Tuesday 22 December 2009

Reality tv's impact on the arts

The rise of instant fix reality programmes Arts are seen as an easy option. It can be agreed that we all have music in us however ….we can all run, but not everyone with the best will in the world can be a premier footballer or an Olympic athlete. Why music? Why not blanket History or blanket Geography?
Hey, since the knowledgable response I have received to this opening posted blog I must add that money was not really a consideration in my original supposition.I can see that it is a major factor but great thought and great humanity are not financially quantifiable are they? What do you think? I know NGO'S working in war zones and giving food distribution in areas of famine etc need money BUT the qualities and motives that make an individual want to work for or in such organisations cannot be essentially financial, for there could not be money enough for such dedication.

Am I glad? No,I am delighted, as I have learnt that there is an 'Architecture for All' Programme which is functioning at the present time which is run under the auspices of Harvard University it is an highly intensive Summer Schools. I think the Steven Lawrence (excuse spelling ) foundation have something to do with this.This is to discover whether people can be further encouraged to embark upon architecture as an area of study after a period of intensive submersion in the field. In addition there is a female playwriting competition/programme in which the winner has their play produced at the Royal Court. YEAH it should be like this spread the abilities about a bit. The 'arts' as they are called are seen as easy and they are not!! I have said this already so no more now. The Beeb (BBC)is also getting going again now there is something new from them called'My Story'which is a competition encouraging people to WRITE and the winner wins a book deal. Not bad,eh? Please, this has got to be better than singing a recorded artist's hit song on the television. Surely?
Come on people what do you think?
This 'spreading the abilities about' is certainly catching on, I heard on Material World'
Radio 4.Oh alright, yes I know, please allow me, I do like radio 4. There was mentioned a competition
'Amateur Scientist of the Year' entrants must be 16 years or older, naturally.
Methinks I must be in tune with the cosmos. (joke). Maybe what I said needs to be said and said LOTS.
Thanks punters for replies its good to have the backup/ feed back and extra info etc.
Now I must go and practice repertory for my future recitals.
I wondered having written the last comment whether I should have written it however, it is true!!
Whilst practising I also think and I realise that something must be said about 'high horses' I wondered when the specific high horse relating to 'Arts' would appear on the horizon. I hate to say this but the field we are standing in is full of 'high horses'The Arts high horse seems to be a cause for mis- interpretation and misunderstanding. Look, I'll explain,Airline pilots (top of the tree, certainly around the airport anyhow(joke) and of course the engineers that service and repair the planes, are they not on a 'high horse' how about Neuro-surgeons, Judges as well, are they also not on high horses or even Astro Physicists how high are their horses I wonder?
You see, I restate my first statement. The arts (I hate the word with an S on the end)are seen as easy and that any one should be able to do it and I agree people can, but not to the level of High Great Art. A course in Aesthetics might be the answer. Can we compare Great painting with great writing with great design and great dancing well in the 'western culture we do we call them all Art and the bar has been set very high indeed historically and just by dint of the fact that human nature strives to develop and improve.
Bye for now!
I think that generally the appreciation of Art must be taught/learnt or if there is more time, nutured. But definitely taught.
What is really happening when someone dances or paints or plays music? it is a revelation to classical performers the insight that a single great artist has to offer about the preparation of great music. I was going to write the meaning of music but that is not wise to state as it is SO profound a question and plunges us into philosophy.
A friend of mine observed that for some one to better feel 'akin' to a performer rather places the emphasis upon the person that is performing rather than the music or performance they are creating. That is an astute observation.Not to notice the music and the interpretation voice production. Well, it is a bit like simply looking at a horse whilst it is jumping in a competition rather than the overall conditions, its rider's best time to date, the difficulty of the course and the other competitors.
Also the idea of 'coolness' is an interesting one. If a general consensus of opinion in any field is taken from a standpoint of not knowing enough about a matter/subject or based on feelings of adversity to a projected idea of elitism I don't think that it really has a strong grounding.
I don't know of any revolution 20, 30, or 40 years ago. One needs to go into Europe to the Berlin Philharmonic concerts the Vienna Philharmonic concerts etc or any of the great orchestras in USA and of course the Festivals taking place everywhere to see if anything is flagging. I really don't think so.Maybe in England where youths are a bit disenchanted about many things but as I have said no revolution that I could speak of.
I've just realised that the last comment I received about 'coolness'etc really belongs in response to my third blog about the marginalisation of classical music. My opinion remains the same however.
The idea of 'stuckism' or to use the adjective 'stuckist', is interesting. I suppose the whole of life contains elements from the past and the transformation of those elements to something new, fresh and so on. These elements can be philosophical thought, scientific thought modification of certain inventions , developments of musical styles, fashion styles etc etc. cities re-thinking themselves. Modes of transport.
No we are not stuck however the 'newist' philosophy or the newest science can only work using what exists already.Even if the discovery is new (it has always been there to be discovered) reminds me of the Beatle song.Therefore the idea that acknowledging the beauty of music of the past should not really be a problem.For we are surrounded in the world by evidence of the glories and otherwise of the past. We rever the triumphs,architecture, painting discovery of the world, creation of maps, writing, mathematics etc etc why not music. How can acknowledging the beauty of music be a problem.Surely it can't be. No, roll on museums and art galleries and anywhere where the work of the past is revered in the midst of the hurly-burly of the pressing forward present day life.

