A long time ago in the late 80s, OUP commissioned an inspired instrumental educational series from the remarkable clarinettist and educator, Paul Harris. Some of it didn’t take off at the time and then emerged as a series called Time Pieces published by ABRSM in the mid-90s. I had spent several years only teaching beginners – the most important, and demanding work we can do. So when I adjusted and re-wrote my three volumes for cello and piano for this imaginative series, I felt I had a good handle on the reasons why I chose the music I did choose, to lead cellists through stages with “real” music as their companion. Time Pieces for Cello in three volumes was published in 1996 and 1997.
I am currently working on a series of solo vocal music arrangements for cello and piano in three volumes going from Grade 3 to infinity.
This all began in my first cello lesson at 17 with Christopher Bunting. He asked me to arrange three contrasting vocal pieces to bring back the following week. His teaching was conceptually rooted in vocal terms. He encouraged more listening to singers and taught us a breathing, speaking bow.
After my first lesson, I worked like mad and returned with a Verdi aria from Don Carlos, a Bach aria and a song by Gerald Finzi that I loved. The seed was sown then, and I carried on later, arranging more music for cello ensemble.
It was when I moved to Lewes in 2000, that I was searching for new ways to teach and found myself coming away from the library with scores of vocal music by Tallis, Byrd and Gibbons. I arranged a lot of four-part choral works and continued. What this music gave a cello ensemble was the ability to mix all levels of experience. The high parts present challenges but those who had less experience and technique could play too. I saw clearly that this was a wonderful way to get pupils playing with others without the terror of playing difficult and possibly overwhelming orchestral music that may put someone off. I wanted my students to play with others sooner, rather than in some distant future. It would build confidence. They would be inspired by music that would teach them so much as cellists and musicians. I have learnt so much as a cellist and musician from the immersion in this music.