Category Archives: News

Website and blog merge

I’ve decided to merge my website with my blog page, so everything should (in theory!) be under the same web address to avoid confusion and me having to update everything separately (plus wordpress is a lot easier to use than the free website builder I used for my personal site).

In practice, this means that you, my dear readers, will now be able to access both my blog and all my concerts/events/news etc by going to either http://www.jessicawyatt.com, or by using the same web address as before, https://jesswyatt.wordpress.com. Simples.

Please, feel free to look around, leave comments/feedback, or just stop by and say hello. It means a lot to me!

Thanks for reading,

Jess

Gillian Gamble Headshot

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May news and summer concerts

Now that the university semester has finished at St Andrews and the usual hiatus of concerts is over (I had end of term concerts of 3 different groups in the space of a week – Heisenberg/St Andrews Chorus, StAFCO and the Baroque Orchestra), it’s time to think about what I’m going to do over the summer months. The summer is traditionally a fairly quiet time for orchestras and groups as their seasons usually finishes around now, but many, like the SCO, do tours at home and abroad, and there are a multitude of summer festivals that take place (not least the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe Festival), so musicians are far from being on holiday over the summer!

I’ve got a couple of orchestra concerts in the diary so far: Edinburgh Bach choir on 8th June, the Crail Festival Orchestra on 21st July, but the main recital I will be preparing for will be as part of a summer series in St Andrew’s Church, St Andrews (on Queen’s Gardens). The date is still to be confirmed but I think it will be sometime in August, and I think I will probably play some unaccompanied Bach – again tbc!

Recently I had the exciting experience of playing with SCO in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh with the band Pink Martini, which was fantastic fun. The band, founded in 1994 by pianist Thomas Lauderdale, was made up of singer China Forbes, several percussionists/drummers, trumpet, trombone, a fantastic violinist, string/electric bass and guitar (they describe themselves as a ‘little orchestra’), backed by the full symphonic might of an expanded SCO. The audience loved their eclectic mix of South American rhythms, jazz and Hollywood glamour – I’ve never seen a concert end with a conga line before! Some of the solos from the band were truly awe-inspiring, leaving us classically trained musicians wondering how on earth they manage to come up with a new solo every night! You can check them out and listen to some of their songs here.

As for our summer holidays, we’re off to Thailand at the start of July for 2 weeks – I’m so excited, as I love Eastern cultures and Buddhism, so I can’t wait!! We’re planning to do a cooking course, ride elephants and see lots of temples as well as absorb as much Thai culture as we can 🙂

Concert of Seven Last Words by Haydn, 7.30pm on Sunday 17th March in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews

On  Sunday 17th March at 7.30pm in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews, St Patrick’s Ensemble will perform The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross by Joseph Haydn. The work is a moving reflection on the ‘Seven Last Words’ and will be performed in Haydn’s own arrangement for string quartet. The movements will be interspersed with readings of the ‘Words’ and spoken reflections.

st andrews poster
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quartet will consist of Paul Livingston and Daniel Rainey, violins, Jessica Wyatt, viola, and Robert Anderson, cello – all outstanding young players who have studied in Scotland as well and internationally. Based in Glasgow, the St Patrick’s Ensemble has performed throughout Scotland, including performances of the Vivaldi Four Seasons at the Usher Hall, and an evening of chamber music by James MacMillan at Glasgow University, introduced by the composer.

This promises to be a reflective and moving concert in a beautiful and atmospheric church, ideal for the Easter season. Tickets are priced at £10 (£8 concessions) and will be available at the door. Please encourage friends and relatives to attend!

Lunchtime concerts in St Andrews on 27th Feb and Dundee on 8th March

Lately I’ve been working really hard preparing for a couple of lunchtime recitals that are coming up soon. As before, I’m playing with Audrey Innes, a pianist who teaches at St Andrews Music Centre and with whom I have played for a number of years – I hesitate to call her my duo partner, as she regularly plays with many others and is in high demand.

Anyway, this time we’re playing a programme of Schumann’s beautifully lyrical Adagio and Allegro (originally written for horn), paired with the fiery and powerful viola sonata Op 11 No 4 by Hindemith (himself a viola player). These are both highly romantic works, with the Schumann written in 1849 and the Hindemith in 1919 but displaying many backward looking features as well as forward looking ones such as whole tone scales.

