Three performances this week - so far. So how did they go?
I have had a very intensive three weeks working up the sets but I have learnt a lot from the experience - as always. There is a lot of pressure to get through the music and to ensure we get the dynamics right. It takes lot of practice and preparation but its so enjoyable and worth it. There is a great feeling of teamwork as it all comes together. Its not easy to perform to high standard and each performance brings some new challenges.
First, I played in the strings group performing one of Telemann's Concerto (unnamed). I love the fourth movement of this. Its sad when the performance is over to think we are unlikely to perform it again soon. We played without a conductor, guided by Tess our lead violinist. It was a challenge, but the beginnings were good.
Next, I performed in the choir. We have been working hard on three pieces. We started with Gloria in Excelsis. Its starts with a forte section which is quite hard without a rehearsal beforehand. But it went well. My daughter was in the audience and got a fright from the volume - so we must have been at the right level! The other two pieces are gentler, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, music by Joyce Eilers, and Prairie Waters by Night by John Leavitt. They all went well.
Finally I performed in folk band. The tunes were wo strathspeys Morag Haig Thomas, and Weights and measures followed by Myra's jig. The second set was a beautiful song Highland Mary. Beautiful arrangement. The final set was three polkas - Britches full of Stitches, Jessica's Polka and Trip to Dingle. I blogged about these previously. Tricky and fast - some quick third position work but it went well. Audience seemed to enjoy it.
Here are a few sound files below. If you are interested in hearing more visit My Music page. Finished up the day with a theory exam - ugh. I then went out to see the wonderful singer songwriter Karine Polwart which I blogged about yesterday.
I am doing another performance tonight, Scots Music Group tutors concert which is part of Ceilidh Culture.
I blogged a couple of months ago about the hardanger violin that we have been making (well - that my partner has been making). Its taken several years of research and building but its now finished in the white. Its a nine string fiddle (four top strings and five sympathetic strings) and has a REALLY great sound. I am delighted with it. Its a beautiful thing.
Rosing and varnish is next.
Another very busy week. We have worked hard in the choir this week and it sounds great (see my last blog to check out the pieces we are doing). We have paid a lot of attention to detail to get the dynamics and diction right. It does now feel like part of a team that is performing really well together. I am looking forward to the performance next week.
Strings group is also coming together and we will be performing all four movements of Telemann's Concerto. Folk band sounds quite solid too. Playing up to speed with the correct bowings is more challenging than the strings group this time. We have been working on the arrangements particularly getting into and out of the tune.
I also went to composition this week. I have finished two compositions recently and received feedback on them. A few things to tidy up but I am pleased with them, particularly the most recent one.
Finally, I am still working on theory - analysis and aural training - chord recognition.
Fiddle lesson later today.
The third performance block has kicked off and is keeping me very busy. I am playing in the folk band. We are doing a couple of Strathspeys, Morag Haig Thomas by Donald Riddle (the Clunes Collection). I have played this tune before although a long time ago. The guitar accompaniment is lovely and lifts it. The second Strathspey is Weights and Measures by Gavin Marwick in D minor. Its an interesting tune with a darker feel. The last tune in the set is Myra's Jig by Ian Lowthian, a wonderful accordion player. I know him from performing at Durham last year. There is also a polka set with some playing in third position in one of the tunes. Finally we are also doing a song, Highland Mary by Robert Burns. Its great and beautifully arranged. There is an instrumental section with a rhythm and very fast reel for the fiddles. Its a lovely accompaniment but a challenge to get up to speed.
In the Classical Strings Group we are doing baroque music, Telemann's (unnamed) Concerto I, II and III: Cantabile and IV. Its really interesting. I enjoy classical playing a lot now. The violin parts are very achievable with a bit of practice. Its great to hear all the parts together.
I am also singing in the main choir. We are performing three beautiful pieces Prairie Waters by Night by John Leavitt (my favourite), Gloria in Excelsis by Mozart and Now sleeps the Crimson Petal by Joyce Eilers. The pace is stepping up. I have transferred the learning parts onto my iPod and I listen to them wherever I go. We are singing Gloria in Excelsis in latin. I have sung in latin before - a long time ago. I remember it all though and so I find it easy to pronounce it. Its all great.
Music theory also continues as does the practice for my recital.
I was improvising eastern european jazz today using the harmonic minor scale over Am, Dm and E7. Also enjoyed playing the chords while others had a shot. It helps to internalise the chord progressions and tonal centres.
I am learning this country song at the moment. Its quite easy to play on the guitar and relatively easy to sing - apart from the southern US accent - which is difficult for a Scot.
I went to see the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) perform Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872 - 1958) on Tuesday. This was the last of the SCO's excellent Cl@six series. The performance was in St Cuthbert's church which is a beautiful venue and great acoustics. It was a full house.
I love Ralph Vaughn Williams. Playing Fantasia on Greensleeves brought him to my attention again recently. There is a Vaughn Williams Society, which was formed in 1994 to promote his work. Many of his pieces (and he was very productive) were not well known - particularly his operas. The Society describes him as follows:
"Ralph Vaughan Williams is arguably the greatest composer Britain has seen since the days of Henry Purcell. In a long and extensive career, he composed music notable for its power, nobility and expressiveness, representing, perhaps, the essence of ‘Englishness’. "
At the turn of the century he was among the very first to travel into the countryside to collect folk-songs and carols from singers, notating them for future generations to enjoy. It was performed by Alexander Janiczek. Knowing how difficult the violin is to play - I am amazed at the skill and ability to play at this level. The piece took six years to write as it is played now. It was inspired by a poem written by George Meredith which was apparently not very good. Whatever - it certainly led to Vaughn Williams writing a brilliant piece of music. I thought it was stunning.
They also played Mendelssohn Overture, Son & Stranger and Schubert's Symphony No 5. They were performed fine but were overshadowed by Lark Ascending in my view. Here is brief clip of Nicola Benedetti playing as shown on the Andre Marr show. If you are having a stressful day I can recommend watching it - beautiful.
Lady Madelina Sinclair
I performed a Strathspey today - Lady Madelina Sinclair - in a masterclass.
Lady Madelina was the daughter of the Duke of Gordon and the tune was written by William Marshall (although there is some controversy about this) around late 1700s/early 1800s. He worked for the Duke,
eventually rising to become his factor, and he was also a fine fiddler and composer.
Lady Madelina, was apparently not at all beautiful. Nevertheless, she made up for this by being agreeable and intelligent. She did marry, but this was said to be only down to the skill of her mother, who managed to arrange to marry her off. She looks fine to me though but perhaps that is with a bit of artistic license.
Strathspeys have very particular bowings. Its a jagged rhythm switching from short - long, to long - short with snaps, loops and arrow bows (which involves a down, up, up, up). The piece also has contrasting sections, with a strong dotted rythmn which switches into very smmoth triplets on single bows - crossing strings. It could be made easier by breaking the bowing up into separate bows but its definitely better to bow these in one bow if at all possible.
It went well on the whole and I learned a lot from the feedback about how to improve it further. The feedback technique today was three positives before talking about where you could improve. This was encouraging and motivating while constructive in giving us the areas to focus on. Its how I had been trained to give feedback to staff. There were also a few colleagues who performed very interesting pieces. I enjoyed it - a good day - if a challenge.