Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Video of the week: Corelli Christmas Concerto (Op. 6 No 8)

One of my favourites from high school days. Thought this week would be an appropriate time to share it.  (No linked assignments, students, just enjoy!)

This is a concerto grosso from the baroque time period.

"The concerto grosso (Italian for big concert(o), plural concerti grossi) is a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists (the concertino) and full orchestra (the ripieno or concerto grosso). This is in contrast to the solo concerto which features a single solo instrument with the melody line, accompanied by the orchestra." (Wikipedia)
The concertino is comprised of two violins and one cello. 

Want to play or follow along? You can find the music here:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Building Skills - notes from a talk by Ed Krietman

Definition of skill:
"To be able to do the task consistently, with ease."
EVERY TIME, not almost every time.  It has to look easy, feel easy, and sound easy.

3 C's:
  1. Comprehension (knowledge) - understand the task
  2. Cooperation - practice until you get it right (physical cooperation)
  3. Constructive Repetition - when you get it right, repeat six times to make up for each time you didn't get it right, and then add 10 more repetitions
Review to remember vs review to play better: to play better = standard rises, layers are added, work toward playing artistically.

Goals when reviewing: Tone, in tune, musical line, essence of child coming through the piece.

Transformation comes through skill, not knowledge.

At the bottom of the page I jotted: "See quote Nurtured by Love art."  Possibly I was referring to one of these two sentences?  [edit - maybe it says"Swc quote...," like I would know it well enough to know what that stood for?]

"The substance of art did not lie, after all, at such a height or distance.  It was, rather, in a most ordinary place: within my own self."

"Works of art encompass in their entirety an artist's personality, sensibility, and ability." (Nurtured by Love - revised ed. p.106

Finally, notes jotted on a scrap of paper transcribed here ... I can't even tell you when/where this talk aired.  Possibly in Parents as Partners 2012?  Or the SAA Online Mini Conference? I'll use the PP label, in any event, as I will with the other notes I found with this one.  If any reader can help fill in my memory lapses, please contribute!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Video of the Week: Carols on Cello

"Uploaded on Dec 3, 2008
Stephen Aveling-Rowe is a 11 year old cellist who has taken it upon his own accord to create a CD and DVD Christmas Carol Christmas album. Sing along to the lyrics with the words on screen - makes one of those great gift ideas for Christmas! 50% of what he makes will be going to support orphanages in third world countries. Visit his site at www.myheartcansing.com."

This was a few years ago, and his site is no longer up, but what a sweet thing for this young cellist to do!  Enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Video of the Week: A Cello Christmas

A combination of busyness and a limping computer have delayed cello postings. Here is one I've already shared on my studio facebook page. Open in YouTube for a link to the free sheet music, and bring it to your lesson if you'd like to try it! Of course, you can also just play along with the video!

Shifting?  Watch how he does it.  String crossings? Watch his right arm and hand.  Vibrato? Note his relaxed hand.  Body and arm posture?  There's a lot to see in videos like this where the camera angle and view doesn't change. And note his fingerings if you need suggestions (not on the sheet music).

How many Christmas tunes can you identify?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Video of the week: Another Bach

Did you know there were more than one (or two, if you think Anna Magdelena might have written the Bach suites) of the Bach family who composed music?

Here is a cello concerto in A major by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, performed by Christophe Coin and Ensemble Baroque de Limoges. 

Note that it is a HIP performance.  Historically Informed Performance.  This means the musicians are trying to recreate the music as it would have originally been played.  For instance, the cello has gut strings (no fine tuners as they don't work with gut), no endpin (and so held differently), and take a look at that bow!  And if you had perfect pitch, you might notice that their A is lower than the A we tune to today.  I love the very Baroque looking ornaments on the cello's corners, too.  I don't know if the cello is truly that old, or only meant to look so.  Well, Wikipedia tells me he plays on "period instruments" so there you go!

Students: How was CPE Bach related to the more well known JS Bach?
And by the way, you may notice in your research that there were even more from the Bach family who composed!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Successful nesting!

Last winter we could see a pair of eagles and their nest through the bare branches of the cottonwood trees near our house.  I watched all summer for a young eagle flying over the lake, and only once did I think MAYBE I spotted one.  Now that the branches are bare again, I definitely saw a young eagle and a parent a few days ago.  Glad to know the nesting was successful!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Letters no longer censored. A long one written May 25, 1945

Here's another WWII letter home from Dad. 

May 25, 1945

Dear Mother, Dad and Gwen,

I should be able to write quite a letter now that our letters are no longer censored.  But it is pretty warm, and I feel rather lazy, as usual.

I don't know where to start, so I will start at New York.  We left New York on the 10th of Jan. ? on the S. S. John Ericsson.  Or perhaps I should go back a little further to Camp Shanks, the N.Y. P.O.E. where we stayed for about a week and processed.  We had abandon ship drill on a dummy ship, shots in the arm, a little new equipment, and all the hot dope they could give us on Germany, a lot on how to escape from a P. W. camp.  Half of us got a pass to N.Y. City.  I didn't get to go, but didn't feel too bad about it as it was at night, and everything was covered with snow and ice.  The next night we were all restricted and at 10 o'clock got on the train for N.Y.  We took a ferry to the pier, and the Red Cross was there passing out coffee and doughnuts.

