Friday, December 13, 2013

Weather Woes - How to rewind your strings

MOST of my students, and myself - twice - have had cello tuning pegs let go with the recent cold spell.  Because the pegs and pegbox are constructed of different woods, they shrink at different rates with changes in humidity and temperature.  This causes the peg to lose its pressed fit and pop! ... the string is loose.  In many cases, the string needs to be rewound from square one.  Click here for your tutorial in how to properly wind your strings!  Book mark the page for the occasion of new strings, too!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tis the Season!

Upcoming performances! (updated with more details on Dec. 3) (EDITED DEC 6 - note time change on DEC 7 Ladies' Brunch)

Shuswap Singers Concerts: Fri Nov 29 7:30 PM and Sun Dec 1 2:30 PM
First United Church Salmon Arm,   $12, Students $6, 12 and under free

Vivaldi Gloria, Mozart Ave Verum, A variety of Celtic songs, tunes and rhythms
Soloists: Andrea Roberts and Jenn Britton
String Quartet: Susan Aylard, Sonja Heide, Rina Schuurman, Barb Ennis
Conductor: Lori Onsorge
Accompanist: Andrew Stoney
Rough Pearl: Susan Aylard and Sonja Heide

(Thanks for your prayers on this one! The instrumentalists only have one rehearsal with the full group.)

Music on the Hills: Sun Dec 1 7:00 PM
Grandview Bench Hall (Grandview Bench Road)
Admission by donation
A variety of community musicians, refreshments to follow

Larch Hills Ensemble (recorder, viola, cello, guitar in this performance) presents premier performance of "Peregrinas's Songs" by our own Monika Adler based on memories of childhood and youth in a 1000 year old German town and surrounding mountains!
Also: Barbershop Quartet, vocal trio, banjo, mandolin, cello solo if my hand is still up for it!

Chorealis vocal ensemble: Fri Dec 6 7:30 PM
SAGA Art Gallery Salmon Arm, $15, under 12 free
I'll be joining the "other" recorder group for a repeat performance of a few of Peregrina's Songs while the choir takes a breather. I'm looking forward to hearing this Vernon-based a cappella group!

Shuswap Community Church Ladies' Winter Brunch: Sat Dec 7  9:30 AM - Noon
At the church 3151 6th Ave NE Salmon Arm, $5
I'm playing a few Christmas carols with one of my students. Includes brunch, of course, and making your own Christmas swag.

Christmas in Canoe: Sun Dec 8  2:30 PM
Canoe United Church - the tiny little heritage church on 50th St. NE
Donations to the church accepted

Carol singing, reading by Charles McLennon, including music by Rod Densmore, Laurie Shea, Barb Ennis and a Canoe student, Rhiannon Schmitt and students. Refreshments following.

Cello Studio Christmas Party: Sat Dec 14 1 - 2 PM
Salmon Arm
For studio members (free) and community cellists (donation) and their families.  Group playing, duets, solos, a game or two and refreshments.  Contact me for details if interested in joining us.

Whew!  Thankfully, a little break before:

Caelestis Cello Ensemble (+ Bass):  Fri Jan 24 (VCMS Adult Performance Night 7:00 PM)
Vernon Community Music School, the "the Loft" of the Carriage House.

Under the direction of George Kiraly

Bach Cantata - Wir Christenleut
Handel - Air from Oratorio - Jephtha - Freely I to Heaven Resign
Piazolla - Libertango
Vivaldi - Concerto in D minor for Cello 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rachmaninov Cello Sonata - III

A current favourite of mine performed exquisitely here by 19 year old Nathan Chan and 17 year old Sarina Zhang.  These kids have done their homework.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A good year for apples!

The namesake of the blog didn't produce that well this year, but the Spartans are outstanding.
Well, that one was an anomaly, but the tree was heavily loaded with good sized apples.  More hours of baking ahead of me... Send your favourite recipes!

Sunday, October 6, 2013


He didn't think I would last more than a week, but for a month I have been dragging myself from bed and walking hubby to work!

