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  

Duets Need TWO People!

Well, not necessarily.

Two weeks ago, Stephen discovered that duets existed for organ and piano. I was very sceptical – especially as the ones he had found were very evangelical, happy-clappy, American hymns, not at all my line of country!

Then he found Debussy’s Reverie on Youtube and managed to screen-grab every page of the score, do some magic in Word and print it out for me. By coincidence, the following day we were due to have the organist from Pershore Abbey, good friend Mike Pegg, and his wife round for an afternoon cup of tea. I rang Mike and told him to bring his organ shoes but I didn’t tell him why – unfortunately he forgot his glasses!

So I sat the poor man down at an organ he hadn’t seen before, without his reading glasses and we sight-read the whole thing. Here’s a recording…warts and all.

Having a search around the internet, I tracked down a copy of the book with the Debussy and 9 other arrangements on Amazon in the USA. It cost £12 including postage, though they wouldn’t send it to the UK. I have a cousin in San Diego, so Ruth has kindly taken delivery and forwarded it on to me.

Meanwhile, inspiration has struck and I’ve written my own arrangement of Grieg’s Notturno. Being the wonderful geek that he is, Stephen decided I could play both parts and he would video me playing a duet all on my own. It turned out to be one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted. To get the two to run simultaneously, I had to first of all record a version with the essence of both parts on it which I then had playing back in one ear while I played each part. Mind-boggling!

Anyway, the full version is now on YouTube at http://youtu.be/wSnwC37lpBk and you can purchase the sheet music from my shop.

Published in: on February 7, 2014 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Adults Taking up an Instrument

I don’t know whether you are aware, dear reader, but I have always taught a wide range of ages. The youngest pupil I ever had was 3yrs old and the eldest was 85. (She had very good vibrato in her left knee!!)

Currently, my oldest pupil is 77 and she has been with me, we reckon, for about 17 years learning and then just enjoying, cello. My youngest is a 7year old visually impaired girl, learning piano, who is an absolute joy to work with.

Believe it or not, adults are less reliable, in the sense of coming regularly, than children. They have grandchildren to look after, holidays to take in term time, the golf course to visit… They are often less reliable at practising between lessons too – they don’t usually have a Mum to nag them!

I  have not advertised for pupils since 1978 when I first moved back to Worcester. It’s usually word of mouth (or these days, profiles on internet sites) which brings pupils along. Sometimes I have a long waiting list, mainly for evening slots for school-age pupils. Occasionally I have spaces for adult day-time students. Recently I have had a few adults who have moved away from the area, so if you are thinking of taking up cello, double bass or piano or just need to brush up on your music theory or aural skills, you live near enough Worcester and are free on Mondays or Wednesdays during the day, why not drop me an email and learn a new skill.

It’s never too late to derive pleasure from making music!


Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm  Leave a Comment