We sailed about 4 AM.  I was asleep. We didn't have any trouble until about the 9th day when the general alarm was sounded just after breakfast.  I happened to be on deck near the bridge when things started to happen.  The convoy changed shape and the destroyers closed in and started dropping depth charges, and about that time, a ripple went across our bow.  A few minutes later the all clear sounded and we went back to our position at the head of the convoy. Later we were told that a torpedo was fired across our bow.

The Ericsson was a German ship built in 1927.  A luxury liner 625 feet long, 80 ft. beam. It was taken over at the start of the war and converted to a troop carrier and at the present is the largest Motor [?] ship sailing under the American flag.  It is powered by two 18,000 H.P. diesel motors.

We pulled into the bay at Le Havre on the afternoon of the 21st.  Though there was snow on the land along the channel, the sun was shining and it wasn't too cold.  They started unloading at 8 PM with landing craft.  They took us ashore at 1 AM and we loaded into seven ton open trucks, and started for Camp Lucky Strike, about 40 miles south.  It got cold and started to snow.  We arrived at Camp Lucky Strike about 10 AM.  At that time Lucky Strike was only four days old.  We were cold and hungry.  Some of the fellows had frozen feet.  Mine were frost bitten and bothered me quite a lot for about a month.

So we set to work putting up tents and then got into the chow line.  I think the whole division was in that line, and they fed us eggs (dehydrated) and pork sausage and it tasted good.  We would stand in line all day and only get two meals.

There was a severe shortage of fuel, so we could only keep a fire about an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.  It was like that for a couple of weeks, and then the weather started to warm up.

We got our guns and tractors at Dieppe, and part of the battery went there to get them ready for action.  We sent drivers to Paris for 2 1/2 ton trucks.  Later we sent drivers to S___burg [Cherbourg?] to get Jeeps.  Just after they left, we were notified as to our time of departure, so we sent one of our Cubs to Shurburg [Cherbourg?] to notify the drivers, so they could change their plans and get back in time to leave with us.

So we left Lucky Strike on the 2nd or 3rd of March to Dieppe [?] across France to a little village near Metz called Ney, where we spent a few days.  From there to Saarlautern on the 29 of March, I believe, or a day or so before I wrote I was in Germany. 

Enough of that for now.

May 26

Well, we are now camping near the place we last fired from.  We have six guard outposts to keep the refugees moving and to keep them from stealing all the Austrians' chickens, check the soldiers' passes, etc.  And of course the old GI stuff: inspection, dismounted drill, calesthenics, hicks [?] and we lace one pair of shoes criss-cross, and the other pair for [?], and they tell us which day to wear which. We get to go into Linz once a week to take a shower.

I am on guard outpost now.  We get it four days in a row. They either bring our chow out to us, or come and take us in for chow.  There is a corporal and four privates on each post.  We have telephone communication with the guard C.P., and if we catch a prisoner, we just give them a ring, and they come and get him.

Well I must close for now.  Thanks for this paper and your many letters.

P.S. I am enclosing $80 finally!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Remembering our Veterans... Letter home, April 26, 1945

Letter home from my dad, member of the 65th Infantry Division, US Army ... I've made the most interesting part in bold, if you want to skip the small talk.  Links and scans of the original letter follow.

65th Div., 720th FABn, Battery C

Thurs. 26th, 1945

Dear Mother, Dad, Joan and Gwen,

Well, I didn't think it would be this long before I would get a chance to write, but here I am again, this time on a shovel.

Up until now, we have been on the move, as usual.  We are up to the Danube, and by the time you get this, you will probably have read of us in the papers. ~~~~~~~~~~~

Back again, and now I am writing on my mess kit. I was interrupted by a shower.  The weather has been nice, except for a couple days of wind, rain, and sleet.

Well, yesterday we sewed our old division patch back on our shoulder: "the 65th". ~~~~~~~~~~

Interrupted again by a fire mission.  You asked about my job. Well, I am the executive's assistant telephone operator.  The regular operator and I change off, so we don't do too badly for sleep, in fact, we do very well.

Our mail comes in bunches.  We didn't get any mail for about two weeks, and then we got a whole slew of it.  Your latest of April 11.  You asked about my gold star.  That is for major battles.  Oh yes, thanks for the paper.  I owe so many letters, I really wonder if I will ever get caught up.  I believe I told you I had a line from Aunt Ada (?).

A couple of weeks ago we went through a concentration camp where Russian and Polish prisoners had been starved, and when they were too weak to work, they had been shot.  Some of the bodies had been salted down with lime, and thousands of others had been burned on crude incinerators.  Even after seeing it, it was hard to believe.

