Cellospeak - Thursday

July 30, 2015

Today I had my final Cellospeak lesson, learned a little about Tai Chi and cello, practiced pieces for tomorrow's presentation and saw yet another superb recital from students and faculty alike.

Pulse and Rhythm

Kris and Marion continued their wonderful workshop on rhythm and pulse. As a cellist who has struggled with internalizing the concepts behind pulse and rhythm and bow rhythm, I have found their ideas to be enlightening and very helpful. Conducting yourself while tonguing the rhythm is a very powerful learning technique.

Elementary technique and musicianship

We spent a lot of time preparing the "Pavan" for tomorrow's presentation. Gary, the resident conductor, stopped by our session and led us through the piece a few times, and also through the "Cello Song" and "Shenandoah". What the organizers did is kind of interesting. Each student has different parts for different pieces. You may be the 1st cello part for one piece, and the 3rd for another. That way you have some pieces that are challenging and some that are more within your comfort zone.

Where this causes a bit of a wrinkle is seating arrangements. While the people around you have the same set of parts as you, the 1st section or the 4th section moves around the room as we play different pieces.

Tai Chi

The was a brief presentation late this afternoon on tai chi and cello playing. Like all martial arts, tai chi focuses on balance and movement. Cello playing requires balance and movement. It was interesting to sit and slowly rock to one side or the other while miming a up bow or down bow. Focusing on how your body moves and where tension or lack of movement might be in the way.

Bach

For my final lessons Alan and I worked on the Bourrées from suite 3 of the Bach Cello Suites. Earlier in the week we had briefly looked at the first Bourrée and talked a little about breathing and thinking of a circle when playing chords. Today we looked at the second half of the first Bourrée, then at the second Bourrée, and finally at the first half of the first Bourrée. Alan focused a lot on the phrasing of the movements. The Henle edition I have often times breaks the longer phrases up in to shorter ones through the indicated bowings. Alan wants the sound to swell as the notes go up in pitch and to fade as the pitch comes back down. When the upward (or downward) passage has multiple bow direction changes it is hard to keep an even increase or decrease in the dynamic.

We also worked some on how I am holing the bow, particularly for up bows. He rotates his hand toward the tip of the bow on up bows. His arm moves first and the hand trails after propelling the bow. This gives him better weight control on the bow hair. We also worked on bow speed. When the passage is moving upward and you want to increase the sound you need to use a lot less bow initially so that you have plenty of bow left for increased bow speed as the intensity builds. Adding variations in the bow speed is like adding another ball to a juggling pattern. At first you drop all the balls. It'll take me some practice to incorporate varied bow weights and speeds to add nuance to my Bach.

Recital

Tonight's recital was once again incredible. The student pieces were beautifully presented and sometimes quite emotional. The faculty pieces were sublime.

After the recital there was a presentation honoring Dorothy Amarandos for her vision and perseverance creating Cellospeak and guiding it for 15 years.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.