Saturday, November 12, 2011

Concert Tomorrow!

Our first orchestra concert is tomorrow, Sunday, 3 PM in Brewster. We are playing:

Brandenburg Sinfonia by J. S. Bach/Isaac
Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens/Isaac
First Essay for Orchestra by Samuel Barber
Sea Song by Vaughn Williams (just the winds)
Jazz Pizzicato by Leroy Anderson/Applebaum (just the strings)
South of the Border (5 dances) by Jerry Neil Smith
Remembering the Beatles arr. Bob Lowden
Hungarian Dance No. 6 by Brahms/Isaac
Skaters Waltz by Emil Waldteufel/Pfortner

We do it all again on Friday, November 18, in Centerville

I meant to spend yesterday and today practicing, but things came up.... Still time today, but I am off to play cello in the fiddle group now. The fiddle group performs frequently, and I join them occasionally. I do hope to join them on a holiday concert in December.

Monday, October 10, 2011


We are about halfway through the orchestra rehearsal season (concerts are in mid-November), and I still haven't managed a regular practice time. Fortunately this music is much more doable than last season's array of difficult music, so it is easier to manage on my minimal practicing, but there is still a lot of work to do.  My work schedule remains overwhelming, so it is hard to squeeze in the time, but I really need to do it.

In other news, a group of about nine cellists have agreed to get together after orchestra ends to play Christmas carols at nursing homes. We will only have a couple of weeks of rehearsal for this, but we've got some easy music, and some music that we've played together before in smaller groups. The nine cellists have played together in several cello quartets over the past 8 or 10 years. I'm really looking forward to this!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fiddling through the Earthquake

As the members of the fiddle group (2 fiddles, guitar, tin whistle, bodhran, cello) readied ourselves to play at 2 PM on Tuesday, outside in the ArtMarket, the Washington DC-based earthquake struck the town. I wish I could say that the earth moved when we started to play, but, honestly, none of us felt a thing.

We were probably too engrosed in our first "public" concert. We had performed twice before, both for large family parties hosted by the leader of our group, but this was the first time we were out in public. It wasn't really a concert--there were no chairs set up for people to sit down and listen, but our music was amplified and sent throughout the art fair, so everyone could hear. There is a grassy area in front of the musicians so that people could sit there (some did), but music at the fair is mostly background music.

We had prepared (to varying degrees) lots of music for this 2 and a half hour concert, and for the most part it went well. I probably made a mistake in every tune though. Some more than others. Some because I knew the "hard part" was coming up and froze, some because I was thinking, "This is going well...."

Our list of music did not last the full 2 and a half hours, and when we started at the top of the list again, I felt I was playing better, more relaxed, less inclined to give in to the "hard parts." A friend in the group assured me that no one heard my mistakes. Maybe. But I knew they were there.

Initially we got no response from the audience. No applause, no one looking and smiling, no one coming over to say something nice, as had happened the previous week with the classical group. Then, midway through, people started show some interest (in part families and friends of the players). But a man asked if he could videotape us ("My mother would love this!"), promising he would not put it on YouTube. We said sure, and played our best "Over the Waterfall" for him. I noticed someone else videotaping too. I tried to look pleasant, as I am frequently scowling in photos of my playing the cello.

All in all, it was fun and the weather was gorgeous. I am looking forward to the next time, hoping to weed out a few more errors.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where Did the Summer Go?

Ok, we still have a couple of weeks of summer, but it has slipped by so quickly. Our end-of-summer performance that was so far in the future is this Tuesday. This will be the fiddling group concert. The classical music quartet performed last Tuesday.

Both performances were/are at an outdoor art fair, where people do not actually sit down and listen to us, but get to hear us amplified throughout the entire craft fair. There's no escape for them. I have pretty much gotten over my "don't mike me" attitude, having been convinced by the "when in doubt, play out" school of performing that a strong, resonant, robust wrong note is better than a scratchy, tentative, wimpy right note. That, and we have improved.

Our recent quartet performance, a 2-and-a-half-hour gig, was much better than our June concert. We did have a few breakdowns, but nothing terribly dramatic, and some pieces we played better than ever. Pachelbel's Canon, for instance. As you may know, the cello part for this is the same 8 notes over and over and over and over again. And, even though I have them memorized, I read from the sheet music so I know where we are, even though I admit this is silly.

One of our flute players has had problems with the piece, and we omitted it from our June performance. This time we decided to go for it. The flutists played perfectly. My mind wandered and I got lost, briefly. The viola player also got lost, but she is a great improviser, and found her way to the end.

Because there wasn't really an audience, there was no formal applause after each piece, though we did get intermittent applause and yells of appreciation, and some people came over to tell us they enjoyed our playing, pleased to hear chamber music outside.

I don't remember if Pachelbel's Canon got any applause, but more important for me was our satisfaction in playing a mostly intact version of it. In addition, we played Haydn's London Trio, no. 1; a long-time favorite, Handel's Water Music excerpts, a new favorite; Ash Grove, Simple Gifts, Sellinger's Round, works by Boismortier, Wiseman, some Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes, and more. We prepared a lot of music for this event, given its length. We only had to repead a couple of short pieces to round out the 2 1/2 hours.