We came across a British Non Commissioned Officer camp where we freed three or four thousand British and Scotch prisoners.  We talked to them for several hours, and what they told us was very interesting.  How they traded Red Cross cigarettes for food, how they bribed the guards with cigarettes for wireless parts and got messages out.  They also told how they got on the sick list and hid under their barracks when the other prisoners were marched away before our advancing army.  Some of these fellows had been prisoners for five years.  They were sure happy to see us, and it wasn't long before they brought us a pot of tea.  They said that they would never have gotten along if it were not for the Red Cross parcels that they got.  The boys looked quite well, but the fact that they were NCO's and didn't have to work had a lot to do with that.

Well, it is getting dark, so I will have to cut this short.  I am feeling fine, getting lots of C and K rations and plenty of sleep.  Oh yes, this is also quite a scenic trip.

As ever,

P.S. I will mail this tomorrow if the mail goes out.

 From another 65th soldier, leading me to believe Dad was referring to Stalag 383 at Hohenfels
"Prior to our departure from Ulmansdorf, rumors were circulating to the effect that there was an American prison camp in the district and we went about our wood flushing seriously determined to liberate our less-fortunate comrades-in-arms. We were to board artillery trucks at 0900 but as usual we entrucked at 1400 and after considerable confusion and uncalled-for delay we arrived at Hohenfels and for the first time saw the expression of joy on the faces of English, Australians and New Zealanders captured on Crete." 

He also briefly mentions touring a concentration camp, likely the same one Dad did:
 "Some of us visited the concentration camp at Ohrdruf and saw for ourselves the height of Nazi bestiality. We left Ohrdruf a little more conscious of what we were up against and with at least a partial answer to the oft-asked question
-- -- -- 'Why we fight'."

 Liberated NCO camp Stalag 383
More details from a POW
"The Yanks are Coming" and "Hiding and Hoping" from more POW's
 Photo at time of liberation, 22 April, 1945 Additional photos (see 2nd page for liberation)

Warning, graphic photos in this link, taken at Ohdruf Concentration Camp

"Ohrdruf was liberated on April 4, 1945, by the 4th Armored Division and the 89th Infantry Division. It was the first Nazi concentration camp liberated by the U.S. Army.[7][8]
When the soldiers of the 4th Armored Division entered the camp, they discovered piles of bodies, some covered with lime, and others partially incinerated on pyres. The ghastly nature of their discovery led General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, to visit the camp on April 12, with Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley. After his visit, Eisenhower cabled General George C. Marshall, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, describing his trip to Ohrdruf:[1]
... the most interesting—although horrible—sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda.'"

"Seeing the Nazi crimes committed at Ohrdruf made a powerful impact on Eisenhower, and he wanted the world to know what happened in the concentration camps. On April 19, 1945, he again cabled Marshall with a request to bring members of Congress and journalists to the newly liberated camps so that they could bring the horrible truth about German Nazi atrocities to the American public. That same day, Marshall received permission from the Secretary of War, Henry Lewis Stimson, and President Harry S. Truman for these delegations to visit the liberated camps.[1]
Ohrdruf made a powerful impression on General George S. Patton as well. He described it as "one of the most appalling sights that I have ever seen." He recounted in his diary that:[1]
In a shed ... was a pile of about 40 completely naked human bodies in the last stages of emaciation. These bodies were lightly sprinkled with lime, not for the purposes of destroying them, but for the purpose of removing the stench.
When the shed was full—I presume its capacity to be about 200, the bodies were taken to a pit a mile from the camp where they were buried. The inmates claimed that 3,000 men, who had been either shot in the head or who had died of starvation, had been so buried since the 1st of January.
When we began to approach with our troops, the Germans thought it expedient to remove the evidence of their crime. Therefore, they had some of the slaves exhume the bodies and place them on a mammoth griddle composed of 60-centimeter railway tracks laid on brick foundations. They poured pitch on the bodies and then built a fire of pinewood and coal under them. They were not very successful in their operations because there was a pile of human bones, skulls, charred torsos on or under the griddle which must have accounted for many hundreds."

Scans of Dad's letter:

Video of the Week: Are your scales boring?

Here are some ideas for working on technique while playing scales.  Try them!  Pay attention to how much and which parts of the bow you are using.  (6th European Suzuki Teachers’ Xchange Convention in Germany.)

Students: Come to your lesson prepared to demonstrate one of these!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fairy Garden Tomato!

A tiny tomato plant sprang up right in the middle of my spring fairy garden, planted in compost. Eh-hem... Award-Winning compost! :-) One blossom, one tomato.

At risk of frost, I brought it inside to ripen. I think brother-in-law was right, it is a Roma, but growing in a fairy garden, it isn't exactly large!

It will be part of today's lunch. Yum!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Video of the week: J. S. Bach, or not?

The latest buzz in the classical music world is the supposition that Bach's wife, Anna Magdalena, wrote the Bach Cello Suites and possibly other pieces attributed to her husband.  See article HERE.  The oldest manuscript of the suites is indeed in her hand... 

Well, whether composed or transcribed by Mrs. Bach, let's listen to the Prelude of the Cello Suite No 1. in G Major.