I am officially apologising for not writing my responses to followers in the comment box. I hope that you all do not think that I have not responded because I most certainly have and most importantly I welcome all of your thoughts that have been expressed.Any future responses will be written in the comment box as mentioned. You will have to read through the blog to see that I have written my responses there up to now.

Hey did you hear the Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4.Norman LeBrecht the respected journalist critic made many salient points to the panel about what is in fact the limitation of music experience that much popular music engenders.Naturally there are some people of genius in the world of popular music BUT he correctly stated that an audience would never know in truth and honesty the ability of the performer competing.Intonation (playing in tune/singing in tune)is the major concern and preoccupation of every artist.The contestant's sounds are, according to LeBrecht (but I have heard it said elsewhere) corrected/realigned to be in tune, digitally. Therefore they are in fact, a con or deception. I quote Le Brecht'The people that take part are made to sound 'bigger and better' than they really are'.He was rightfully concerned that due to musical illiteracy the difference between say a plumber and Luciano Pavarotti can't be discerned by 'an average audience ' because they are musically illiterate.This dreadful combination ripe for 'rip offs' of the audience knowing little and the product being judged having been nobbled and distauted beyond its real ability is worrying to say the least.
It is SO strange as I have said in my blogs that 'Good old Music' is seen to be ripe for this kind of caper. Not sculpture or well we've had dancing, haven't we. Not really watched it, but people can discern someone not moving smoothly, not looking right not being comfortable dancing in fact. The digital expertise must be there to superimpose some excellent dancers feet or legs on the pathetic contestants body.
Music has the most extraordinary ambiant delussional nuances surrounding it in some amateur quarters,I have observed as a professional musician.For example, some people have been told that they are not sensitive and therefore they are going to jolly well show the world that they are!!!Instruments and the power of certain strings instruments are discussed in the same manner as weapons or powerful motorcars.The true extent of musical capability is to such people beyond the dizzy heights of Everest. We remain in the land of ABC and come on every one it's fine!! (joke) In another example,allowing every one have a go no matter whether they can or not for the cynical purpose of MONEY is frankly strange. Art has existed in western culture for centuries, it is being encroached upon and by little steps taken from its sacred place and manipulated.It is not the outcome I am judging it is the intention that is skewed wrongly.

OK legitimate artists make money of course but they create from a true place of well grounded pedagogy. They think about their creations they are not limited to imitation like many contestants in reality music shows. Another wondrful comment made by LeBrecht to the panel of Moral Maze was in response to the statement that many people watch and enjoy the X factor and Has Britain Got Talent type of programmes. LeBrecht responded to the subject of numbers not being an indicator of quality.For he said in so many words that Macdonald's has more patrons world wide than any other restaurant that does not make Macdonalds the best possible place to eat. I thought to myself very well said,BoBoom!

Cello Tutorials

contact me through http://www.claredeniz.com/

LESSON 1: Acquiring an instrument is probably the first imagined daunting task.
I say this as it is really very easy. However, don't be in a hurry!!!Fortuneatly there are many shops that offer a hire service for quarter, half and three quarter and even seven -eighths size instruments for children and full sizes for adults.In London there is Kensington Music shop and Dulwich music shop, these are very reasonable.Guivier also hire out, they do have however a heftier deposit these days,more than the other two shops. I think that Foote in London also have a hire service. I shall need to check on this.

