Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A cello play-in atop a 14er

I must be a little crazy to be doing this - organizing a cello play-in atop a 14er! ...CrAzY I tell you!!!

There are over 50 mountains in Colorado that are above the elevation of 14,000 feet and they are known as "Fourteeners." We are planning a hike up Mt. Sherman with some cellists. Supposedly, it's one of the "easier" 14ers to hike; that you can't drive to the top of (like Mt. Evans).

Our group was inspired by a YouTube video of another Colorado cellist Gal Faganel performing a concert atop Longs Peak below last year. ...and yes, "that's so Colorado!"

After we posted that video on our Facebook page I received a few requests from Boulder Cello Project members to hold a play-in at a 14er. My initial thought was, "I barely made it up my first (and only) 14er - Grays, and you want me to strap a cello to my back and do it again? No thank you. You're crazy!!"

Anyway, fast forward a few months later, and I'm planning this event with a fellow cellist and rock climbing/hiking enthusiast Abram H. Since I'll be moving from Colorado, I figured I should have one 'last hoorah' organizing and playing with the Boulder Cello Project and this seemed to fit the bill.

To be quite frank, I don't know that I will be able to carry my cello up a 14er. It was extremely difficult for me to hike Grays last July, and I'm in worse shape this year. Literally, when I was approaching Gray's summit last year, doing switchbacks to get to the top, I was taking 5-6 steps and then taking a "breather" for 10 seconds. I guess I should be happy that I didn't get altitude sickness too.
I may have to do this hike and take photos and video only, and not participate at the play-in at the top - but the whole point is to be able to play at the top!!! ..argh.. I'll have to do it even if it kills me, which it may... lol!

Did I mention that we are planning to start the hike at 6am, which means we'll have to start driving to the trailhead around 3am! I know, crazy right? ...although this should be an interesting adventure!

Last year - Gray's summit (14,270') having lunch. Wearing my yellow CU hat! :)

We are planning to hike Mt. Sherman on June 21, 2014, so I'll post some videos and photos after the event. If we get enough cellist to participate we may submit it to the Guinness World Book of Records. We shall see! :)

COLORADO CELLISTS: If you're reading this blog and live in Colorado, we are opening this play-in to non-members. Shoot me an email or leave a comment if you're interested in participating! :) Or if you simply want to hike with the group and listen to cello ensemble music at the summit, please feel free to join us! Although we do need volunteers to help carry extra food, clothing and water so our cellists can carry their cellos! ;)

Facebook page:
Meetup page:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Community Orchestra Concert 2 - Villa Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras

This piece totally kicked my ass, especially the second movement! There were several times that I wanted to quit, and seriously asked the other Part 4's if it was okay if I didn't play during the concert the day before the first concert. ...yeah, I know... bad me! :(

I also wasn't planning on performing during the second concert because I had tickets to a Zoe Keating concert that was taking place at the same day and time, but decided it was worth it to perform, instead of watch a performance. Hopefully, I'll be able to attend one of her concerts in the future. Anyway, here's the concert video:

During the second movement of the first concert, I was lost a lot of the time and couldn't do the harmonics so I ended up air bowing, but the second concert went much better for me and I was able to play a lot more of the notes. It's a total bummer that I'm not in the video after all my hard work, but you can see my busted middle finger pizz'ing and bowing away (in the veeeerrry far right hand corner of the screen) playing Part 4. I swear that's me! :)

This definitely was a great learning experience, especially playing a piece that was far outside my comfort level and abilities. I would say in the beginning, 15% of the music was playable for me, and by concert time I was able to play 95% of the first movement and 70% of the second movement. Pretty good all things considering.

Now that's over, I have to start practicing for our upcoming summer cello concert. We are creating this concert for a teenage girl (13 yro.) who has a critical illness. She loves musicals and popular music, so our resident composer is creating arrangements and an original composition for the concert. The program we will be performing is currently:

1. Fanfare for the Common Man (Copland)
2. Viva la Vida (Coldplay)
3. Chim Chim Cher’re (Mary Poppins)
4. Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)
~~~ Intermission ~~~
5. Simple Gifts, from Appalachian Spring (Copland)
6. Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye)
7. Climb Ev’ry Mountain (Sound of Music)
8. Rolling in the Deep (Adele)
9. Composition

I'm really looking forward to this concert because it has a lot of popular music!

Big news again, I'll be moving out-of-state so I'll have to look for another cello teacher. ...arghhh...:(
But I'm excited to move and be able to get more practice in since I'll have some free time for the first couple of months while I look for a job and I won't be organizing a group. Although I will miss organizing the Boulder Cello Project a lot!! There may be some plans to organize another group where I move to, but we'll see... However, I really need to get some cello lessons and individual practice in.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Community Orchestra Concert 1 - Villa Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras

Yaay - first time I played with a community orchestra! :) I'm crossing that off of my goals for this year! I know technically it was a bunch of cellos again, but...

Playing with an orchestra definitely has a different atmosphere and vibe than my cello group. Since we have more intermediate and beginner cellists playing in our cello group, we focus more on cello technique and ensemble skills. We also allow food and drinks while we rehearse and it's very relaxed - we drink beer! ;)

Playing with this orchestra (I'm assuming most orchestras are the same), everyone just showed up, played through the music and received instructions from the conductor with regards to tempo, phrasing, etc. without much info on cello specific technique or ensemble playing, but that is to be expected when there is a larger group musicians with different instruments. We were only allocated one hour per rehearsal so the entire orchestra could work on their pieces, but we had extra rehearsals hosted by other generous cellists in the section so we could get some extra practice together.

Even though this is a community orchestra, and there are no auditions to play in this orchestra, I felt everyone was definitely an advanced player! ...well, MUCH better than I at least. ;) It's always great to play with better players though, and it definitely pushed me to my limits, especially with regards to learning to play different tempos.

Anyway, I'm sitting to the far right (2nd cello in from the end) and I'm covered up by the conductor throughout the video (which is great since it's less obvious when I mess up!), but my fingerings are still visible. ;)

I couldn't pizz and hold the bow at the same time (due to the torn tendon in my middle finger in my right hand), so I had to leave my bow on my stand. I was so nervous every time I picked it up I kept bumping my stand and making a loud noise! Lol!

There are a bunch of empty chairs in the video because normally the orchestra would sit there, but for this piece all the cellos sat up on the stage. I sat on the second level (on the steps) so I had to pull out my endpin all the way to reach the floor, and it was still too short. It threw me off to have my cello more at a tilt and shorter than what I normally would like it to be. Unfortunately, we didn't get to practice in this setup prior to the concert.

The orchestra taking a bow at the end of the program.

Anyway, the second concert went MUCH better and I'll post that video tomorrow. :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

More practice on Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5

I wrote this two weeks ago, and forgot to post it! ...oops... so here's an entry from a couple of weeks ago. I had my first concert today and have a video! I'll post that tomorrow. ;)


I met with Adam to go over the Villa Lobos piece. Two more weeks until concert time! I'm definitely going to record this and post it too - even if I do terribly!

We worked on a few spots that was causing me issues while Adam played Part 1 so I could become more comfortable with how my part fit in with others since I tend to freak out when I hear someone else playing something different. Normally, when that happens I freeze up and get lost because my brain assumes I've played something incorrectly so I quickly try to scan where everyone else is and get lost in the process. I've got to stop doing that! :(  In this piece, there are so many interesting rhythms that I have to almost ignore what is going on around me.

I'm also not very strong at reading and playing rhythm (yet) so I've been having some issues playing the measure below because of triplets. I haven't quite figured out triplets yet... darn you triplets!

I've been counting "1 &, tri - ple it, tri - ple it, tri - ple it. Hold..." but my beats are still not quite matching up. I'm either too slow or too fast. I've even tried "1 &, two-oo-oo, three-ee-ee, four-or-or, five (hold and look up!)" for the passage below, but no luck. ..and yes, I had to highlight that fermata because I kept running over it! LOL! ...I'm sure the conductor probably didn't find that too funny. ;)

Anyway, we practiced this for a bit and Adam mentioned that I may just have to start "feeling the beat" and saying it aloud for a while until I can verbalize it. Obviously I'm not doing myself any good practicing it incorrectly numerous times without being able to verbalize it correctly since I'm just ingraining bad muscle memory in the process. So first things first - be able to verbalize the rhythm. I'll be working on that for awhile...

That measure is also a very powerful part in the piece so I need to use a lot more bow... not to mention work on my intonation, but I'll be happy just to get the rhythm for now. ;)

I'm also learning a lot while I work through this piece, like how to play harmonics in a song. I thought I knew how to play harmonics until I actually had to play it in music! Lol! I'm playing the top of the divisi below and those notes are mostly harmonics. I know that probably looks easy, but those rests are killing me! Again, I'm not very good reading rhythm (yet).

I like to darken the part I'm not playing and/or highlight the part I am playing because I have weak eyes and tend to jump to the wrong line. My music sheets tend to look really crazy, but it works for me. ;)

There are some fast runs (for me), which reminded me of something I learned a few months ago with Dr. G; that is, there is a "hierarchy of beats." Notes that are on a beat should be played more "convincingly" than those that are not.

So "convincingly" does NOT mean playing notes that fall on a beat more loudly, but that is what I am doing right now until I get that figured out. :)

Dr. G had explained knowing where the beat is located at all times is extremely important in ensemble playing, phrasing, staying together, etc. He also explained that is also one of the reasons why electronically generated music sometimes sound "weird" because the notes aren't played with varying importance.

Anyway, I was constantly getting lost until remembered this and then consciously started playing the note that fell on a beat much louder. I even circled and drew a line through the note to remind myself to play the note more convincingly. This has helped me with regards to being able to stay with the music and not get lost - although I do still get lost, but not as much as before!

I've also discovered that I'm much slower playing with extensions than I am shifting to another position. I'm not that familiar with 3rd position so I've really had to work on getting my intonation and geography, which is still a work in progress.

Wow, lots to work on... I'm really curious how this concert is going to turn out for me!
I mentioned to my husband that I would be happy not being the weakest link and being able to perform without people being able to tell that I am messing up. He jokingly replied, "glad you're setting such lofty goals for yourself!" ..hhmm.. I guess I should rethink my goals!