 First, we have Mischa Maisky (several years ago before he was grey) in a very traditional performance.  Then, one of the most popular cellists of today by way of You Tube, Steven Sharp Nelson of the Piano Guys, with his eight cello arrangement.  (Kids, DON'T try those stunts he does at the end of the video at home!)  I should note that he has several cellos, and one has inner reinforcement for all those percussive hits!

Which performance do you prefer, and why?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Video of the Week: Making Violin (or cello) Strings

"Take a fascinating 2.5 minute behind-the-scenes journey into D'Addario & Co's Farmingdale, New York"

Students: What surprised you the most?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Video of the week: 21st Century Prodigy Sujari Britt

"Sujari Britt has been playing music since she was 2-years-old and has been playing cello since she was 4. When she was 8, she performed for President Obama at the White House. In this episode of PRODIGIES, watch as she tackles a piece of music even her instructors say is far beyond her years."

A young start plus a LOVE for the cello!  How exciting to see this young woman playing with such maturity at only 11.  Let's not the rest of us lose heart, though!  I think we will see her as a professional soloist as she hopes.  Even those of us who aren't professionals can enjoy expressing our emotions through the cello, as she mentions at the beginning of this video, though.

Students, on your practice sheet, write what you can practice from Suzuki book 1 which will help to prepare you for the bowing she is using at 3:40.

Rare footage of "The Trio"

"Cellist, Violinist, Pianist - The Trio (1953) - Extremely Rare Film Landmark musical performances were a staple of early television, but unfortunately many of the early examples have been destroyed. This extremely rare film documents cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, violinist Jascha Heifetz, and pianist Artur Rubenstein. Somewhat stilted in the way only early television can be, it nevertheless showcases the technique and personalities of three of the 20th century's greatest musicians."

"Grisha" Piatigorsky is one of my students' cellistic great grandfathers. :-)

Friday, October 10, 2014

I Love Yarn Day!

No kidding, I stumbled upon this on the Craft Yarn Council's website early this morning while looking for crochet patterns online.  I Love Yarn Day is the second Friday of October - today!

I also found this on their site.  Happy healthy yarn crafts!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Our readers are...

I am writing mostly for my students, friends and family, and never expected a big audience, but sometimes it feels like I'm talking to air, with so few comments, and almost no one clicks those little boxes, "like" etc. But for instance, here are last week's stats on readers, which is pretty typical:

Canada - 26
United States - 15
France - 2
Brazil - 1
Denmark - 1
Poland - 1
Russia - 1

I wonder what percentage was only looking for the recipe I don't have? Blogger's stats on search terms is pretty weak.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Video of the Week: 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic

Or, if you prefer their native tongue: Die 12 Cellisten der Berliner Philharmoniker.

There are lots of cello choirs and cello ensembles around these days, but it seems to me this was the first to become popular.  And probably the best!  What an awesome sound. Gabriel Faure's Pavane.

This piece was originally written for piano and choir in the late 1800s, but it is most popular in the orchestral arrangement. I think it works well for a cello choir.

On your practice sheet (or in comments below if you wish) note four observations.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Video of the Week: Zara Nelsova

Another great female cellist of the 20th century was Canadian-born Zara Nelsova.  You can find the video HERE, as embedding into another site is not allowed. 

Zara Nelsova plays "Adagio" from Sonata in A Major for Cello and Piano, G4a (Luigi Boccherini)
From: VAI DVD 4370 Zara Nelsova: Grande Dame of the Cello
Nelsova was extolled for her passion, flair, and perfect intonation. These television recitals from the archives of Radio-Canada (1955-1962) ...

On your practice sheet, please write three countries she lived in, as well as her dates of birth and death.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

If you have short arms, and have a son with big feet...

Okay.  If your arms get itchy from picking beans, but you'd rather not put a long sleeved shirt on.  And you have short arms and a son with big feet, who has worn a hole in his socks...  This is my solution.  I cut the toes of his old socks open, and voila, arm protection! As long as I don't mind the hole in one "elbow"!  And no, his feet really aren't particularly big, but it's a longish pair of socks. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cello Mountain

Is it hard to learn to play the cello? Well, yes. And no. Is it hard to climb a mountain? If you stand at the foot and look at the peak, the whole picture looks rather daunting. But can you just take one step? Of course! That isn't so hard! Likewise, if we take small steps, learning the cello can be easy. There' not much intuitive about starting out, especially. You'll need a guide. A guide with a map. What if we see that big mountain and decide that's a long way, we'd better hurry up and get up there! Take off running! Well, pretty soon you'll be exhausted, maybe overwhelmed that even with all that energy expended, you didn't really get that much closer to the summit. You might even find that you are lost because you didn't take the time to follow the map. And if you're in such a hurry, there's that danger of tripping and falling off a narrow precipice. Yep, that can happen in cello studies, too. Let's not trip, one easy step at a time!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Video of the Week: Jacqueline du Pre

One of the great cellists of the last century. On your practice sheet, please write her name, date and country of birth, and date of death.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Video" of the week: J. S. Bach

This week rather than watch, you will listen to a 5 minute radio program about Johann Sebastian Bach on "Classics for Kids".  CLICK HERE.  I'll bet even the adults will learn something interesting they didn't know before!  Take the three question quiz after listening and let me know how you did! 

