The results are in!

Twelve months after I bought my snare drum and glockenspiel and had my first lesson, and 10 months after my parents bought my xylophone for me, I have the results of the grade 8 exam which I took on November 28th.


Well, yes, I am pretty pleased with myself. Sorry! But I worked SO hard for it. Strangely I achieved the equal highest mark I have ever had – 136 (out of 150). The last time I did that was my very first exam, Grade 1 piano back in December 1964.

1964!!! Crikey!

So now I have eight Grade 8s!



Please don’t ask what I’m going to do next – I dread to imagine.

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quite a bit later!

A lot has happened since that last post asked “What next?” – some of it foreseen, some of it unexpected.

I found somebody with a Chapman stick. It was FAR too heavy for me to cope with and was one of those rare occasions for me, when a new instrument totally baffled, pickled my brain and defeated me! I thought I would cope easily with 5ths and 4ths being a cellist and bass player – but they go in opposite directions from the middle outwards. Not for me, I’m afraid.

After all, I’m no slouch – come on, I picked up a Balalaika in a music shop and played the Elgar Cello concerto on it. But this was just beyond me.

DSC_0014So we had a think and came up with hammered dulcimers. Yes, nice pretty things and pretty sounds. So I bought one, had it for 3 months and only managed to get a few tunes out of it. My grandson, aged two, made nearly as much sense of it as I did. Who on earth worked out that layout for the notes? Weird!! “Am I losing my touch,” I thought? That mini-stroke I had in August just after I retired must have had more effect than I had realised. And I’m not a folk music player – it just wasn’t going to keep me involved in the music I love.

So I had a chat with the Roger, the principal percussionist and timpanist in Chandos Symphony Orchestra. I had helped out tinging a triangle and banging a bass drum once or twice but if I was going to that more often, I wanted to take it seriously rather than have people think that I believed I could just float into the section with no training. He kindly offered to show me a thing or two on the snare drum and glockenspiel.

Well, you know me! The bug bit and by the end of our first session I had bought one of each. By the end of our second session I had run out of notes on the glockenspiel as the range extends once you get to grade 4. DSC00194.JPGSo I decided to go for a xylophone and my parents (aged 91 and 92) stepped in and bought it for me. “Xue”, as I named her, (Chinese for study and learning) arrived on the 12th January 2016. It was love at first note. The familiarity of the layout and the quality of the sound… just wonderful!!

Two weeks later, we posted this on YouTube

And on February 15th, I was able to play a Grade 8 piece “Schon Rosmarin” by Kreisler (I recorded the accompaniment and played along with it) for Roger to hear.

Job done! Happy now – I have an instrument to join in with an orchestra which doesn’t hurt my hands. Thanks Mum and Dad, thanks Roger, and thanks Stephen for putting up with The Flight of the Bumble Bee, which I’m working on now, over and over again.

P.S. I haven’t quite got to grade 8 with the snare drum yet, more like grade 3, but I’m working on it!










Published in: on March 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

What happens next?

I will be 60 in November. Gosh – how did that happen? I still feel about 32-ish – till I see myself in a mirror.

Those who know me, or regular readers, will know that I have had troubles with my hands, arms, shoulders and fingers for many years. After 8 operations, I’ve just been told that there really isn’t anything else they can do to stop my little fingers from locking at the second joint when I’m playing. I can cope with this with when playing piano or organ (I don’t have to play Widor Toccata every day) but with my left hand problems, cello playing is becoming tricky.

So, with heavy heart, I have resigned from Chandos Symphony Orchestra after 25 years leading the cello section. Sob!

What now then?

I’m retiring from teaching in schools this summer and will concentrate on teaching at home. I’ve also treated myself to a Surface Pro 3 with Staff Pad with the intention of doing more composing, something I have always done but not on a large scale. (Pun intended!)

As I said, piano isn’t too much of a problem and I can still play cello in shorter bursts. I stopped playing bass a few years ago apart from demonstrating to pupils for a few minutes occasionally.

What I really fancy trying, but don’t know whether my hands would cope, is a Chapman Stick. Seriously, I would buy one of these but I would dearly love to try one first. They are not cheap and it would be daft to spend that money without knowing if it was a sensible thing to do. They look as if there is very little pressure needed from the fingers. They are tuned in fourths and fifths – I’m a cellist and bass player, I can cope with either – but would my brain cope with both at the same time?

So if anybody out there HAS a Chapman Stick, lives in the UK and would be willing to show me the ropes and let me have a try, I would be most grateful. Please get in touch!

(A bass pupil of mine wants to buy one as well. When I suggested finding somebody for a try-out he said “Yes, but I would have to kill the owner and steal it!” I promise I won’t do that!!)

Published in: on May 17, 2015 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment