Happy New Year all you passionate cellists!
When term started a year ago, I noticed that several students were feeling a bit blue and wintery, and that their concentration and spark was lacking for some time. Until Spring arrived in fact. Our playing and work at our instrument is a spiritual practice; we have to keep forging ahead, even when we feel depleted, so just be kind to yourself and allow for rebalance.
If this rings any bells for you, make this time of year, more reflective in your practice. Change things. Be more fluid in the amount of time you work. One day do less, another do more and also experiment with working on a single technical idea for no more than ten minutes. Having less time is a great definer, as you have to dial up the thinking button and focus, plus, you get excited by the limitation.
Improvise too. You will be amazed by what you can do, in particular, those of you who are new to the cello will see yourselves doing some things that are harder than your current repertoire. Christopher Bunting used to start a lesson with improvisation. You couldn’t run out, so had to get on with it, and the more you just let your creative self doodle with sound, the more flow and confidence you will get. There is nothing right or wrong, your music just IS.
There is exciting news! I have just relaunched and expanded, my lovely cello ensemble music site Vaulted Sky Music. Those of you thinking of starting an ensemble, or who need music for your cello group, do have a look at the inspiring & wide-ranging Unsung Heroes Cello Ensemble music. You can find beautiful books of music and a massive amount of music to download and print, or to pop on an iPad. There are films too telling you about the repertoire and more. This music is played and performed by amateur and professional groups alike and it does amazing things for your playing skills and musicality. I have given some suggestions for those who are more recent cello students and who may not be sure where to start. And, if stuck when browsing, do get in touch.
Soon, I will be expanding the solo cello and piano with both arrangements I have made, and some new music for cello and piano. There is a current collection you can see, One chair in a room, by Mark Sinclair, which is full of vibrant, highly melodic, evocative pieces you will love playing, (and audiences love listening to), these pieces work for those around Grade 6 standard upwards.
If you are brooding on summer schools, I have two wonderful courses coming in July and August. The annual Unsung Heroes Cello Ensemble Summer School is a deep immersion in music that will affect your playing, listening, your ensemble skills, your confidence and overall musical understanding. I’m currently working out the repertoire, which is intended to expand the musical you, and I have a syllabus of musical-technical ideas that we develop in daily classes. This course is attended by a range of players: from those who are newish, working alongside those who have been playing for decades, and some teachers come. And this year, for those who can’t do the full six days, you can now join days 1–3, or days 4–6.
In August, Through Coloured Glass takes to the stage for the second time. I used to play this programme with String Theory Cello Ensemble and we will perform this exquisite music in an uninterrupted cycle to a packed audience in a stunning church here in Lewes, full of stained glass windows. This course is for advanced cellists, Grade 7+ and professionals who want to go off-grid. You’ll receive the programme in advance in order to get to know the music ahead of our development together and will have a fabulous time. You can read much more about the courses that are booking now at Cello Courses.
There are in-depth 1-day ensemble workshops starting in March for cellists in the UK (or visiting – you can borrow a cello). The list is up now and booking.
Do join the ongoing online courses that I love preparing and giving. All About My Bow now has a counterpart, Your Tool Kit and the Online Timeline ensemble classes explore a wide range of music with technique and musicianship. I have found that a lot of ensemble skills can develop well because you are in a room on your own! Our imaginations can enable us to communicate with imaginary players and it’s fascinating to watch this on screen.
I hope I haven’t exhausted you! Do get in touch with any queries and I look forward to working with you.
With warm wishes, Catherine