This Tuesday, it's 2 1/2 hours of fiddle tunes! This is a women's fiddle group with fiddles, guitar, tin whistle, mandolin, and me on cello. We use sheet music, which I love because it is hard for me to memorize so many fiddle tunes and harmony parts. But I have probably spent more time transposing fiddle parts and working out playable arrangements (simplifying the fast runs, figuring out which octave works best, etc.) than I have practicing.

Practicing--a good idea! I will do it now!  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Two Concerts

This summer I am playing in two ensembles, the M&M's group (2 flutes, violin/viola, cello) which plays mostly classical music, and Ladies' Choice, a fiddle group of varying numbers of women playing varying instruments: fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bodhran, tin whistle, and me on cello.

Both groups will play at a weekly arts market (different weeks in the second half of August), so both groups are practicing. Again, I am hoping both groups pull it together in time!

I love playing outside in the summertime, but it is still hard to find the time to practice. Two performances are a good motivation though.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Still playing....

Periodically, I like to return to this blog, and, yes, indeed, I am still playing the cello! It is just that life is so busy, or, more truthfully, that I am not making enough progress to report it here.

Of course, that is because I am so busy. Still struggling to find time to practice.

My quartet is still meeting weekly for a 2-hour rehearsal. We love this opportunity to play together, and we do occasionally sound good. The mid-June concert did not go well though. No matter, it was at an outdoor art festival, and there were very few people in the audience: a fellow cellist, and the family of one of the flutists. And the people scheduled to perform next. There may have been a couple of others, but attendance was slim.

No matter. I just like playing outside on a beautiful summer day.

We had some problems staying together on a couple of the pieces. Maybe the acoustics affected our ability to hear each other. Maybe we were not quite prepared. But we did stop a couple of times. It was not as humiliating as it might have been, given the sparsity of the audience, but it was disappointing.

We did not record it. :-)

Personally, I am working on some intonation issues and making some progress. I am still trying to find time to practice every day. I managed about every other day last week, and hoping to keep to that, at least.

My teacher suggested practicing first thing in the morning, coffee cup at hand. Oddly, that is what I had done that very day, deadlines hanging over my head and all. A very nice start to the day!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

2 Flutes, Violin, and Cello

We have added a violinist (who also plays the viola a little) to our chamber group (now respelled as M&M's), and are looking for appropriate repertoire. Not much is written for 2 flutes, a violin, and a cello. We are working on a piece now by Boismortier, arranged for 1 flute, 2 oboes, and piano. I am playing the left-hand piano on cello, and the flutes and violin are divying up the flute and oboe parts. It sounds surprisingly good.

We also have some four-part recorder music, some standard quartet music (with either 3 violins or 2 violins and viola), though some of it is more violin-y than flute-y, but it is fun to explore what we have and see if it will work, for us, and for our instruments.

We have a another performance, too, though not until mid-June. About 45 to 50 minutes this time. A nice goal!

Meanwhile, the fiddling group is coming along. There were 9 people at the rehearsal today: tin whistle, mandolin, bodhran, guitar, 4 fiddles, and me, on cello. We have a performance in March.

And the orchestra is playing February 9 at a local school, and again in May (2 concerts).

That should keep me busy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Em & M's

Ok, I've been busy. Work, work, work, but lots of music too. I am playing in orchestra, in the fiddle group, in the women's fiddle group, and now with a new trio, made up of remnants of  the flute choir, after it dwindled down to a precious few.

We call the new group the Em & M's because of our names: Emma, Marilyn, and Marilyn. We all play flute. Marilyn and I play cello, and Emma has expressed interest in learning the cello. She also plays piano and guitar.

We got together just before Christmas to put together a 10-12 minute performance for a benefit concert for a group that collects care package items to send to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The flute choir has always participated (as has the fiddle group), so we gathered what was left of it and created a 2 flute/cello trio. I randomly selected a piece from my stack of mostly unperformed trio music: Trio for 2 Flutes and Cello, by Carlo Wiseman, written about 1750, and a folk song, "The Ash Grove."

The cello parts were not difficult (mostly first position--I would recommend both pieces for an adult beginner), but it did take us a while to get it all together. We performed it this past Saturday, and my husband videotaped it (and missed the first few measures of each piece; the Wiseman has 3 movements).

I am not entirely please with my performance--you can hardly hear me! I really thought I was playing louder than it sounds on the video, and my husband thought the instruments were well-balanced during the performance. On the other hand, I was worried about pitch and sound (the cello sounded scratchy to me), and may have deliberately played softly. I felt good about "The Ash Grove" though, and thought that was louder. But it isn't.

Oh well. I will post them anyway. I am hoping we will perform again in June (again taking the flute choir's regular slot at an outdoor arts fair), and we can see the progress!

The bowl in front of us is not for donations--it is full of M&Ms for the audience to munch on.

(All the videos are cut off in my view of this blog. You can see more on the right side on Youtube.) 

Wiseman, movement 1

Wiseman, movement 2

Wiseman, movement 3

The Ash Grove

Oh, I also played with the Falmouth Fiddlers:

And later, Marilyn and I played flute to accompany the Mashpee Singing Seniors, but we were drowned out by the trumpets, the piano, and the chorus, so I won't post that here!