There's also a link for listening to the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, and an activity sheet for any interested.  I have played this, and let me tell you, sitting directly in front of piccolo trumpets is hard on the ears!  Much prefer some of the other Brandenburg Concertos.  Number 6 is cool - doesn't even have violins! Oh, I can't resist - I will post a video here, too.  Extra credit for watching either or both of these!  :-)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fairy Garden No. 2

A new class in our Fall Fair this year was fairy gardens!  What a good excuse to make another one!  No. 1 had become a little overgrown, and then there was the tomato plant which volunteered smack in the middle from the compost-soil. Yes, there is a tomato on the plant, too!  

 I looked at fairy gardens on Pinterest for inspiration... and figured I didn't stand a chance at WINNING anything, as I was not up to anything as elaborate as I found there!  But I knew I would have FUN creating, and that I did.

One sister donated a few fairy baskets into which I stuffed some dried flowers, and another came collecting with me in the woods. All three of us visited the thrift stores where we found the tray, strawberries, and an egg-cup bird-bath.  The fairy-on-a-swing herself, her critter friend and the pond-dish were earlier thrift store finds, and all featured in garden no. 1.  Husband donated the golf tee, and the glass shooter marble gazing ball came from a box of out-grown toys in our basement (idea from a sister). The pathway is a mix of pea gravel and beach collections of years gone by. A few old snail shells and some tiny fresh flowers in a floral water tube and it was complete. 

Lo and behold! A blue ribbon! But most of all, it WAS fun to make.  I hope my fairy is up for more fun next year!  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Video of the Week: Oblivion

Video of the Week is designed to be an introduction to music history and cello culture, an exploration of a variety of genres, and for your inspiration and enjoyment!

Here is the Rastrelli Cello Quartet performing Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion". 
Students, first of all, just enjoy the music! Then write down four observations you make while watching this four minute video of four cellists!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Do you mind if we open it up and have a look inside?"

There's really only one answer to that question in airport security.

Something about the x-ray didn't satisfy.  He opened several compartments in my back pack until he found the zip-lock with cello accessories.  Took a close look, then admitted, "We're just wondering what this is," pointing to my three-inch, five-fingered, rubber cello practice mute.  Thankfully, my answer satisfied him and he didn't admit any further ignorance regarding cellos or their accessories.  Not that I would expect a non-cellist to know what a mute is, but there are too many people who don't even know what a cello is!  (Yes, just last month I was asked, once again, about my guitar!)

Then, I was telling my physiotherapist how little practicing I did while away - how my dorm neighbours didn't seem to appreciate good music, in spite of the use of the mute.  "Cellos have mutes?"  So, time to educate you masses ... at least the few of you who read my blog.  And I know you're out there, in spite of the sparsity of comments. I do have a counter.  At least the few of you who read my blog and are also cello accessory geeks or collectors of cello trivia?

So, here are my cello mutes. 
Whoops.  Didn't focus too well.  But you get the idea.  And for those of you who want to see them modeled by my cello...

The "Ultra" on the left is one of the best for quieting the cello.  By pushing it onto the bridge, the vibrations are dampened so the sound just won't carry as far.  I'll bet there are demonstrations on YouTube.

The smaller rubber "Tourte" and wire "paper-clip-style" (??  I don't know what it is really called)  mutes are designed to hang out on the after-length when not in use, as you see in my picture, so that they can be quickly slid over the bridge as soon as the cellist sees "con sord." (con sordino) on the music, and removed when "senza sord." appears.  It quiets the instrument somewhat, and changes the quality of sound, or timbre (TAM-ber).

You can see my wire mute is aging - discoloured, the tubing no longer as soft as it once was.  It lives almost permanently in a box in my file cabinet now.  I didn't put it on the strings for a picture because it really tugs on the strings and often requires re-tuning.  Not sure about the Tourte, but the wire mute, tight on the strings, does also affect the sound slightly, even when not rolled up over the bridge.  For me, it moves my wolf.  Oh - that's an entire different blog post, which I'll probably never write due to my lack of understanding of physics. 

I told my physio guy that there are four different kinds of cello mutes, but thinking longer, I'm thinking at least five.  I think the ebony ones have been around forever, but I've not had one for my cello (did for my violin), and there are also metal practice mutes (wouldn't trust myself to not drop it on my cello!).  A quick look at Cellos2Go.com shows me two more: a leather mute and a really pricey adjustable metal "My Mute" (because the other metal mutes are not a one-size-fits-all, I guess).

Sadly, while I found a video demonstrating violin mutes, there does not seem to be one with cello mutes.  Violins get all the press ... and it seems an even bigger selection of mutes!  Maybe because there is more reason to mute a violin!  (Evil grin!)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

All packed!

Hallelujah!  The essentials fit in my suitcase.  Anything else is gravy. 

What?  You don't know what those are? 