Please note sadly:DULWICH MUSIC SHOP IS NOW CLOSED due to the proprieters retirement.
It only remains for us to thank the proprieter for years of excellent service for performers/ teachers and pupils alike.Please do not hesitate to ask any questions about acquiring instruments.You can contact me in my contact space on my website http://www.claredeniz.com/

Do check out http://www.celloeverything.com/
They are based in Philadelphia USA but easily reached.This is about adjustable cello chairs and other useful artifacts. Let me know what you think.!!
PLEASE NOTE:The appropriate size of a cello is dictated by the size of the span of the left hand and NOT the actual size of the 'body ' of the cello.
For an Adult Beginner to buy outright I was extremely surprised at the resourcefulness of one of my adult pupils who went on line to Gear 4music and found a 'shiny' new cello plus bow plus two cases one soft and well padded and one hard case for well under £5oo.I am speculating the price increase now as he originally paid nearer £350-£400.The instrument did have HORRID Strings on it and an awful bridge however he took it to Dulwich Music Shop(London) who transformed it into an instrument that produced a nice tone and was satisfying for him to play.
For a more up market starting instrument I should recommend the Paesold instruments that have gained in value a great deal over the last years and there is quite a nice range of them now.These are selling at around £1,600.Even Stentor have a number of ranges which children like.The prices start very low. There are several different grades of manufactury of their instruments.Some are around £800 for what seem nice sounding quite presentable instrument for the serious pupil beyond beginner. They appear to be made with care with nice appearance and good tone.I am adding that I do not know whether they 'play out' ie lose their quality after a while (so many years)but I can say pupils that have appeared with these instruments have been able to produce a good sound for Grades 6,7 and 8. Must dash ,more information to follow soon.

Cheers for now. Good hunting.

Do not hesitate to ask me any questions about your choices.

I understand from Dulwich music shop who specialise in beginner instruments that Chinese instruments have improved beyond recognition in fact they are made to look 'old' antique which is a desirable appearance for some people. It is also possible to buy tuning pitch pipes for the nervous adult beginner. Other essentials are peg paste (in case the pegs get stuck) and it is always handy to have some chalk about the place in case the pegs are too firmly stuck.

May I add that I have not mentioned any of the higher quality instrument dealers at this stage of the proceedings. Some instruments and bows being great articles or artifacts of antiquity hold the most astonishing value in the auction houses and amongst collectors connoisseurs and dealers.Thereby within this strata of instrument /artifact there are often considerations of investment and in some cases collective ownership for the purpose of investment with instruments,due to their appreciation in value and rarity. Biddulph, Beare, Adam Whone, in London. For highly priced beautiful instruments. Woods as well.I know of another in Ely which I shall disclose in the next issue of my blog. Here it is ...Aitchison and Mnatzaganian.This last shop organises string workshops. ie You can try strings if you need to get the very best balance with the instrument. Naturally a sensitive good instrument can be transformed with the right balance of strings. Each sort of string has its own pressure and it is very worth while understanding how your instrument works best, naturally.For excellent bowmaking and bow restoration, Mathew Coltman of Chiswick.

Teacher Hunting.
First and foremost I must state that I am more than happy to discuss tuition possibilites with any one who is looking for a cello tutor.

I should also suggest that you look at the The I.S.M. The Incorporated Society of Musicians. They have a register of Professional teachers and it is a very good place to begin.
The Musicians Union likewise also have a register of professional teachers.
I can offer telephone numbers on my next blog.

Assuming that you now have an instrument.
The next concern is that you have the right sort of chair on which to sit.
I prefer wooden chairs and I have a beautiful one for my practice. No sloping seats or metal sides and definitely no arms on the chair.
You should ideally sit half way on the chair certainly not fully on the seat. No further than half way back on the seat.
Once seated with the cello resting on your LEFT Shoulder. Note that the top of the back of the instrument is resting against your chest.
Your knees should be holding the instruments lower ribs and NOT visible through the 'waist' of the instrument.
Try breast stroke (seated at the cello) then arms as weighing scales (one arm high whilst the other is low and then the other way round).
Now this may seem a bit 'new age' just sit for a few moments. Morning and evening.
Some people suggest watching the news on the television in this position.For a child I suggest they watch or listen to their favourite programme for a short while in this position.
RELAXATION CHECK : What are your shoulders doing?
Try this, whilst sitting with your cello as outlined above. Raise your shoulders to you ears five times, do this gently. You should discover that after the fifth drop of the shoulders they will be lower than they have ever been within your living memory.! They are in their natural comfortable position. Which is a very good place to start.
Bow: You do not need copious amounts of rosin on your bow at this stage of the proceedings, it is a common mistake people make. I suppose they feel they are 'equipped' when the bow and everything else within an area of five miles is covered with rosin dust.
Speaking of Rosin: I have known some players who are allergic to rosin I believe there are Hypo -Allergenic brands available, definitely in Germany and probably in the UK now.

