Category Archives: Chamber music

My Portfolio Life: new academic year!

Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake!!Advice for stressed students from Bibi’s Bakery, South Street

It’s the second week of the new academic semester here in North East Fife, and the leaves are beginning to turn – it must be autumn already!  Apologies for the lack of news on here – it has been a somewhat eventful summer, and I haven’t had much time to write this blog due to illness getting in the way…  But I’m hoping  I can now get back to posting here fairly regularly, as this autumn seems to be gearing itself up to be a busy  semester with concerts and events, as you’ll see below!

I’ve also ordered myself some lovely new compliment slips, postcards and business cards which I’m quite excited about using! I’m trying to get myself organised and do stuff like that – part of being self employed, I guess.

Anyway, here’s a summary of the projects I’m involved with, and the concerts I have planned for the next few months!

New projects

St Andrews Smiles Better – my facebook page and a work in progress. Eventually I hope to be able to turn this into an official organisation/charity to help provide music and the arts in social care settings such as hospitals, care homes, schools and day centres. I’m still learning how to use a facebook ‘page’ so anybody with any experience, I’d love to speak to you!

Leuchars Military Wives Choir – I am now the “assistant musical director”jn of RAF Leuchars Military Wives Choir, a fancy way of saying I go to their rehearsals, play the piano for them and assist with music/warm ups/general musical stuff. This is very exciting for me, as I have written before about the impression that Gareth Malone’s Military Wives TV series had on me and the importance of community music. I feel very proud to be able to contribute something towards the running of such a group and very lucky to work with the amazing wives of RAF employees.

Projects I’m continuing with:

St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra – I’m continuing my role as in previous years, taking sectionals, answering questions

Teaching – I’m now teaching in the St Andrews area only (not in South Fife or the East Neuk) and I’m continuing to enjoy sharing my experience of playing  and talking about all things string related  🙂 Cello subway

Image: Don’t forget your instrument when you travel!

Concerts

Sunday 28th Sept, 7pm in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews – Heisenberg Ensemble with Dame Emma Kirkby – Mozart, Bach, Palestrina, Gibbons (Tickets are £10, available through the church,  or by calling 01334 478317 or emailing holytrinity(at)gmail.com replacing (at) with @)
Friday 25th October, Greyfriar’s Kirk, Edinburgh – St Patrick’s Ensemble play new music and Strauss, playing the “Sherlock Quartet” of instruments (more info to follow soon)
Tuesday 12th November, 1.10pm, Reid Hall, Edinburgh – lunchtime recital with Audrey Innes and Jean Murray – Hindemith Viola Sonata Op 11 no 4 and Hindemith Flute Sonata
Weds 20th Nov, 1.10pm, Younger Hall, St Andrews – Lunchtime recital with St Andrews String Trio – Schubert and Beethoven serenade
Weds 27th Nov, 1.10pm, Younger Hall, St Andrews – Lunchtime recital with Paul Livingston (Violin and Viola duo) – Programme TBC but probably including Mozart/Halvorsen

Further in the future, Audrey and I are planning another lunchtime concert in early 2014 – more details to follow as they are decided…!

With a little help from my friends… An open invitation!

An Open Invitation: ‘With a little help from my friends’

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Thursday 29th August

St Andrews Church, Queen’s Terrace, St Andrews

1.30pm

PROGRAMME:

Cello suites/Scottish Music/Surprise!!

Who, me?

Who, me?

You will need:

FRIENDS…….
FAMILY……..
CAKE……
MONEY…..

Tea/wine/champagne…….

Your ears!

The plan:

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The charities:

Heisenberg (Jill Craig)

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Families First (St Andrews)

Sistema Scotland/In Harmony

Arts in Fife/Dundee

Drake Music Scotland

Music in Hospitals

Military Wives Choir (Gareth Malone)

Scottish Ensemble {insert group here}

Rokpa/Tibetan Children’s Villages/ICT

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Brooklands College

Signpost International (Dundee)

Just Made/Gillian Gamble

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Pragya (India)

RSPCA/RSPB/Big cat rescue

SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!! Answers on a post card to: Jess Long!

Chamber music and sensitivity

The week before last I attended a new chamber music course in St Andrews called ‘Strings in Spring’, which was coached by the fantastic Fitzwilliam Quartet (composed of Lucy Russell, Marcus Barcham-Stevens, Alan George and Heather Tuach). It was a chance for local string players to receive expert coaching from these eminent musicians, and to hear some top class playing when it came to their own concert. My trio (a string trio, which is a quartet minus the second violin) went along and we got some great advice on playing Mozart and Beethoven, as well as the unforgettable opportunity to play the first movement of Schubert’s ‘Rosamunde’ quartet with Lucy Russell playing second violin!

We also had the chance to play in a string ensemble for some of the sessions, and covered everything from Purcell’s Fairy Queen to Elgar’s Serenade and Mendelssohn’s Octet, which was really good fun, as members of the quartet are also specialists in Baroque playing and could advise us on how to get the most authentic sounds out of our instruments, and the benefits of playing with gut strings and baroque bows.

It was when I went to hear the quartet play in their own concert, entitled ‘Latest and Last’ as they played the last quartets composed by Mozart and Haydn as well as some recently written works, that I was struck by an aspect of playing music that I had never considered before. Musicians, especially those playing chamber music, have to be minutely aware of the subtleties of the other players’ playing, so that if one player suddenly decides to take time or change the dynamic in one phrase, the others must notice this and immediately adapt to it. This sensitivity to the tiniest changes in pitch, timing, dynamics and many other factors is helped along in a quartet by the fact that its members (hopefully) know each other very well and can anticipate what each other will do. Of course rehearsal is also essential to get to know the music and where the difficult patches are, but in performances, spontaneous things can happen and mistakes can creep in into the most well rehearsed passage, and the adaptability of chamber musicians in these situations is key to the success (or failure) of the performance. I remember when I was playing in a quartet in a concert (I think it was a fairly light hearted piece Schubert), and the cellist decided mischieviously to pause for longer than we had rehearsed before playing his pizz, thus momentarily throwing me and the rest of the quartet – but since we knew the piece well, we quickly adapted. This responsiveness, coupled with musicians’ heightened awareness of moods and emotions portrayed in music, means that as chamber musicians we can read music that we don’t know and pick up some of the nuances of it straight away.

The intimacy of chamber music is a large part of the reason I like it so much – you can hear yourself and your own sound very clearly (as opposed to in an orchestra where others are playing your part and it is more difficult to hear yourself), and you can bring your own interpretations to the music, as there are a much smaller number of players in the group and you are not being directed from the podium. Chamber music allows musicians to express their personalities through the music, and to interpret the composers’ intentions directly, without the medium of the conductor. A large part of chamber music is the close relationship of the players to each other, and the fact that you use eye contact and visual cues much more to be aware of what the other players are doing – without this, it is very unlikely that a string quartet or chamber group would ever be fully together. (This is the same in orchestras and choirs, only it is the responsibility of the conductor to make sure everyone is together). You will often see quartet players looking up from their music and looking at each other for large parts of the music – they know the piece so well that they can play from memory and use the music as an aide, concentrating instead on the ensemble. This strategy is great, until you are sight reading a piece or don’t know it very well – I’ve lost count of the number of times I have looked up and then completely lost my place in the music!

I leave you with a funny quotation from an unknown musician on the nature of quartet playing:

‘A quartet is four people who used to be friends….’

 

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Best Music Blogs.