of drums.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Practice makes better

Ok, since Thursday or so, I have been practicing two hours a day, in an effort to perform adequately at our orchestra's upcoming concert (after failing to practice regularly for several weeks). Today, we had the rehearsal I was dreading, without the two "good" cellists, and I was feeling gloomy going into it, thinking that I would miss entrances (I had been depending on the principal cellist a lot) and, in general, stand out as incompetent.

Oddly enough, I didn't miss entrances--for two reasons. I counted, and the conductor, for the first time, possibly sensing our need, cued us on every entrance. Yes, there are a few passages that are still too fast for me, but I had a better sense of them, and stayed with the music, though not playing every note. And I understood the entrances better, especially on the one piece for which I do have the score.

We, the remaining three cellists, were not singled out for ineptness, as I had feared. It all went pretty well, or, at least, the conductor was kind. :-) He did mention intonation as an issue (repeatedly), but not singling out any particular section. Intonation is a constant concern of mine, but it is harder to obtain good intonation at high speeds.

Monday through Wednesday are long days for me, work-wise, but I hope to continue this practice routine. Who knows? It might work. And it was a good thing, in the end, to play without the two "good" cellists, a confidence builder, just when we needed it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Arts and the Economy

There were a couple of good articles in the Cape Cod Times this week about the arts and the collapsing economy: Economy Gives Art Lovers the Blues, and Finding New Ways to Make Art Pay the Bills, both by Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll.

They address both the negative effects of the recession (or worse) on the arts (fewer ticket sales and art purchases, less willingness to drive long distances for art, theater, and musical events, higher costs and less income for artists and performers, etc.), as well as the spiritual need for art in times of distress.

Driscoll quotes Jerome Karter, executive director of the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra: "In difficult times, it's always been the case that people do want to continue to hear great performances and great music. This is a crisis. People do look for refuge sometimes, and we certainly remain a spiritual refuge."

She also quotes Andrew Polk, artistic director of the Cape Cod Theatre Project in Falmouth, who said, "I think that people turn to theater, in times of crisis and uncertainty. This is a time when people come together--for solace, wisdom and transformation. There is no better place to find these things---than in the theater."

I am in agreement, and hopeful that sold-out performances at several concerts I recently attended are indicative of people's interest in, and willingness to support, the arts, even now. Here on the Cape, the arts are an important aspect of the local economy, benefiting the tourist industry as well as the arts. But, the role of the arts in nurturing the soul, whether one is creator or audience, is crucial, in today's economy, and always.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

25 Hours a Week

My cello teacher is disappointed in my progress on my orchestra pieces, and our concerts are next week (Friday and Sunday). She said, when she was in orchestra (she was principal), she practiced the orchestra music as soon as she got it, 25 hours a week, bought scores, recordings, etc. She wonders why I am not practicing 25 hours a week. In a nice way, of course, though discounting that she was a cello major at the time, and I am committed to work and family.

Not only am I not practicing 25 hours a week, I took several weeks off from practicing almost entirely, the first to finish up work projects to go to Atlanta, the second to be in Atlanta, and the third to catch up with work, after being in Atlanta. Not so good in a short rehearsal season!

25 hours a week is more than 3 and a half hours a day. I will aim for 14 hours this week, 2 hours a day, not counting rehearsals. I did about 2 and a half yesterday, and, not surprisingly, found it very fruitful. I am not sure I can fully catch up this week, but I do hope to continue to make progress. We have rehearsals tomorrow and Thursday, which should help. Except that the first two cellists will not be at tomorrow's rehearsal. I am third (though the fourth is equivalent to me, and has been practicing. The fifth is having trouble keeping up). I have been counting on them for entrances. I am more than a trifle worried about tomorrow, so will go practice now.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Music Teacher

One of the reasons I decided to write a NaNoWriMo novel this year is because I received a review copy of a small novel about a "failed" violinist (she didn't become a classical star) who teaches at a more-folky-than-classical music store in California. Having worked at a small violin shop myself, it sounded appealing, and the promise that one of her students was going to change her life was intriguing. I figured if someone else could write a music-related novel about a music shop (or musical ensemble), so could I.