Check up on this, I shall certainly look into this for you.AS PROMISED!!! See here I have discovered the Hypoallergenic rosins below.,

CLARITY Hypoallergenic Rosin (definitely available for violin check up on the cello variety.AVAILABLE FROM http://www.sdlmusic.com/
look up the make KOSTEIN Anti-Allergy Rosin the web address Ihave is not so good so check by the name of the product it is available in the UK so, go look!I'll also check up some more, as well.
Let me know in the comment box of anything that you might have discovered worth sharing with the 'cello fraternity'.

Bye the bye I shall discuss the 'cello fraternity' in my next blog.Where they hang out. Also I shall mention a few wonderful pieces for you to listen out for which contain passages of exquisite writing for the cello.
Bye for now
Here are a few places that amateur cellists hang out.

London Cello Society Amateur department: see their web site
Morley College: I believe there is a course on a Saturday mornings.
Benslow Hills Tring, Hertfordshire(one of the ARCA colleges that run adult day and weekend courses)
Dartington International Summer School in Totnes Devon UK.If you have a chance to visit,try to do so, as you will be bound to enjoy the atmosphere and the multivarious strata of abilities of music making from beginner to International concert artist. These are all there, pick the right week check on their web site. I believe day visits are also possible.and the food of course!!

STOP PRESS* *** Having just returned from two weeks as an  Chamber Music Associate I am both tired and extremely happy and can confirm that, yes,Dartington International Summer School IS VERY MUCH ALIVE AND WELL and is going a storm.  
It is a truly unique institution of the UK and is of great importance not only because of the work it is doing now but it has an archive and an historical cultural legacy dating from its inception which is quite extraordinary.It would be a tremendous exercise for some keen person to make a list of the names of  all who have had connections with DartingtonJust off of the top of my head as I write now.Maxwell Davis, Imogen Holst, Tortelier, du Pre, Karine Georgian,Ricci etc etc this is just the tip of the iceberg there are hundreds of wondrous people who have been and learnt and contributed etc etc.. 

To continue: Adult instrumental music making and lessons;ELLSO this is a wonder. The East London Late Starters Orchestra.
They, the organisers are so ingenious in that the orchestra has a cache of its own and people get so much out of it There is also a Summer school called COMA which is enjoyed by amateur players and would be an input of inspiration for you to keep going.
Mary Ward Centre this is in Queen Square London. There are group evening classes that take place here for beginners.
City Literary Institute in Holborn London classes here are during the day and in the evening I do believe
Oxford Cello School. this is for young people and is truly dynamic.

****Another orchestra for beginner/late starters in the Thames Valley area
(Uxbridge -Marlborough to include Reading, High Wycombe Maidenhead Newbury and other places in between meetings held at Theale info of phone numbers and contact name to follow later today......

Please please let me know if any of the information is 'out of date'or is no longer happening. This is turning into the Cellists 'Rough Guide' or Lonely Planet where people contribute and up date information please let me know
now if you know of further places out of London especially for adult or children.

Practising Tips:
1.Practise little and often
2.Change the place where you practise sometimes. If you have a nice view from your window work so you can see it
3.Early on with the cello try to recognise specific notes, naturally open strings to start (the strings played without fingers being placed on them) The open strings should be an Oasis for you ,then learn the 1st finger notes and then 4th finger notes and so on.

