Category Archives: weddings

Graduate musings

I’ve decided to change the name of this blog as you will see, as I have now graduated from the RSAMD (which has now changed its name and rebranded itself as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland or RCS – rather pretentious, don’t you think?) So, since I am now technically a freelance musician ‘living the freelance dream’ (as I heard one player ironically term it) I thought it would be good for me to continue blogging about my experiences.

Lots has been happening since I last posted on this blog; however, most of it has been personal rather than musical. On the 26th August, I got married to my wonderful husband Alex down in Warwickshire, and we had an amazing day with friends and family, followed by an equally fantastic honeymoon in the stunning surroundings of Iceland. At the wedding, my old string quartet, the Rusalka Quartet, played for the service and during the reception, and I got to join them in my wedding dress which was so much fun! (I doubt I’ll ever play the viola in a nicer dress!) Here’s a photo:

Since the wedding I’ve been living in Crail with my husband (eee, I can say that!) and trying to find work, not only as a musician but also through a temp agency and sending CVs to various companies (I also have a degree in social anthropology). I’ve also put up a few adverts for private violin and viola tuition, as it would be good to have a few pupils locally. (If you know anyone who is looking for lessons and lives within reach of Fife, Scotland, then please please point them in my direction – see the About me page for contact details). As a result of flinging CVs at all the Scottish orchestras when I graduated, I have an extras audition with the RSNO on 31st Oct, which should at least get me noticed if nothing else (extras are called when players are off sick or the section needs beefing up, but they always have more people on the list than the need, and new people usually land at the bottom).

I have also arranged to play at a lunchtime concert in the Younger Hall in St Andrews with my friend and excellent pianist Audrey Innes on Feb 1st 2012. We’re going to play Rebecca Clarke’s fiery Sonata for viola and piano, which you can see and hear on youtube being playing in the same venue by violist Michael Kugel here.

Apart from a Heisenberg concert in the Younger Hall on Sunday Oct 30th, that’s my lot at the moment. Anybody out there with a band that needs string players, or a quartet missing a viola player, then please get in touch!

Preparing Scottish tunes for my cousin William’s wedding

My cousin William recently asked me to play at his wedding in the Lake District this Saturday (9th april). I’ve been spending quite a lot of time preparing what to play, and I thought I’d take you through the process I’ve been through so that I can make it a bit easier the next time I have to do something like this!

Step 1: Decide on which broad category of music to play (eg classical/folk/popular)

I chose Scottish tunes as William met his fiance at Edinburgh university, and they are having a ceilidh at the reception, plus scottish fiddle tunes work well on the viola

Step 2: Choose specifics of music (eg which piece/tunes)

This took me a wee while, I must say…

Eventually I settled on traditional scottish airs, reels and strathspeys from a book I own called ‘Scottish Folk Tunes’ edited by Kevin McCrae and Neil Johnstone. However, all the tunes are written in Bass clef- an added complication when figuring out keys and how they fit together with other tunes on the viola, which uses alto clef! Good thing I play the cello too sometimes so can just about transpose/forget about the fact that I’m reading bass clef on the viola, which messes with my head slightly!

Step 3: Edit tunes to my own requirements: fingerings, bowings, slurs, dots and ornaments.

Like all traditional music, fiddle tunes are subject to constant interpretation by players and so one printed version may not be exactly the same as another printed version. This is mainly due to folk music being passed down from family to family via oral tradition – fiddlers and pipers simply learnt pieces by ear from their parents or contemporaries, and usually no one bothered to write them down, or in some cases couldn’t write them down as they were unable to read music or write notes on a stave.

In my case, the book I mentioned above is pretty good and is very well laid out and interpreted, so there wasn’t too much re-editing to do, just some ‘hooked’ bowings to work out and fingerings to write in.

Step 4: Figure out an order to play the tunes in which makes sense to me and the listener

I’ve changed my mind several times over this! It all depends on the speed of the tune (eg a slow air is obviously pretty relaxed in tempo, and a reel or strathspey is faster) and the keys and whether the modulation sounds ‘right’ to the listener’s ear. I’m not that practiced at this yet so I hope my ‘set’ is going to make musical sense on saturday 🙂

Here is the ‘finished version’ of my set:

1. Farewell to Whisky by Niel Gow (for those of you who know William, this is particularly appropriate 😀 )

2. Laird of Drumblair by J Scott Skinner

3. De’il Amang the Tailors – not sure, I think this is traditional

4. Auld Lang Syne – traditional tune used at Hogmanay

Encore if necessary – Spey in Spate by Scott Skinner