Did I say walk? Hmm. Remember when speed-walking was in? Nah, we don't look quite like that, but it's no easy stroll. And he is quite impressed that I am keeping up to him on the hill. I have considered walking with him in the past, but knew I would slow him down. So those summer morning and evening up-the-hill-hikes paid off! I was up to the "active lifestyle" 10,000 steps a day in August, too, but fall's schedule, earlier sundown has cut me down to between 5 and 7,000. I'm trying to not think about winter.

Oh, okay, I did miss the day I had a morning medical appointment and a few days when we had contractors doing our floors...

FLOORS! Big improvement! The process was not fun as we had to move everything on the main floor, at least twice, and the vacuum got a major work-out. I think there was an entire cat's worth of fur under the fridge. (Did I say my back was getting better???)  There are a few little issues to be fixed still, but I am happy to report that the carpet has passed the first hairball test with flying colours! :-) (No pun intended, and thanks, Fido!) Is there food spilled on the kitchen floor? Who knows!

The flooring happened a month late, but August wast the month when things that were supposed to happen didn't and things that weren't supposed to happen did.

I sure hope paint is easier.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Flashback for my 70s friends! The best song from 1975. Bohemian Rhapsody for cello quartet. Not quite Queen, but, well, this IS a (mostly) cello blog!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Beethoven's Five Secrets

I have ordered my DVD! (Note if you live in Canada - try

Monday, August 12, 2013

Starker Artist Teacher

Have you got an hour?  We are very fortunate that this cellist was a teacher, and that much of his teaching was videotaped. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Strings Adjudicator Words of Wisdom part 2

Continued from part 1 HERE.

On practice:
His son once complained that practice was boring.  His reply was, "Is practice boring, or are YOU boring?" (going brain dead, not thinking...)
In most languages they use the word "study" for our "practice".
Pinchas Zukerman once asked in a master class, "What is talent?"  The answer he gave was, "Talent is curiosity."  Be curious! Ask, "How do they do that?" Practice is figuring stuff out!  Don't just do the same thing over and over.  Experiment. 

Play your instrument in front of a mirror... without the instrument!  We should look graceful like a ballerina with beautiful motions.  We can't separate the physical movements we see with what we hear.
Watch performances on You Tube with the sound off.  Do this a few minutes every day for a week.

Be careful of little physical things - they will slow you down if not done well.

The "music" on the page is only instructions - not EXACTLY what the composer meant.  The CHARACTER of a piece is more important than the notes.
Know something about the composer, where the piece came from (e.g. Paganini's Witches' Dance - from a comic opera), the vocabulary on the page.

On singing and dancing:
The Happy Farmer is a SONG, so "sing" it; the notes should be hooked, not too stopped with staccato.
Minuets - feel the dance!  The noble people of that day learned dancing and the arts. Beat 1 is the strong beat. Imagine the dancers, lilting.
Bach Courante - means running.  Imagine what it might have looked like (first notes to hike the skirts, then running notes).
When music dances, dance more than sing!

 Bow direction is important.

More on practice:
He once asked a group of students (who are serious enough to fly from Montreal to Calgary for lessons) when they got serious about playing their instrument.  Some were six, some 15, the average age was 12.  Most agreed than when they got serious they practiced about four hours a day.  One student, though, practiced only one hour a day, working on five hours worth of repertoire.  However, she spent three hours a day studying the scores of the music.

"Go for it!"
Use a variety of positions on different strings for colour.
Listen for beauty and sound.
Use the upper bow for fast passages.
Be involved with the music.
Organize the bow.  Do scales with different bowings.

On nerves:
When you are worried, don't let your bow get smaller, do the opposite:  make it bigger!
When we are excited our heart rate goes up.  It can cause us to be out of control hyper, but it can also give us a heightened sense of listening.  Nerves can break the weight of the arm into the string by causing us to tighten our shoulders.  Practice hanging your arm [- like what we call the cellist handshake].   If we are worried what others think of us, that is arrogance!
Nerves fight against gravity.  Gravity will always be there - USE it, don't fight it.
When we are tense we tend to hold everything in our chest.  Instead let our centre be in our core - breathe, let things hang.

Don't be too cautious and academic; put physical energy and emotion into your playing.
Good stage presence and smiling and moving to the music is very good.  What we see affects how we hear the music.