Tip for very helpful and NICE beginner Music next time.Do not hesitate to ask questions if you need to.
Bye for now

Try, Stepping Stones ,
Waggon Wheels,
Fast Forward
Easy Classics for Cello Book

I trust that you are enlisted in a group lesson in say Morley College. Individual lessons to continue soon.
Bow Work
The design of the bow (modern as opposed to the Baroque bow) is misleading. Most people imagine that the beautiful sweep of the dark wood beneath the stick at the Frog,(the part you hold) is designed for thumbs only to discover that the thumb does not fit there.
I have heard some very fine playing made with the thumb 'straight' the cushion part or pad of the thumb against the Frog. Well this is one of my pet bugbares and I don't like it at all. the thumb should be bent crooked if you like so that the tip is touching the frog.
Exercise.A Writing in the air.
Words such as Moo; Boo; Should. Dog etc. But this is the key part to this Only the fingers must move the bow. Do not move the arm up and down and out etc. Draw around articles that are in your practise room such as the door frame draw around the outline of a person in the room.
1)Keep the arms still.Only the fingers manipulate the bow.
2) Remember to breathe out . Very often when concentrating, people hold their breath.
Exercise B Silent landings.
Usually I mark the bow with small coloured dots you can purchase them in
WH Smith or any stationers. Divide the length of the wood stick into thirds. The middle third is the area we are to concentrate upon. The bow must land in the area halfway between the end of the finger board and the bridge. Imagine a white line or ribbon running across all the four strings and aim to land on it which ever string you are landing on. It is possible to make magnificent sound by not being exactly in this place but that is for when there is greater proficiency with the bow.
Lifting the bow in the air gently and silently land the bow on the string between the middle third dots marked on the bow. Remember to start with this middle third and then progress to all three thirds and try to move from with only one landing on each string, We are aiming at going from the top string A at the point of the bow for example to the middle section of the bow on the C string . The lowest string as quietly as possible. This technique requires control and concentration. I suggest that you slow the bow descent at the last minute to control the landing imagine a helicopter landing. The last part is very controlled just before touch down.
When this is proficient it will be only a short step to making a sumptious first sound on the cello and with this Silent Landing exercise it will be certainty.
Produce Bow Sound.
The bow movement from right to left should make the shape of a saucer.Proceed to make your silent landing on the first dot nearest the frog sink the bow into the string as if pushing gently into a cushion and draw the bow ONLY AS FAR AS THE SECOND DOT. You will have played in the middle section of the bow.
Lift the bow.
Land the bow on the upper dot nearest to the point of the bow.(Still only playing in the middle section of the bow). Proceed to make the saucer shape again by gently pushing into the string and push the bow along to the lower dot on the bow stick where you began.

This should take a little while to accomplish but it does work as long as the point at which you land on the string you do not press on the string too hard. It is a question of balance Not too much pressure and of course not too little.
The left hand :
The hand postion is very natural in 1st Position.
Place your hand over your knee cupping your knee in your palm That is the shape that your hand and palm will take when in 1st Position.
In this position we do not use the second finger on the lower two strings to begin. The finger pattern is One , Three, Four. However, be aware that the 2nd and 3rd fingers work by gently pressing the strings together. So in practise it is 1. 23 together then 4. The thumb rests on the neck of the cello and is crooked (similar to the thumb on the bow) It is positioned between the first and second fingers on the neck of the instrument.
Wood peckers next time
Resting the left hand in the position 1 34 on the cello.( It is good to get pitch pipes to check that your strings are in tune. in fact to be perfectly honest turning the pegs for tuning is one of the most nerve- racking experiences for people just starting out playing. YOu can be forgiven for asking your teacher at Morley or City Lit., for help.)
Once the fingers are resting in their places lift each one in turn whilst leaving the the remaing fingers on the finger board. !st finger wriggle in the air 2nd finger wriggle in the air 3rd finger wriggle in the air and 4th finger wriggle in the air.
NOW: whilst all of the fingers are at rest on the strings:
Tap the 1st finger three times and place it back in its place
then Tap the 2nd finger three times " " " " " " "
Tap the 3rd finger " " " " "
Tap the 4th finger " " " " "
For the BOW:
Trains and stations: Silent exercise
To gain an awareness of the direction of the bow.
Hold the wood of the bow near the point against the string. the D string is best (2nd string as you are sitting at the cello.The string next to the highest one which is on your far left.)
Hold the bow in the normal way with your right hand.TRAVEL the right hand along the wood to meet the other hand holding the bow.NO SOUND please.
Tip Do not pull the hand along toward the other hand and then pull the hand back into its original place. KEEP RIGHT HAND FINGERS PERPENDICULAR TO THE WOOD OF THE BOW.They should be vertical. It is good to do this exercise on all the strings and it is fun too.
Yes, you are practising.