Hoping a pipe in my suitcase doesn't raise too many alarm bells with the airline.  Since I'm flying, and don't want to buy two seats... oh yeah, that's right, Westjet doesn't allow cellos on board (see HERE)!  Since I'm flying, and don't have a flight case for checking my cello, I'm renting one at my destination.  But I can fit my own bow in the over-sized suitcase, in its protective tube.

And I can't take my physiotherapist with me, either.  This "Body Back Buddy" will have to do.  This and the tennis ball in a sock, which I still prefer for one particular spot.  If you're still confused - see HERE.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

More Caelestis

May 30, 2014 Performance
Vernon Community Music School
Photos by Dave van Dieren

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fairy Garden

Thanks to the inspiration of Carolynne and Cynthia at Shuswap Community Church, and the Kindale and Churches of Salmon Arm Thrift Stores...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Caelestis Cello Ensemble Performance

Caelestis, a cello (and bass) ensemble of 12 under the direction of George Kiraly, will perform at Vernon Community Music School's adult recital in the Carriage House Loft on Friday, May 30 at 7:00 PM.

Music of Bach, Vivaldi and Popper, accompanied by Dr. George Foukal on piano.

All are welcome, free admission!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Piano Guys - Story of My Life

Awww...what a sweet story, accompanied by great cello and piano music. The latest from the Piano Guys.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Julian Lloyd Webber says good bye to cello

An injury looks like it will end the cello career of Julian Lloyd Webber. Link to article HERE. Heartbreaking!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014 Adjudicator's Words of Wisdom

Once again, I was able to enjoy several string adjudications in our music festival. Sharon Stanis was wonderful with the students!  Much warmth and humour and many complements.  I have fewer notes to share this year, as her teaching style was less "lecture", more kinesthetic.   Each student got a lesson on their instrument as part of their adjudication.  Also, I probably attended fewer of the adjudications - or maybe my pen just wasn't as energetic this year.  :-)

I will share a few of her general ideas which she repeated for more than one student, and then a few other gems.

She suggested to several violin students to try a deeper bow hold - get the middle fingers down over the frog more for a deeper tone.  [I changed my cello bow hold in this way and experienced this some years ago.]

She likes to use the word "Watermelon" to say along with notes in groups of four to help organize them.  ("Strawberry" would be good for groups of three.) The emphasis on the first syllable helps to put emphasis on the first note of the group.  For the older students, as well as using "watermelon," she said that they should know for each note in passage sections four things:
  • up or down bow?
  • which string is it on?
  • which finger are you using? (say "O" for open [or name of string] to keep it one syllable)
  • what position are you in?
We should know each note as well as we know our best friends!

Practice in four note sections - wait for the brain to be ready for the next section, repeat if unsure.  This is less overwhelming than practicing through the whole passage.  The hard stuff becomes easy when organized.

When shifting, keep the bow deeply into the string.

Use a strong, confident bow - the left hand will follow.

Mistakes happen between the notes.

Know the history of your piece.

Air bowing is a great way to practice.

On a singing piece such as The Swan, look at the score with the piano and sing along, listen to recordings, learn to avoid strict counting.

Put stories to your songs to give them character. Think of an adjective for each section.

Play with love - impart that to your audience.

"Failure breeds success."  Perfectionism leads to stiff shoulders.  Let the shoulder be boring - scoop the sound out with "smile" bows. (Baroque piece.)

Smiling is part of being entertainers.  Smile after you bow!!!

We need to "exercise" our instruments!  If it is never played nearer the bridge it will not respond well - we need to work it in.  She told a story of a teacher loaning a violin to a student.  When it was returned it no longer worked well near to the bridge - it had to be worked in again.

[A new instrument, a new bridge, and often new strings ... all need to be "played in" to some degree in order to develop their optimal tone.  I was very interested to learn that this also applied to bow placement!]

If you think of the tone, you will not go wrong.  Tone = beauty. 

Even rests and ends of notes need beauty.

Be a good salesperson - play your music like you love it!

Bach Suites are the cellists' Mt. Everest.  To make them look easy is the cellist's job.  Analyzing the keys of sections will help with memory.

Before performing, a cellist needs to check set up and be 500% comfortable!  Chair height, endpin length, strap length... [and make sure the endpin is tight to prevent slipping!  Heel height, too - practice in the clothing and shoes you will perform in!]  

There were many, many wonderful performances... and I only attended two of the three strings days!  Look for some of the best and most fun ones at the Night of Stars wrap up concert (follow link for details - May 2). 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Strings Adjudicator Words of Wisdom part 3

About time I got back to this... 2014 music festival is next week!!

Back to 2013 and William van der Sloot's words of wisdom... Continued from Part 2 HERE.

On understanding your music:
The middle class developed in the Romantic Period, and the idea of working hard to  make something - a painful process. Understand the music you are learning, LIVE the history.

On playing by memory:
The music needs to be not "memorized", but KNOWN. We must play by ear.
Getting your eyes off the page helps to communicate and share with the audience.  Our natural musical instincts come out better when playing by memory. Play by ear from the start.  Play what we hear, not what we see (see- hear- play).  Develop a trust in the ear.  If we KNOW the piece we don't need the music.
It's harder to be musical when reading the music.  It's better to have memory slips and have fun than to play with music and be boring.  The performers whose music sends tingles up your back or make you weep also have memory slips.