More than once, Mr. van der Sloot recommended to look up the Venice Baroque Orchestra to see Guiliano Carminogla play the Vivaldi Four Seasons.  HERE is an example! (Now that is exciting playing!)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Playing tourist

On our way to the Idaho Suzuki Institute mi compadre and I had a more leisurely drive on the second leg of our trip this year, not needing to check in until late afternoon.  We stopped for gas and a picnic lunch in Baker City, Oregon.  We found the park we visited last year easily, but missing the first turn and the second being closed for construction meant a fairly lengthy detour through the historic downtown area.  After we finally found the park from the back side and had our lunch, we decided to go back to see some of those interesting buildings.

This is the Geiser Grand Hotel.  If we had been PAYING guests we could have moved further into the lobby and taken better pictures of the stained glass skylight. 

I looked with interest at the photographs of early settlers on the wall, too.  Wondering if any might be my wandering ancestor who traveled the Oregon Trail.  As far as I know he didn't live in Baker City, but we don't really know where he ended up.  I liked this embroidered Oregon Trail display.

After spending quite a while in the gift shop as well as looking at some of the beautiful architecture of some churches, we continued on our way, thinking we would arrive at the top of check in time.... until we passed the "Mountain Time Zone" sign.  Oops.  How could we both forget that?  Oh well, we still arrived in time to stop for groceries for our dorm breakfasts and lunches, just didn't get to unpack before heading off to dinner.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Strings Adjudicator Words of Wisdom

Every year I try to attend as much strings adjudication in our local music festival as possible, in addition to that of my own students.  The adjudicators are usually highly qualified teachers, and there is a lot my students and I can learn from them.  This year we had William van der Sloot at our festival.  I will share here some bits from my notes.  I have extensive notes, so I thought I would break them up into several blog posts.

Perform every chance you get.
Play WITH and listen to your accompanist.
Always be thinking and listening at least one note ahead, know where you are going.
The adjudicator's scores and comments are only an opinion of how you played THAT DAY.

"The greatest enemy of art in music is tension."  Yehudi Menuhin
Looking out at the audience can cause loss of focus.  Watching the bow is a better alternative.
Do more than just play everything in the score ("honest" playing); bring the music to life. The bow needs to reflect the music.  Find moments of tension and release.

Watch You Tube.  Have heroes.  Know the stars of the day as well as the historic ones.
Use GOOD speakers for listening to music on computer.
We can base our movement and sound on our stars.

Always sing your music.  Notice your breathing and transfer that to your playing.
Be careful to develop good vibrato habits right from the start of learning to vibrato.
Pull rather than push the sound.
Support the sound and stay strong with either more bow or more weight, even when playing more quietly.
The bow hand should be soft and like the springs (shock absorbers?) of a car.

If we play beautifully, even little accidents don't matter too much.  Beautiful is better than correct.

Part 2

Characteristics of Advanced Students: List 1

Here is a list developed by violinist, David Strom.
I have been putting these nuggets up in small sets weekly or so on my studio announcements for the beginners and intermediates to learn to think and act and eventually become like advanced students!  I thought I would include them on my blog as well.
  1. Practice slowly - never faster than easy.
  2. Get ready carefully.
  3. Never give up.
  4. Don't whine or complain.
  5. Practice in small nuggets - then put into context.
  6. Practice to make easy, practice to make clear.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Not your mother's orthotics!

Growing up, I knew a few kids who had to have special shoes.  They were for correcting something about the way they stood or walked and usually they hated them.  I didn't pay a lot of attention, but I know they weren't always the most stylish thing out there.

I finally decided to do something about my back issues and went to see a physical therapist to see how I can improve my posture and strengthen my back to support my crooked spine as it ages.  Well, one of the first places she looked was my feet!  She noted a fallen arch resulting in over-pronation of one foot.  This compounded the effect of a slightly shorter leg which might be part of my back problem. The prescription was "stability running shoes".  Didn't even know such a thing existed!  So out with the old runners and in with this pair of Asics which have firm arches (different material in the arch section which is more dense) and a heel counter which doesn't give much side-to-side.  As it happens these are a great fit for my narrow feet which like a wide toe box, as well.
As much as I like these shoes, they aren't always appropriate for every occasion.  I've been keeping my eye out for new sandals for a while.  I saw some in a store a few weeks ago which caught my eye.  It wasn't the fashion that caught my eye, but the shape of the sole.
These are Orthaheel Porto III slides.  The arch and heel cup in these also are meant to counter over-pronation!  And bonus to that, having all three straps velcro adjustable means a perfect fit!  Check out the video HERE. Interestingly, after wearing them full time (indoors and out) for a few weeks, I have the impression that my leg/foot is learning to stand with less pronation even after I take them off.  Is that possible?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Big changes

Moving in with Dad's help...