Now, for some of those wonderful pieces of music that contain exquisite writing for the cello.
Well, of course listen to the Sonatas of Beethoven,Boccherini Shostakovich (and the concertos of course),and at this present time I am not thinking of the music especially written for the instrument (which I shall discuss later)

Schubert Unfinished Symphony
Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave)
Dvorak Serenade

Puccini Tosca (last act begins with a cello quartet!!)
Verdi Don Carlos wonderful writing for the cello

Tschaikowsky Swan Lake (famous cello solo follows the famous violin solo)
Sleeping Beauty

String Quartet Borodin

NB.This is just a little 'taster' of some music. I shall add to the list over time.

NB. THE CELLO CLUB the brilliant brain child of William Bruce its director has been incorporated into the London Cello Society,in which William Bruce plays such a major role.

Look up William Bruce on the internet. You will find notes written by me taken and written at his cello class on one of the London Cello Society Cello Days.

In these you will find great insight, intelligent wit and most of all excellent thought on all aspects of cello playing. He is very interested in the muscular neurological aspects of good performance. He is also acutely aware of building in good habits for the body for a sustainable performing life, be it as an amateur or a professional cellist.

N.B.See above starred information relating to DACAPO Orchestra for beginners and late starters in Thames Valley Area( Uxbridge-Marlborough) info for contacts to follow asap........Here is the contact number below

Contact PATSY MOORE: patsy@mooremusic.org.uk for DACAPO Orchestra.



DATE April 30th -May 3rd. 2010This course is now over.

Standard Grade 6 up.

Specifically for Adult amateur cellists. Run by Kim Mackrell

k.mackrell@virgin.net there is a resident shiatsu masseur and these sessions are inclusive.

Full inclusive price £285.00

Home cooked wonderful food. Glorious views. Own Rooms.

Programme Mozart Flute concerto:Villa Lobos Bachianas Brasilieras No5 1st Mvt

Venue: HEWENDEN MILL, Collingworth, W.Yorkshire BD 13 6 BP

more about Kim: http://www.chambercellos.co.uk/ Telephone: 0208 693 541

mobile: 07919 030749

STOP PRESS,PLEASE NOTE:Any questions that you may have related to the cello and strings and technique or your lessons.There are many approaches and you may need reassuring about your playing.Please do not hesitate to ask me.

Practise, I have said, should be little and often at the beginning.

WHAT IS PRACTISE? Here are a few examples of common mistakes and misunderstandings or assumptions.

Is it: 'Sit there until you get it right'?
Endless finger waggling repetition?

Playing over and over in desparation at performance speed.?

The answer as you would expect I hope is... NO! NADA! NIENTE!

***To achieve a goal as quoted in 'Blackadder' You need a plan!

Begin with points of focus.
Identify: Bow
Fingering (is it good or okay i.e.just a bit tricky)
phrasing and musicality.


Can you sing the music? Can you sing the awkward bit.?
Can you mime it?

We can learn from pianists

How about as a start : Left hand, right hand separately.

let your left hand have a rest.Rest this hand on your left knee.

What does the bow do in that passage. Try it on its own.SLOWLY.

Then: Plucking the passage with the right hand fingers.

*** Only when you are confident of these separate practises you can then put

them together, Voila!

N.B."I must apologise for not getting on with this course. I have been totally over whelmed with the amount of work I have needed to do both with 'admin' and practise. I have also been in Cornwall at the Du Maurier Festival performing amongst other places."

The course will be resumed.

I want to draw your attention to some very good events/courses.

Do look up the wonderful annual event that takes place at Hindhead for children and young people,ie. teenagers. This course is bound to have its own website and is the brain child of William Bruce.From any photos I have seen it looks amazing fun and most of all extremely good.

There is also the Oxford Cello School which takes place in Abingdon. This has been running for some while and again 'caters' for youngsters and teenagers.

There is a further course run by a friend of mine in a most adorable region of France.The course director is Lowrie Blake and I shall direct you to her blog site with this blog.I need to read it again to make sure I know to whom the course is directed.

Thames Valley Alert :There is another course starting up for adults grades 0-3 and for others beyond grade 3 again I shall re-read my e-mail and get you up to speed with that.




1) String playing course and with the same people
2) In OXFORD Weekly evening classes.

See: stringsmakemusic.com

A workshop is taking place on:


This bit is important for all beginner 'stranded whales' without anywhere to play.

Standard: All levels welcome, Yes, complete beginner novices to ensemble playing welcome. Yes, complete novices to playing welcome.