More on practice: 
Use a metronome for practice.
Listen to intonation.

The right (bow) hand is BOSS!  Practice fortissimo, and don't make concessions for the left hand.

Practice rhythm patterns of a piece fortissimo on open strings, with a careful bow (slurs, separates).
Practice dotted scales to  speed up reflexes and impulses.
To develop concentration practice repeating a rhythmic matrix or 9 random numbers.

On cello posture and technique (and violin technique):
Technique is the body's work.
To break a bad habit, experiment.  Why is it better the other way?  Try it with a relaxed hand to see if your body likes it.  We need to hear how it sounds, feel it - our body needs to like it.

The bow hangs better from a violin which is held up.  The canvas is bigger when the violin is held up.

Playing the cello with a twisted back makes the hand tight and is hard on the back.

Don't twist the cello too much as it makes playing on the C awkward. (Might I add? ... let it twist slightly as you play the A and flatten a bit as you play the C)

The thumb moves with the hand to balance it.

A supinated bow hold puts pressure on the thumb and can lead to tendinitis. (Supinated = opposite of pronated.)

Use forearm instead of wrist for sautille.  A wrist stroke works better with heavier hands.

On expectations:
There is a certain level expected from teacher, self, the class...  The environment gives the initial motion, then the students can play off each other and get things to "spin well."  In some of his master lessons, nothing was ever played for the teacher twice, and the music (paper copy) was never taken to the lesson.  Over the summer the students were expected to LEARN the repertoire by memory including the orchestra/piano parts.  The EXPECTATION was there, so that's what students could do!

There are no straight lines in our learning, so don't compare yourself to others the same age, etc.
On expression:
Espressivo does not mean dolce.
Playing closer to bridge with a slower bow is louder, but the strings do not spin faster.
A fast narrow vibrato with a light touch near fingerboard might be dolce.
A slow wide vibrato with a heavier bow near the bridge might be espressivo.
Support a soft sound with a faster bow or playing nearer the bridge, not just a lighter bow in the middle.
Experiment with colour - bow, vibrato, releases... the bow leads, not the vibrato.

Don't be too NICE with the music (Bach Arioso) - add more physical and emotional energy.  Take something brutal like Shostakovich, then refine that and take it back to Bach.
Don't just get louder - add energy, articulation, clarity.

On performing:
Be discreet when checking your first note.  The performance begins when you enter the stage.

We can't participate in our own performance as the audience does, just listening and depending on motor memory - need to learn to think and prepare ahead.

Let the character of the music out - don't be too controlled.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The 30 minute cure... 23 and 1/2 Hours

Whoops - the video disappeared.  Let me make it reappear!

If I watch this every week it should keep me moving... :-)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

The first kickstarter project I've backed.  Take a look and see if it's worth your backing.  Only 23 hours left to raise remaining funds.  Looks like an interesting new cello curriculum/app!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

So looking forward to the Kamloops Symphony concert Friday evening featuring David Eggert performing the Elgar Cello Concerto!  (7:30 PM, SASCU Community Centre)

Here it is performed by Jacqueline du Pre in 1967 under the direction of (her husband) Daniel Barenboim.  As amazing as this performance is, there is nothing like being there live...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Walkabout in March

"What exactly IS Walkabout? A Walkabout is an Australian journey for well-being, during which one seeks to clarify his/her life purpose. It is a time of reflection and to reconnect with family and community.

 "Our version of Walkabout is inspired by the Aussies, but we’re walking it out to improve both physical and mental well-being, and to create healthy habits over the course of 28 days. It takes that long to make a habit, doesn’t it? Or so they say!"

Remember my favourite sandals by Orthaheel? The company has changed its name to Vionic, and I have accepted their challenge to the 2014 28 day Walkabout to better health!

I was right - it was hard to keep up daily walking I started last year through the winter. Dark mornings (and afternoons), snow and ice, -19C... So December and January were pretty sporadic. February better, but not every day. We intended to go snowshoeing, but...

We started the walkabout daily walking yesterday. In six inches of snow. My walking was almost two hours of pushing snow in our driveway! Well, okay, some of that time was spent hunting for the key to the snowblower... Hubby was away. In the afternoon with the driveway almost dry he finally got my message. Had no idea our Sunday snow would amount to anything worthy of the snowblower. NOW I know where the key is stashed.

Today I did a proper walk - ~4400 steps in 45 minutes. A few flakes in the 2C. air. God bless the people who shoveled their sidewalks! I'll try to give daily or so updates in comments.

Yes, we started on Monday, but it's not to late to "jump in where you are" as Flylady would say. Join me!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Lady in Number 6

Alice passed away last month at 110.

Nice to see The Lady in Number 6 short documentary recognized at the Oscars last night!

So much in this....