It started out good, but as I continued to read, I felt more and more that The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall actually was her NaNoWriMo novel and needed a bit of editing and rethinking. From the interesting perspective of a music teacher's relationship with her talented, but needy, student, the novel drifts off into the more mundane world of "which of the shop's eligible men will the protagonist sleep with?"

But, before it got to that point, I was heartened to see that someone would dare to set a novel in a small violin shop, a world I understand--except there were no affairs going on in our shop--that I knew of , at least!

It's a pleasant little book, at best, but not earth-shattering. The musical tale seems to get lost in the relationships tale, but perhaps that is real life. There is some discussion of the playing of the violin, and though the author is a guitar-player, not a violinist, it sounds good.

The publication date on this book is February 10, 2009.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Again

I have officially signed up to write a novel (50,000 words) this month as part of National Novel Writing Month. I did this last year by writing 2,000 words a day, every day, and, when I finished 50,000 words on November 25, I stopped writing, even though the novel was not finished and still needed plenty of work. Still, it was satisfying and, I think, improved my ability to write something.

I started off this year, on November 1, by writing 2,000 words. Now, on November 6, I have about 4,400 words. I am way behind, but there is still plenty of time to catch up, especially after my mid-month concert. Last year I had a very clear idea of my plot; this year it is less clear and my concept may not even be novel-worthy, but it is of interest to me. It is about clutter, things, stuff in the lives of various people with tangential relationships. It is based on a real event, as was my earlier attempt. It is fun to explore, but I do need to have more of a plot than I do at the moment.

I bought a bunch of "how to write a novel" books last year, but had no time to read them, as I was busy writing. This year, I am reading one of the books, on plot development. NaNoWriMo's book on writing is called "No Plot, No Problem," which is another approach to writing, but one that may leave the writer and the reader less satisfied.

Oh well, I will deal with this later, as it is time for cello lesson, one of my favorite parts of the week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lovely Day

It was a lovely election day. The weather was sunny and mild, and of course I was pleased with the national election results. Here in Massachusetts, we decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, banned banned greyhound racing, and voted against repealing our state income tax. Really. We do see some value in taxes here.

My sister worked for Obama in the important state of Ohio, and my brother voted for Obama in the key state of Pennsylvania. My husband worked for Obama here. (I read all the breaking news on the Internet.) It felt like a great family effort, even though Georgia decided to stay red.

I was happy to be mentioned in a blog on Paste magazine about election day blogging. Paste is a magazine about music, film, and culture, and it is nice to see someone there equally consumed by the election. As for me, I worked all day in the newsroom at the paper where I am arts and entertainment editor. It was hard to concentrate on entertainment today, knowing what profound changes were about to happen, and I checked Google news fairly often. We are a local paper, so no one was covering the election, except to take photos of the lines of people waiting to vote. They were quite short, though, especially compared to Georgia's lines.

Now I can stop reading every single political news story and turn a little more attention to practicing. Our orchestra concert is coming up on November 14 and 16, and I do have a bit of work yet to do on my parts. I have, thus far, been practicing every day in November, but not always for the extended periods required. More on orchestra later, as the concert rapidly approaches.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I can't think of anything more important to do today than vote, if you live in the U.S., of course, and if you haven't voted already.

I live in Massachusetts, where early voting can be done only through absentee ballot, so it was quite an eye-opener to spend the last week in Georgia, where people, including my daughter and her friends, stood in line for hours (in weather far colder than I expected, for the South) to vote. Early voting went on for weeks, and record turnouts are expected. The line in the photograph above extends from the voter registration building far out into the parking lot and then doubles back toward the building and continues inside the building. (There are only 12 voting booths inside, which must be part of the problem. I have not found any explanation of why they haven't added more machines.) You probably have seen this scene on CNN; I did, before I traveled to Atlanta, but it was amazing and inspiring to see it in person. People of all ages, all races, standing together to make their voices heard. It restores one's faith in democracy. 90% of registered voters are expected to vote in the election. Extraordinary.

We went to see "Secret Life of the Bees," which, in addition to featuring a cellist, takes place in 1964, after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The contrast was deeply moving.