Now this venture has absolutely nothing to do with me. I do not get a commission for sending you there.But one thing is for sure you will have FUN, and meet likeminded KEEN beginners and you will be encouraged and be even more motivated to keep going and to 'p word'... practise.You will notice that playing will develop through these sorts of events. Do look these people up and see if it is to your liking. I am more than convinced that you will enrol once you have seen what is on offer and what it is all about. So now

Two courses in South West France one for adults the other for youngsters.

29th Oct -1st Nov 2010. Remember I mentioned Lowri Blake well this is her course.You can find all the details you need at:
lowri@lowrirecords tel 05 63 35 68 46.

I believe they are very successful and there are bookings already for next year. Importantly she states that it is a beautiful area with lots for non playing accompanying spouses to do.

Back to our online cello course:

If you remember, I suggested the following music:- Stepping Stones and then when they are all learnt you can follow up by Waggon Wheels.

They are very usesful as starting pieces for one thing they are progressive in the demands that they make from the student and they are designed to be progressive from one book to the next.
Further recommendation:The music is very attractive for want of a better word with unusually good harmonic structure in the piano accompaniament parts and as the little pieces have character, because in many cases the title of the piece of music gives a clue to the rhythmic pattern that is integral to the piece.

Left hand shapes are very important.By shapes I mean extended positions.

To build a good left hand you need to first have a very secure first position.This is where these beginning pieces Stepping Stones and Waggon Wheels are so good.They are reinforceing the correct left hand position, in a pleasant way.

First position: Remember 0134 is first position.

From this strong starting point one can move on to extending the first finger back for extensions back (for flat keys and half position) and from first position we can extend forward our little finger for sharp keys.
This is a very broad sweep, for in fact, the hand has more fluidity ultimately.In reality for forward extensions the whole hand has opened from the first finger forward so that the second finger is now where the third finger is normally placed.For people with small hands there are one or two tricks that enable you to get round the lack of stretch. However, your fingers should begin to stretch more, in time. Not immediately please note.Never force this process!!

The principle is that the hand should be opened so that even if the natural stretch of the player is small there is the possibility of negotiating the distance with fingers poised in an open position. Naturally, all stretches happen rapidly but it is good at the beginning to get used to the idea of negotiating stretches if you have a small hand. Many pianists learn to negotiate stretches on the keyboard
More information about the bow for next time:
Bowing Tips.
Do check the bow hold. I learnt after many years not to spread the fingers on the bow. In fact, I was imitating the person who was teaching me at the time whose hand was considerably larger than mine and I was attempting to cover the same amount of the 'frog' of the bow as he was .... curious isn't it? This replication of body language, posture etc.Well that was cleared up for me and I was able to find resoution with what was right for MY hand.

Bowing:Practise with different volumes of sound.Not always the healthy mezzo-forte,please. As you must be aware by now, playing different volumes (louds and softs)affect the body differently (the upper and lower back, and the upper and lower arms, and be careful of the position of the neck which should be in a natural place comfortable and not taut or taking the strain that strong back muscles are built to do. Don't clench the jaw or jut it in any way, and watch out for teeth clenching,or biting together, and lastly holding of breath .... and breathe out (joke!) No pursing of lips either (this is purely cosmetic)Tense lips I've never heard of it but believe me its probably a problem for someone, don't make it yours.
The muscular changes required to make vastly different volume of sound need to be practised too.
Another exercise: Try playing in the upper part of the bow(upper quarter) Even if
you start on simple notes or a a simple study and scale.This will help bow control.

Another exercise is a development of the silent landings that we began with:

After dividing the distances along the bow into four. You can use tape or little coloured dots for this. Land on the string at the start of the second quarter. Draw the bow along past the middle of the bow to the end of third quarter of the bow and lift .Remember to push into the string as is pushing into a cushion whilst drawing the the bow.Making a lovely contact sound.If you're nice to it, the string might purr as you do this. Lift the bow and replace it in the position of end of the third quarter (where you have just arrived and lifted the bow) and push the bow back to the starting place at the start of the second quarter of the bow.
Useful merchandise:
An excellent invention LED light that fits onto a music stand for all of you who play at dusk or need to play in semi light.Neat highly portable and very good light It is called 'Mighty Brights' some one brought it to a rehearsal. I highly recommend it.

Here I am again with further information about courses in the South of France run by Lowri Blake. I promised her that I would mention the course in my blog and I am about to do so. I understand that they are a great success and well attended and are comfortable the standard ranges from elementary to advanced.

There is an entry on Facebook titled: Cellos at Belle Serre

Hold on,the DATES ARE TO FOLLOW :Do also check out her' buzz buzz busy line' blog

(this is a tune my mother and I knew yonks ago originally sung buy Nellie Lutcher) I think that is how Lutcher is spelt. I suspect this is one of Lowri's cabaret songs when she performed as 'A girl, a cello and a double bass'

STOP PRESS: FAB website based in USA hold on, hold on.Guess the name of this website
My reasons for mentioning this is that they sell cello chairs and importantly adjustable cello chairs for children advertised at $49. The price obviously climbs for the air frieght to UK,however, it would certainly be a solution for parents worrying about suitable chairs for their cellist children.The adult chairs are much more expensive in the region of $139 and above. However look for yourselves and assess your needs and decide what you think is best.You may have a wonderful 'hall chair' as I have, or a dining chair that doesn't slope.Interestingly, the problem that was identified in the advert for portable chairs is that players can be 'obliged'to sit on chairs of different heights, taking this idea further should it occur within the space of one week for instance, this could be the start and ultimate cause of physical problems for the back limbs and neck. It is best to have a proper chair. I shall add this information earlier in this blog. It does not appear in my websites cello tips however.
Stop Press:
Any one living in the Marlow, Bucks area. A new music shop that also hires instruments called Westmount Music and can be found at
www. westmount-music.co.uk telephone number: 01628 481510
The proprieter is a very nice man Mr Paul Coombes and I should very much like some feed back if you have dealings with the shop. They offer lessons there but as yet not cello tuition. Things will improve.

I have done Alexander Technique in the past and also worked with the late great Jean Gibson in Holland Park London as have many musicians and actors. Jean's class was really her own personal development of the Alexander Technique. She was excellent in helping people use their bodies to the best advantage for performance, and it was she that informed me that through her work with individuals that had parts of their arms missing through the Thalidomide tragedy and through other circumstances that she really began to think about what each section of our arms true purpose was.
The conclusion was as follows, and I shall explain in my own words:
The bow arm is really the upper arm( shoulder to elbow)which commences its wonderful flowing journey with the elbow being close to the cello for the Down Bow and moves away from the cello as the bow travels towards the point, but taking care to follow the angle of the bridge.What ever the upper arm does the forearm and hand follow on after it.Imagine you are playing with water. Either with the bath water or perhaps letting your arm drift over the side of a gently moving boat on a river, moving your forearm backwards and forward in that lovely free way that is possible in water.The arm flowing from right to left feeling the gentle resistance of the water.
It is the upper arm that initiates the movement for the rest to follow Naturally this is easier to demonstrate but I think that I have made a good attempt at describing the movement. Be patient and it should gently come right.
More tips to follow. Watch this space.
Another tip for practising. Do alter your mind set when you are 'working'. Even that word can be a hang-up for some people. So sometimes you are 'working', that is you are regulating your hours at the instrument and keeping a record or tally of the time spent. A bit like calorie counting or press-up counting or jogging pacing . This is great  for encouragement. You can see what you have done and you can feel good about it. 

Then I also suggest that you do not 'set to work' but think of it as spending time with your cello and enjoy playing the instrument. The enjoying/playing is of course another way of thinking about practise. But the emphasis is about playing and freeing your bow, your sound and generally approaching the time spent as totally free and enjoyable, but of course it is still practise because you are playing exercises or music or technical passages but the difference being that you are in a different frame of mind, which should be a productive aid.
   So often busy people sit down with a beat the clock mentality to their practise. This automatically creates a pressure and  I believe under pressure of time it is EVEN MORE  important to play the instrument as if time is not in the least bit imperative and that you are in a pleasure zone anyhow.This is beginning to sound just a little bit 'new age' so I'll stop there, but just the same it is certainly worth thinking about and experimenting with  for a  period of time to see what change and  effect it has upon your playing.
I should be greatly interested in any feed back from any of these tips. Cheers for now.     

The marginalisation of Classical Music

Classical music has been pushed into a niche taste through populist tastes being given priority over those tastes honed through education, discernment and artistic judgment.
As stated in my first blog post, appreciation of Art/music comes through education or guidance, if you like, and even better still nurture, which is much more subtle,also environment. However many people love artistic matters without being grilled nurtured or steeped in such matters. They are rare and wonderful creatures, non practitioners who have a 'connection' with creativity which they have nurtured and explored and developed themselves.