cellocourses.com has been here since 2005 having started with the first-ever Unsung Heroes Cello Ensemble Summer course, here in Lewes, East Sussex.
A few years before, I had moved from London where I had a full musical life playing and teaching. I had a young son, and everything needed to change. In re-inventing my career, I wanted to teach in a more three-dimensional way. I love my one-to-one teaching, but knew I needed to push my boundaries out, refresh and grow and explore ideas with others in groups.
Gradually, cellocourses.com formed in my head. I would focus on some of our key areas – practice, ensemble playing and performance. A workshop series came into being for cello ensemble and a singer friend suggested calling it Unsung Heroes as I had arranged choral and vocal music for its repertoire.
Then came Thinking Aloud – the Practice workshops. If you are new to learning an instrument, (and even if you are not), how to work on your own, is a big deal. In itself, practice is an art and craft because, away from your lesson, you become your own teacher.
Practice is a huge area and people are in as much need of help here, as they are with everything else that comes from having cello lessons. This year, the practice series is having a rest. I find that when I stop doing something for a while, lots of ideas cook, I write more and then re-configure for a new take and angle on things.
Getting the Bigger Picture
Getting the Bigger Picture is a performance class. This is the most emotional and the one people are likely to avoid taking part in. It is also so needed because nearly all of us suffer at some point, from performance anxiety.
The last time this workshop ran, we began with a day spent looking at the emotional knot performance can be. We unravelled a lot of personal stories, nightmares and dreams. I talk you through the powerful & disempowering, physical state we can be in and the psychological state most of us know and are terrified by. There has been a lot of research recently, and this can be understood and handled when aligned with us building & preparing ourselves both mentally and physically to meet the possible situation.
In the past, I have worked with Pat O’Toole, a fabulous actor trainer and theatre director. Recently, I developed a new approach and have developed a series of scenarios and techniques, for us as cellists to integrate and practice. We use games, theatre ideas and more. The hall we use has a stage and we also create other scenarios too as we can have different responses to each setting.
The students performed with a pianist on each set, and then returned in a month, having integrated and practised all the techniques, journaled their processes, to perform publically at the Chapel Royal in Brighton. It worked well for all! This workshop is resting in 2020 but will be back!
In September 2019, I created Icons, as a prequel to the Performance workshop, based on my experiences of group classes at the RCM.
In music colleges it is common for a teacher to hold a long class for sonatas or concertos, to have an outing with a pianist. They are not meant to be a performance class nor, a masterclass. The purpose is simple, to learn by listening and watching others, hearing observations and other people’s ideas and, to get used to running, not necessarily, performing a piece. It is to allow for the process of development of all aspects involved in bringing a piece of music to life.
Passion Music is a 3-day course around Easter time which has run these last few years. It is one of the Unsung Heroes Cello Ensemble Courses and its repertoire is written by some of the great composers of the Renaissance and Baroque eras for this intense time in the sacred year. This course is also resting in 2020.
New in 2020
Techniques Workshop Series — All About My Bow, Part 1
Unsung Heroes Cello Ensemble — Workshops with specific areas in musical history explored: The Belle Epoque, Northern European music and World War 1
Course: Extreme Cello Orchestra Weekend — It's back!
Through Coloured Glass — This is new and for advanced and professional cellists only
Returning in 2021
Thinking Aloud — Practice workshop
Getting the Bigger Picture — Performance workshop
Passion Music — 3-day Easter ensemble course