Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Saturday, November 5, 2011


May 1
Performance at 4pm by the Womens' Voices choir and orchestra in Duke Chapel. Went very well and large audience.

Rush on over to UNC for the Viol Consort and Baroque Orchestra Concert at 7:30pm.
Brent was really into pieces that reflected Susanna. Here's the text.

Susannah solicited one day by two old men desiring her beauty
Was sad at this attempt on her chastity. She said:
"If by this you enjoy my body,I am lost; but if I struggle
You will put me to death. But I prefer to perish innocent,
Rather than offend the Lord".

Many composers wrote pieces about her. Tonight's composers featuring Susannah are Didier Lupi Second (16th c.), Orlandi di Lasso (16th c), Francesco Rognoni (16th c), John Dowland (16th c.).
The group was made up of treble, tenor and bass viols, lute and soprano. A lovely concert.
That was the last concert of the University year, so we are off until late August.

May 7
Now starts the wedding and graduation season.
Wedding #1 with a string quartet in my favorite location - Fearrington Inn, 8 miles south of Chapel Hill. The wife of the owner, Jenny Fitch, created beautiful English gardens and it is the place for a picture perfect wedding.
We have played there for over 30 years and watched the house and gardens grow more beautiful each season.

Wedding #2 at the Governors' Club a few miles south of Chapel Hill, was with a string trio. In a beautiful location also, it was a Southern outdoor ceremony overlooking a lake. The lead violinist said it was especially moving when two swans floated past the couple. 
May 8
Graduation Day at the UNC. I only prove music for the individual school graduations which are smaller, not for the huge event early in the day. This year I provided two Brass Quintets for the Schools of Journalism and Dentistry.
I had a wedding featuring the violin and guitar duo for the ceremony and jazz piano for the reception, held at the Doris Duke Center, part of the Duke University Gardens, another exqusite location where we play often. See April 10th event  t

May 9
Final group rehearsal for the students' cello recital.

May 13
Started rehearsals for the Early Music concert with Mary Fran, violin playing the Handel Sonata op1 #11, I the Bach Gamba sonata #1, with Simon Zaleski, harpsichord. Simon is a whiz on the harpsichord and agreed to play a Suite by William Croft in the concert.

In the evening was my students' end-of-year cello recital at Carol Woods. The Assembly Hall there is  excellent, especially for cellos. Beautiful wooden floors and great acoustics. The Intermediate/Advanced group played the Beethoven Rondo which went extremely well. Everyone had really made an effort to be together and we made it through the fugue without a spill! The beginning ensemble and solos went well and everyone seemed happy with their contribution. The audience was not only parents, siblings and friends, but residents from the retirement community so we had a good crowd.

May 14
The graduation of Duke University's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS). This unique program allows adults to pursue a degree in any subject they wish, while still having a "day job". Therefore there are fascinating topics described in the program. We were a string quartet and free to choose whatever music for the Prelude we wanted, so we had fun.

May 20
Rehearsal for the Early Music concert

May 21
Wedding in a lovely private home in Chapel Hill. One of the older homes close to the university, with beautifully landscaped grounds and established bushes and trees. We were on a lawn which overlooked the stone-laid patio where the ceremony was held, and continued playing there when the wedding party and guests came up the steps to the reception. It was a perfect afternoon and early evening, not too hot. The best North Carolina can have.

May 22
Rescheduled Durham Symphony Pops concert (the first time it was cancelled because of the tornadoes). Last one of the season, it was terrbly hot and no shade for the cello/bass side of the orchestra. We were really sweating. It had been a while since we had played together, and strange not to have a rehearsal or warm-up, but soon it all came together and it was a good performance.

It was sooo hot!!

May 26 - The 5th grade strings - violin, viola and cello, gave a short concert at school. After each group played a few pieces, they joined together to play in an ensemble - Chorus from Judas Maccabeus, the Brahms' Waltz and Turkey in the Straw. This is the last year they have separate classes, next year they play together in a string ensemble with the 7th and 8th graders. They really have not had enough technique classes to manage the orchestra parts.  For some of them, practice is not a priority, and so we start seeing a divide between the ones who are progressing well and the ones who are progress at a slower pace. Quite often we get new students who come in to 5th grade with no strings experience at all, and then it is so hard for them to catch up. Over the years I have noticed that many of the Asian students who are here for only a couple of years make a big effort to catch up by taking private lessons, sometimes twice a week. They seem to value musical eduation very much, along with their regular education. 

