Monday, July 23, 2012

Fiddling Away the Summer

Every summer I tell myself I will concentrate on fiddle music. Without the weekly orchestra rehearsals (September to early May), I can learn a fiddle tune or two, or even learn to play by ear. And, I love playing outside, with the fiddlers at various events throughout the summer.

And, every summer, the days fly by without my having really focused on fiddle music much at all. This year is no different, especially since I am playing duets with two other cellists (each meeting weekly, most weeks), as well as playing flute in Town Band (10 weekly performances). The women's fiddle group I play in is meeting once a week too, to prepare for our performance at an art fair on August 21. And the larger fiddle group meets and performs regularly, but I have only been to a couple of their sessions.

This year, in preparation for the August 21 performance, I have made an effort to play through all the music a couple of times a week. It should be every day, as I am still struggling with some of the tunes, still rethinking which octave I should be playing in, which fingerings to use. Fiddle music doesn't always translate easily for the cello. Still, I am feeling much better about this music than I have in the past.

The women's group plays from sheet music, so I don't have to deal with the memory/playing by ear issue for this concert, but I am trying to memorize a couple of the tunes--if only because they are easier to play if I really know them.

(I attended a vocal concert yesterday, and talked briefly to another woman afterward. She was so impressed with the singer, not for her singing, which was wonderful, but for her ability to memorize all the show tunes and the little introductory talks before each one, as well as the order of the whole program. I politely agreed with her, but, but for me, it is easier to memorize vocal piece than an instrumental piece. Sometimes putting words to a fiddle tune does help me memorize it. Hmm, maybe I should try that more often.) 

There is another cellist in the group now. He plays entirely by ear, and has no problems at all with octaves or fingering. He just plays the tunes, and happily at that. It comes naturally to him, but he also goes to a lot more sessions than I do and no doubt practices more. It's both inspiring and discouraging.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a concert by Jo + Sorcha, a folk music duo consisting of two young women, one playing guitar and banjo, and the other playing cello. The cellist was classically trained, but learned to play by ear. I told her of my inabilities. She told me I could do it. She told me to sit down with a CD and just "bang out" the tune until I got it. She also improvises during performances, too, but of course you have to basically know what you are doing to do that well. She was very encouraging.

One of these days....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

No Adagio for Orchestra

As it turned out, we didn't play Barber's "Adagio for Strings." The general consensus was that we couldn't get it sounding good enough in time for the concert.

While, this was probably true, I was disappointed that we gave up on it. After all, I had spent about 75 percent of my orchestra practice time on it, and I was feeling that it was coming together for me. And when I turned to focus my practicing on the other pieces on the orchestra program, I realized that I still needed to do a lot of work on them. Perhap the difficulty of "Adagio" had masked the lesser, but still real, difficulty of the other pieces.

Our concerts were in May and orchestra is on break until September, when we will start in on Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 and other works. I should be working on it, but I am focusing on fiddle music and playing duets with friends this summer, as well as weekly town band performances (on the flute). There is plenty to work on with this music.

My fiddle group is playing at an outdoor art fair on August 21. It's 2.5 hours of background music, and we have a playlist 27 pieces long. Fortunately we are not playing from memory, but there is still a lot for me to work on here.

More on that later!