Saturday, December 27, 2008

Musical Fish

Scientists have found the music in fish, though, of course, the whales have been singing for some time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Here's a cartoony dog ornament I drew/painted (watercolor and ink) for a Secret Santa exchange on Drawspace. You ask for various specifics gifts for Christmas, and another artist draws or paints it, then you guess who it was.

Below is the exquisite parrot that a woman named Carol painted for me (acrylics) on a turkey feather. She is an amazing artist, and I am so pleased with this!

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Hanukkah to all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Playing the Messiah

I played in the sing-in/play-in Messiah yesterday. Because of the overwhelming amount of music, and the short period of time I had to work on it, I had decided, with my teacher, to choose a few of the choruses and play them well, rather than try to play them all. I chose the easier, more well-known pieces, and threw in a couple of 4-sharp pieces, just for the learning experience.

I was sure the other cellists could pick up the slack, especially since a lot of the music is marked "Senza rip," or without most of the orchestra (only first stand players, and I did not expect to be first stand).

So, the first rehearsal was December 18, and I was the only cellist. The conductor decided to jump around, skipping the easy, well-known pieces, and concentrating on the more difficult pieces, some of which which, for some reason, tended to start with a cello solo, or have a extended cello solo, and several of which I had never even attempted to play. I was not prepared, and, rather than admit that, attempted to sightread. To sightread music that I had decided I didn't have time to learn. Insane.

My bow arm felt rigid, moving only from the shoulder joint, completely paralyzed otherwise. The notes sounded squawky, as if I were playing with the side of the bow hair very close to the bridge (my general tendency is to play too close to the fingerboard). The French horn player came and sat next to me to help, transposing clefs, even tenor clef, and key signatures on the fly, and we managed to get few a few choruses in unison. It was nice being about to matching pitches with the French horn. Or at least try to match pitches; I have no idea how it actually sounded.

So, I'm thinking, as I am churning out these barely audible, imperfect notes, probaby a half-measure behind or ahead, that these people will never want to play with me again; I'll have to find another orchestra, maybe another town in which to reside.

The conductor was kind to me (I had told him I wasn't really ready to play, and was thinking maybe I could do it as a reporter), and the first violin player (who has played the Messiah for years) sent me an e-mail later about how brave I was to play, and that there should be 2 more cellists on Sunday.

There was some question about the performance, given the predicted huge snowstorm, but I was actually hoping to play, hoping to do a little better.

So, on Sunday, rehearsal started at 2 PM, and the performance at 3:30, after only a slight break. There was one other cellist on Sunday, and things went much better because of that, though by no means perfectly. I felt reasonably good about a fair number of the pieces and people were kind.

The photo above (which shows only a section of the orchestra--there were first violins, flute, and oboe on the other side) was taken during one of those cello solo sections. The bass voices are singing, and the pianist is playing, but, neither were there for the rehearsal. I am so pleased to see that we two cellists seem to be playing the same note at the same time. :-)

I have decided to play again next year, but to work on the pieces intermittently during the year and ask a violinist or two to practice it with me, so I won't be unprepared for rehearsals.

All in all, believe it or not, I am glad I did it. The music is magnificent and it is wonderful to be a part of it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

So much music, so little time

I am inspired and challenged by working on the "Messiah" music. The cello part sounds magnificent (not necessarily when I am playing it) even by itself. I am learning some new positions for playing in four sharps, and that is very valuable. Kind of like puzzle-solving. But, it is still a lot of music for me to learn in a short and busy time period.

Today, my friend Carol and are are playing three simple cello Christmas duets with beginning piano students at a nursing home. I have yet to decorate, buy presents, or otherwise get involved in the seasonal festivities (except for attending a fair number of holiday concerts and fairs), so this will be my season opener.

Then, it is back to work. :-)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Handel's Messiah practice

I've been working on Handel's Messiah for a community Sing-in/Play-in on Sunday, December 21. This is a lot of music to learn in a short, but it is wonderful music, and I am having a good time. Whether I can actually play it, at the required tempos, is yet to be determined, but it is a great learning experience. (We are playing selections from the Carl Fisher version.)

I have spent a lot of time trying to find YouTube performances to listen to and play along with (our first official group rehearsal is not until December 18), and am posting them here primarily for my own convenience. There are lots of versions of each section online; I have generally chosen those where I can hear or see the cellists best. If you have other suggestions, do let me know.


Comfort Ye

Comfort Ye/Every Valley

Every Valley

And the Glory of the Lord

Thus Saith the Lord

But Who May Abide

And he shall purify

And he shall purify, O thou tellest

Behold a Virgin Shall Conceive

O Thou That Tellest

Unto us a child is born:

Pastoral Symphony, There were shepherds, Glory to God

There were shepherds and Lo the Angel of the Lord

And Lo the angel of the lord

And the Angel Said unto them

And suddenly there was with the angel

Glory to God

Rejoice Greatly

Then Shall the eyes of the blind

He shall feed his flocks

His yoke is easy

He trusted in God

Lift up your heads

The lord gave the word

Hallelujah chorus