I will be voting in the very blue state Massachusetts, where the outcome is not in question. It will be interesting to see what happens in the red, lately pink, state of Georgia. At the very least, you can get lots of free stuff for voting in Georgia (and other parts of the U.S.): Starbucks coffee, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, Krispy Kreme donuts, reduced admission to Zoo Atlanta, a free meal at Shane's Rib Shack, a party at P. Diddy's restaurant in Atlanta, and, undoubtedly, more.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thank you, Huthmakers

Cellist Anna Huthmaker of Huthmaker Violin

I was in the Atlanta, Georgia, area recently, Duluth, to be exact, visiting my daughter. Shortly before I arrived, my daughter had stumbled across the Huthmaker Violin shop in the lovely "Old Main Street" area of Duluth, and stopped in to check it out for me. She knew I would be interested, not only because I play the cello, but also because I worked, for about four years, at Johnson String Instrument on Cape Cod.

I immediately checked out the Huthmaker web site and discovered that not only did they rent instruments, but they had their own community string ensemble, the Main Street Orchestra which meets once a week. The orchestra is open to "amateur string players who love music and love making music. There is no audition. Just come to a rehearsal, take out your instrument and join the fun."

It sounded great to me, so I immediately called to see if they would rent me a cello for a week, and whether I could drop in and play with the orchestra. They were very friendly, though, at the time did not have a full-size cello, and told me to call when I arrived. And, yes, I was welcome to play in the string ensemble.

What a treat, I thought! I hated the idea of not being able to practice for a week (especially given that our orchestra concert is coming up in two weeks, now), and thought it woud be fun to connect with another string shop. I decided to rent a 3/4 size if that was all they had. There are numerous passages in the orchestra music that I really need to work on.

Huthmakers was great. Not only did they have a full-size cello for me, but they (it is for the most part a family business, like Johnson String) were all so friendly. Roland Huthmaker (the father) was asked by another customer to play "Devil Goes Down to Georgia," and he complied, much to our delight; Anna (the daughter) and I discovered we had a mutual acquaintance at Johnson's, and we all knew cellist Eugene Friesen who has done workshops for both shops. They also had a photo of Yo-Yo Ma on their wall, though I can't say he has ever visited Johnson String's Cape shop.

Violist Dixie Huthmaker has written a children's book called Trapped in Half Position about a 12-year-old girl who has trouble moving out of half position, and Anna, her daughter, who plays both classical and Celtic music, and both cello and string bass, is in a group called Border Collies, which has a CD called Sticks and Stones. (More later on both the book and CD.)

Dixie autographed my copy of the book, "Practice every day," and I did, while I was in Georgia, though not for very long, as there were places to go and things to do, but it was great having a cello with me, and it was a delight to meet the Huthmakers.

Huthmaker Violin in Duluth, Georgia, above. Below is Johnson String on Cape Cod. I found the similarity between the two buildings striking.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spread Peace and Joy with Yo-Yo Ma

A friend sent me information about a contest in which the prize is an opportunity to play with Yo-Yo Ma. Details are on the Indaba Music web site (or click on the photo above).

In celebration of the release of his latest album, Songs of Joy & Peace, which includes contributions by many other artists, such as James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Diana Krall, Chris Botti, and Renée Fleming, Ma has invited amateur and professional musicians to compete for the opportunity to collaborate with him on "Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace)."

On the Indaba website, there are recordings of Ma playing "Dona Nobis Pacem" as a cello solo, as well as a sample counterpoint melody and variations. And the downloadable sheet music to get you going. (It's in treble clef because you don't have to be a cellist to enter.) Participants are encouraged to write their "own counter-melody or record an entirely new set of variations."

It sounds like fun, as well as a nice collaboration of traditional and improvisational music. And, for those of us who don't stand much of a chance of winning, we can use Ma's recording of "Dona Nobis Pacem" as inspiration for our own playing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blog posting

I posted every day last November, as part of National Blog Posting Month, but after that my posts have been less frequent, and connections with other people seem have diminished, though my blog stats have been increasing. What I liked best about NaBloPoMo was the camaraderie of fellow bloggers and finding a wonderful array of new blogs to frequent. I am hoping to find 29 scintillating cello-related things to say this month. Yes, that's right, this wimpy post counts as my first post of the month. :-)