This is the first time that I am doing more than one recital of the same programme – I don’t want to call it a series, as it is only 2 concerts, but still! It is also the first time that I will have one of my concerts recorded professionally – the father of one of my pupils is a recording engineer, and he has kindly offered to bring some of his students over to record the St Andrews concert, which is very exciting but a little nerve wracking!

Here are the details of the 2 concerts:

St Andrews

Weds 27th Feb at 1.10pm (not 1.15pm as it used to be) in the Younger Hall, North St, St Andrews- details here although the start time is wrong

Dundee

Friday 8th March at 1.20pm in Dundee University Chaplaincy – details here

Hope to see you at one of them!

Kittens, jobs and what I’ve learnt from teaching so far…

Hello, and sorry this blog has been so sadly neglected for so long. But it’s a new year, and with it I have resolved to do more creative things such as writing and playing, so I hope I can keep this up!

A few important things have happened since I last blogged… Firstly, I finally managed to persuade Alex into us getting a kitten (from cats protection in Dundee), and we’ve had him since the end of September. His name is Monty, and he’s an incredibly sweet and handsome tabby who manages to get into all kinds of scrapes and has bags of character. We call him alternately ‘the tabby terror’, ‘monty the monster’ and ‘the cutest thing my eyes have ever seen’! He loves climbing things, especially doors, the christmas tree and bookshelves, knocking things off and drinking water from my glass… Daft as a brush.

Who, me?

See what I mean? This one was taken when he was quite young (we got him at 10 weeks), and the one below is quite recent – he’s now a ‘mature’ (ha!) kitten of 5 and a half months.

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Secondly, I’ve managed to land a part time job in St Andrews, which is great. It’s not music related, as it’s a research assistant position in the medical school, but it will be using some of the skills I learnt in my anthropology degree which will be good, and it is only half time so I’ll still have time for music things and teaching. It is looking into doctor and nurses’ attitudes to obesity and how obesity is managed in primary care, so it should be pretty interesting and is of course highly relevant to what is happening in society at the moment.

Anyway, amid all that and Christmas and New Year, I have been doing a fair bit of teaching. I entered two girls for grade exams (grade 1 and grade 2 violin)  in Dec and they both got pretty high distinctions of 134 and 135 (130 out of 150 is a distinction) – I was so proud of them and what they achieved! It was lovely and really gave me a boost, when I had been feeling quite unconfident. Looking back on last year, I’d like to share what I have learnt from my teaching, both positive and negative:

  • Children often behave better when their parents aren’t in the room. I”ve had tears and tantrums, but mostly only when the parent is present. I think it is easier for them to concentrate when their parents aren’t there as they are forced to think about what I’m saying.
  • Beginners are much harder to teach than someone who has already learnt the basics. There is a fairly limited range of things to say to someone who is taking their first steps on a string instrument, and it is a pretty difficult thing for a young child to learn as it involves so much co-ordination and concentration. When someone has progressed beyond holding the instrument and bow correctly and making a decent sound, then it is much easier to start talking about musical things and subtler points of technique.
  • For a child, 40-45 minutes is the optimal length of a lesson (shorter for a younger child of about 8). Shorter than this, it is difficult to get anything done by the time they have fetched and got out their instrument and music etc (especially when I teach at the child’s house – they are often still eating or watching TV when I arrive), I have tuned their violin and we’ve caught up a bit. Longer than this and they start to lose concentration and start getting tired. In 40 minutes you feel as if you can really get into something without overwhelming the child with all you’ve said.
  • If you have planned, say, an hour’s lesson, don’t think that it will actually *take* an hour, unless you cut the lesson short (see above). Parents will often want (sometimes a quite detailed) account of the lesson, what the child needs to practice and how they are doing – and even if the lesson itself is only an hour, by the time you have chatted to the parents on the way in and debriefed them on the way out, it is often an hour and 10 minutes at least (especially if you are visiting someone’s house). If a pupil is late or if I am late I will always give them the full time, even if this makes me late for the next person.
  • Issues that beginners often have or things they find hard include:
  • the bow hold, especially bending the thumb on the bow – this seems to be a common problem, and is particularly hard for double-jointed kids. There are aids you can buy to help solve this, but I haven’t tried them yet.
  • Tuning is always an issue – at the moment, I am divided between not using markers on the fingerboard as it helps them memorise the hand shapes, and using them so that they always play in tune… I think it varies child by child as to how quickly they pick up what ‘in tune’ is and how good their ear is.
  • Having the left thumb vertically too far up the neck of the violin and the palm hugging the neck, and therefore making it difficult to stretch for 4th fingers and shift. My first teacher called this ‘squashing the hamster’ – imagine there is a hamster on the palm of your left hand, and squashing your palm against the neck of the violin will squish the hamster!
  • If you teach at home, make sure your environment is conduicive to teaching. Make sure there is enough space, so the child doesn’t bang their instrument on something, and make sure the area is free of potentially distracting objects that the child will want to talk about (it is difficult having Monty, as he is distracting when in the same room, but shutting him in another room results in pathetic mewing and various bangs and crashes which are mildly off putting to say the least!)

