I want to be sure you know about 2 events coming up for amateur musicians.
The first is the Adult Strings Weekend at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL. It is sponsored by their Community Music School and is open to amateur adult players of all string instruments, even bass! It’s run by Dr. Anne Witt, cellist extraordinaire, and Joe Lee, an excellent musician and our conductor. Joe offers insights into music that you’ll hear nowhere else. (What does “Forte” mean? Not loud, as I thought. but strong!) And he’s a nice guy to boot! Many have been going year after year but you won’t find a nicer, more accepting group of adult amateurs. Take advantage of all they offer. Mark your calendar, Aug. 24-26 and check it out at https://cms.music.ua.edu/adult-strings-weekend/
The second event is cellos only- at the South Carolina Cellobration, to be held this year at Furman University in Greenville, SC (the location rotates between SC colleges). This is the 39th year of the event and you will be in a sea of 200 cellists of all ages and abilities. OK, it’s mostly kids, but there are many adults there as well. It’s a 2 day event, Sept. 21-22. On Friday there are master classes to observe and be amazed. A concert by the clinicians Friday night, is not to be missed. On Saturday it’s play-all-day on stage with your new 200 friends. It’s somewhat overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you. You can choose your music level to play and with that many musicians don’t worry about a missed note (or measure, or phrase!). Don’t be intimidated by the 8 year old who plays like a pro. It’s the experience of playing with that many people who share your passion. There is really nothing like it.
For me, the Right Hand Rules. After all, the sound comes from the bow, not your left hand fingers pressing on a string. But intonation, which is arguably an important skill, does come from the left hand.
In my lesson yesterday, I was working on 4 measures that are particularly gruesome when played incorrectly and particularly fabulous when played correctly. Unfortunately, if you’re off on one note, it’s likely to throw everything after that off and you’re now playing in an entirely different key! Doesn’t work well if you are playing with a piano accompaniment!
My brilliant teacher sums it up with 2 words: Shifting and Spacing. Everytime you shift, your hand position changes, getting smaller as you move down the cello towards the bridge or larger as you move back toward the neck. The shift puts you in the correct place and then your hand has to change to the correct spacing for the position you are now in. When you have a small shift, 1/2 note or one note, the difference isn’t as great as if you’re shifting from first position to fourth, for example. Even greater when you’re shifting from first position to the “home base” for thumb position. And it gets progressively smaller as you continue toward the bridge.
This realization was helpful to me in thinking about how to practice. More than practicing finding notes (and I’m a great believer that there is no guessing in cello!), it’s really about practicing the shift and creating the correct spacing with my hand and fingers. The notes will be there.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a friendly pianist who would be available at your whim to play with you? And how much better if this accompanist were a true professional and elevated your playing?
I have such a friend: my sister, who lives 600 miles away, so not a great option. I also have a wonderful friend who I do play with often, but she’s not exactly living next door so there is some effort involved.
There are other choices. One is Pianoescort on YouTube. There are some recordings for cello that you can use, free of charge, but there isn’t a large selection. Maybe you’re looking for something that isn’t available. Let me introduce and welcome you to PianoAccompanimentsTracks.com. There are some recordings that are free, and others are available for a nominal charge, depending on the piece. You can hear a sample of the music before you purchase. But be warned, the playing is so good you’ll be wanting it and more.
I was looking for an accompaniment to Meditation by Thais. PianoAccompanimentsTracks had a recording, but it was for violin. I emailed them to ask what key it was in and got a speedy reply telling me it was in D. Too bad, as I need it in G. No problem, was the response. And before I knew it, I had a recording that was beautifully expressive, played by a very talented pianist. In Italy. And now it was next to me and an inspiration to my playing. All for $4.49. A bargain to me.
You should check it out. You too could be inspired!