"Put as much as you can into your heads, because that's something no one can take away from you."  Scripture and music come to mind. Both very sustaining.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day - Besame Mucho!

Dedicated to my husband, of course. :-)  (Should we give it a try?)  Here's a fun performance by The Bottom Line Duo (The Duet).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The latest in hand fashion, i.e. the other reason to see a physiotherapist

Winter is never a really happy time for my hands.  Not since I took a course of the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin about a dozen years ago, anyway.  I can't say for certain that the Cipro caused my arthritis, but it definitely caused arthritis symptoms while I was taking it. Following winters the aches and pains returned, but not usually to the degree I experienced while on or shortly after taking the medication.  My doctor actually thought I had fibromyalgia that year - the aches and pains as well as other symptoms - my messed up back full of "trigger points" and other symptoms probably caused by anemia, etc.

Actually, one of the first complaints I had was that it hurt to play my cello.  Stupid thing to tell the doctor, especially since there were other every day activities that were bothering me more - like pushing on those spring-loaded medicine cabinet doors, or writing with a pen.  "Well, you must be playing too much."  I knew that wasn't it - many, many people play hours a day and I was only maybe playing an hour a day.

But I also knew it wasn't supposed to hurt to play, and it never used to when I played multiple hours. I sought out a teacher to check my technique, to make sure I hadn't somewhere in my time off and coming back developed some unknown-to-me bad habits.  Nope.  But he had some great ideas for developing my technique further...

I learned that serious double stop work, double extensions, etc. only served to strain and aggravate my small (for a full sized cello) hands further.

My most painful joint now is the CMC - at the base of the thumb - the left thumb.  Curious, as that thumb has such a small role in left hand cello work in the neck positions, where the bulk of my playing is.  But the above mentioned strain and also some repetitive playing such as is common in a lot of orchestral playing causes an increase in tension in my hands which I suppose affects it.

The CMC joint seems to usually be one of the more commonly affected (by arthritis) joints, and I learned from the hand specialist (physiotherapist) that it is often the left one in right handed people, probably because it usually does the grunt work like holding the pot while the right hand washes, etc.

I am, however, now also developing pain in my right hand.  BUMMER!  The right thumb has a much bigger role in cello playing.  So far I think it has only been once that it actually bothered me to the point of having to put the bow down, but my practice has been much curtailed this season in order to rest the left hand.

After reading about splints for musicians in Playing (Less) Hurt by Janet Horvath, I wondered if something on my left thumb would help me. I first tried something my husband already had: a wrist splint.  But I modified the way I was wearing it to support the thumb.  Definitely helped, but was too bulky for cello playing, really.  I tried a few actual thumb splints before getting to the hand therapist, and none of them really worked for playing with, either.  The hand physio guy made me this:

Thermoplastic, molded on my hand, cooled to a very rigid, custom-made, splint. No, it doesn't work very well for playing the cello, but I'm told if I wear it to support the joint for other things, I may be able to play with a softer splint, or none at all.  This is the splint before tweaking.  It's a bit smaller on the back now with a shorter thumb.  I asked what I could do to keep my right hand from going down the same path, and have been promised another splint for that thumb.  Well, at the least, it might protect me from the over-enthusiastic hand shakers at church! :-)

I have been able to wear it for some of my teaching time, but found this softer "Thumsling" which provides a more modest support for the joint, but doesn't get in the way of playing as much as the rigid plastic or the bulkier wrist splint.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My aching back!

I mentioned back issues HERE several months ago.  I am happy to say that things have improved since then!  The aches improved with manual therapy (and tennis balls on the wall, and time on the floor at home) to relieve the muscle knots.  Stretching the pectorals have made a big difference in posture.  I had been working on that for months, but didn't see real improvement until my second physiotherapist gave me a bigger, better stretch.**  Combining that with the "Fix the Shoulder Blades" exercise as seen at fixtheneck.com, and trying to develop new habits...  big difference.  I had tried the shoulder blade exercise before without much success, probably due to the tight pectorals.

Fixtheneck.com helped me to understand why my neck was bothering me, even after physio treatment - or rather, even more after treatment. It seems to be slowly improving now.

I am not going to blame cello playing for all my issues (I have mild scoliosis, probably inherited from both parents!), but I think playing has contributed to the muscle imbalances.  Currently reading more about that in The Athletic Musician by physiotherapist Barbara Paull and violinist Christine Harrison.  Still on my reading list is The Musician as Athlete by cellist Dorothy Bishop.  Another good book about taking care of the musician's body is Playing (Less) Hurt by cellist Janet Horvath.***  Here is an interview where she offers advice for musicians:
 You might be at a place where videos and books can help, but if you are already aching I recommend also seeking the help of a good physiotherapist who does manual therapy - wish I had done so years ago!

Check back soon for my other reason to see a physiotherapist!

 **EDIT: The stretch worked very well for my muscles, but unfortunately was a bit too much for the nerves. When numbness and tingling developed in my hands I returned to the physiotherapist who had me change stretching techniques.
***EDIT: Another article which gives injury prevention advice: A Painful Melody: Repetetive Strain Injury Among Musicians.