I’d love to hear stories from other teachers of successes or what they find difficult. I’ve been looking for courses on string teaching, but not found anything suitable, so if anyone has any ideas then please please let me know!

Lastly, if you made it this far, here’s a fascinating article about a conductor who took his orchestra to North Korea.

Lunchtime Concert with Paul Livingston, Dundee University Chaplaincy, 28th Sept 1.20pm

At 1.20pm on Friday 28th September at Dundee University Chaplaincy, I will be performing a duo recital with a superb violinist and friend of mine, Paul Livingston. Paul freelances with Scottish Opera and is part of a duo with guitarist Ian Watt; you can see his full biography here.

We’ll be playing Mozart’s beautiful Duo in G major (K.423) and the amazing (and slightly infamous) Handel/Halvorsen Passacaglia in G minor, and a few pieces tbc. There’s a great performance of the Passacaglia by Perlman and Zuckerman here, and you can hear David and Igor Oistrakh play the Mozart here.

In other news, I will be returning to the St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra tomorrow to continue helping out with the string section, and I am planning 2 lunchtime concerts in February and March 2013 with Audrey Innes, playing the Hindemith viola sonata op 11 No 4. I’m also entering 2 pupils for ABRSM grade exams this term; in June, my pupil who took grade 1 achieved a merit, so I was very pleased with that. Finally, we will soon be getting a kitten – I can’t wait!

Link

I haven’t posted about what I’m doing in a while, so here’s a run down of what’s been happening lately.

  • I am continuing to attend and help at St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra (known as ‘StAFCO’) which is run jointly by St Andrews Music Centre and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Gillian Craig. It is an amazing collaboration, as the sectionals get taken by members of the SCO, and the sub-principal cellist Su-a Lee is performing the Elgar Cello Concerto in the concert on 31st May which should be brilliant. We are rehearsing with her tonight which I’m looking forward to! Next week I will be taking a string sectional rehearsal, which should be good.
  • Excitingly, I now have some violin pupils! It’s great to get stuck in to some teaching, and it’s good for me to play my violin again (even if it feels a bit like a toy it is so small, no offence violinists!) I’m hoping to get some viola pupils too but I’ll have to wait and see what happens…
  • Last weekend I helped out at the SCO Connect’s Scrapers and Tooters project in Galashiels (Scottish Borders). The weekend was a lot of fun and we played Gluck, Beethoven and Dvorak under the watchful eye of Michael Bawtree and with help from members of the SCO who took sectional rehearsals, including Eric de Wit (cello) and Lorna McLaren (1st violin)
  • I am in the process of writing to schools in the Fife and Tayside area to see whether I can do any more teaching within the school environment. Watch this space…
  • The next 2 weeks will be pretty busy with concerts. On Sunday 22nd April I’ll be playing Elijah with the Heisenberg Ensemble and Stirling City Choir in Stirling, and then the following weekend the St Andrews Chorus have their spring concert of Puccini and Verdi on Sat 28th in the Younger Hall, and then on the Sunday it is my Chamber Concert with Tom Duncan and a few others, featuring Bach’s E flat Cello Suite amongst other works.
  • I’m hoping to collaborate with my friend Gillian Gamble on a project for her new social enterprise ‘Just Made’ which focusses on getting young people into the creative arts through education and training. We are still in very early planning stages of this but it’s quite exciting!