Moving out with Dad's help...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The cure for the common cold?

I am a believer!

Last month I came down with a doozy of a cold - shortly after son number one. It was recommended to me by someone who had a doctor recommend it to them.... to use home made nasal spray. I googled a recipe and found this:

The Neti Pot idea does not appeal, but a spray? Why not? I didn't have a proper nasal sprayer, so used a (well washed) spray bottle from my lens cleaner. A little awkward, but it worked.

The cold was still nasty, but it did seem to phase out pretty quickly after I started using the spray.

This was really much more convenient than my previous sure cure, "tear therapy", which required spending an entire day reading the saddest book I could find and resulted in puffy red eyes and a drippy (but not stuffy) nose.  The spray dripping down the back of the throat really does taste like tears, so I'm sure it works the same way.

A week or so ago son number one woke up all stuffed up. He'd had a sore throat for a few days he said, and now was coughing, etc. Here we go again! Sure enough, a few days later I had that scratchy, sore throat feeling. :-(

But I mixed up a new batch of the nasal spray and started using it right away, several times a day. I also gargled some - I always do that to try to wash out some of the nasty bugs when I am sick, and I think it helps. But THIS time... I had the sore throat for about four days, and a bit of swelling of the lymph nodes, but my nose never stuffed up at all, and today I feel completely well. Son number one is still coughing. Next time I'll chase him with the spray bottle before he so kindly shares!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Cello Lesson from Brinton Smith

Brinton Smith, principal cellist for the Houston Symphony and associate professor of cello at Rice University has written an excellent article titled "Common Themes" in this month's ASTA magazine Cello Forum. "Bits of hopefully practical advice my students are tired of hearing." He has shared the article on the Internet Cello Society forums HERE. A very worthwhile read for any cello teacher or student.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"We the Tiny House People"

Fun and interesting documentary on tiny houses...  Takes me back to my studio apartment on Garden Street, which I thought of as my 8 x 12 four-bit room, and the one in the house up the street I also looked at, designed by a European and much more interesting than mine.  Great for one person living. You know, I don't think I have any interior pictures of that apartment.

Maybe I should build one of these tiny mobile houses for a cello studio when we downsize.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fellow cello, Corbin Keep, aka "The Wild Cellist" and Eva De Zwart with her amazing composition...  Be inspired!

A clip from the debut of my [Corbin Keep's] kids show, "Say Hello to the Cello," at the Bowen Island Community School, Feb 13, 2013. This clip is of my onstage partner, 8 year old Eva De Zwart and I playing a song she wrote called "The Lonely Fern." Eva, her mom Tanya & I co-wrote the lyrics, but the music is all Eva. Note how quiet and attentive the audience is - they're 150 kindergarten-through-grade threes! The sound was not recorded from the stage - it's from the camera mic!

In the meadow
Growing, longing, wishing for friends and trees
Mother nature
Father wind, blow your spores, round her knees

Lonely fern
Lonely fern

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My sister was sharing an interesting article about Doppelgangers.

It reminded me that someone had found a match of my son to a celebrity. I wondered if they used a special software to do it, and sure enough, Google gave me several choices.

Started playing with one and found an interesting thing....

MyHeritage: Celebrity Morph - Free family tree - Family history
Son number 1 was watching his face morph to one of his matches, Tom Cruise, and he said something like, "You're in there, too!" I suppose that shouldn't be surprising as he and I definitely share genes, but it's still kind of weird.

 Anyone else who knows me out there see it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why the thumb matters.... Listen up, students!

 and CELLO HYGIENE! (and why it's important)
*dips in the fingerboard create buzzing strings!