May 27 - Rehearsal of the Bach Gamba Sonata with Simon. The trick is to find the right tempo that works for both of us. Once the movements get going, and we are together, everything ticks along nicely. It's the together part that is tricky on the fast movements. We both like to play them fast, but it takes quite a bit doing, especially for me.

May 28 - Today is one of those days that exemplify the joy of doing what we do. We played late afternoon/early evening for a retired Duke doctor who had spent months planning an elegant garden party. He has an exquisite garden, not overly large, backing up to to a green of the Chapel Hill Country Club. The weather was perfect, not too hot. The poor man had been in agonies the day before as there had been a huge thunderstorm and part of the golf course (not near him, fortunately) had flooded. In fact I had trouble getting Kate home that day, as the road to her house, not far from the Doctor's, was flooded in sections. Fortunately the sun came out and dried up all the rain. The garden looked gorgeous. We were set up on the veranda in the shade, overlooking the garden and played  baroque, classical and light classical for a couple of hours. It was a perfect setting, and the guests seemed to be enjoying it very much. Afterwards we were invited to partake of the food (delicious heavy hors d'oevres from a superb caterer) and I spent a pleasant half-hour with an English friend, a retired doctor, and a good pianist. She had been to Dartington the summer before, so we chatted about my forthcoming trip. A lovely ending to a perfect afternoon!

May 29. I played in one of two weddings we had, as they overlapped.  Mine was an orthodox Jewish wedding in a Durham synagogue. All the family had gathered together to prepare the wedding, the groom had designed and decorated the marriage contract (ketubah) with cutouts of birds on a blue background bordering the beautifully done calligraphy of the contract.  I love the way the two families and wedding party gather together under the huppah to support the bride and groom. The service however, was quite short, the cantor did not make the 7 blessings overlong. It was a very happy service, not formal at all in spite of being orthodox. Our trio was well received and I was glad to be a part of such a meaningful event in that couple's life. 
The other wedding was totally different, a Southern outdoor ceremony overlooking a lake at a hotel in Cary. Another beautiful venue.

May 30. After the group class with my students to rehearse "Home on the Range" I had the first rehearsal of the Vivaldi concerto for 2 cellos with Dorothy. We set the tempos and had a good run-through. 


April 1
Izabela and Xi Yang came over to Carol Woods to rehearse the Martinu. This retirement community has a marvellous assembly hall with great acoustics and they are very generous in allowing musicians from the community to use it. They have a very busy concert schedule with a Summer Music Festival, a Winter Concert Series and miriads of teachers' student recital, mine included! It is the only hall around that will accommodate 18 or so cellists.
It gave us a good opportunity to get the feel of a larger hall and we had a good rehearsal - several people wandered in to listen and asked us when we were performing it. I had hoped we could play it there at my students' recital in May, but unfortunately as it turned out, Izabela was quite ill on the day.

April 2
Dress rehearsal at the Museum with the singers as well. The hall had good acoustics and felt comfortable. I was glad we had been able to play at Carol Woods. I was excited to play the Arvo Part, I love the Stabat Mater, and my friend Rogers Covey Crump had given me some last minute tips on performing it. It is a taxing work for singers having to sustain the long notes and keep up the pitch. We spent quite a long time working on the ensemble and all in all it went well, but us string players felt we could have had more time going through the Martinu. The Museum closed at 5pm and we had to be out.

April 3rd
Concert day! We warmed up on stage with the singers and then the Martinu and felt good. The auditorium was full. Each piece on the program was paired with a tryptic from the museum. We didn't get to hear much of the William Byrd Mass for the three singers as we were in a room behind the stage, but by the audience's clapping response, it had gone well.  Then it was our turn with the Martinu and it went like a dream, just flew by, like a good ride on a safe roller coaster. I felt so happy that it went so well and the audience loved it. The Stabat Mater had its moments, but may have been too much for the singers after singing the 25 minute Byrd Mass. It lost its flow momentarily in the middle and intonation was not always impeccable. However, it was well received by the audience, and we all were given many compliments at the reception that followed. Due to some miscommunication in the arrangements, there was no recording. I was disappointed as I hoped to put a clip and the review on this blog. The organiser had told Maggie " It is such a shame there will not be a review".  For whatever reasons, this series of concerts are not given reviews.

with Xi Yang -viola, Izabela Spiewak -violin after the Museum concert.

April 5
Rehearsals start for the Durham Symphony Pops Concerts. The Program is Arensky -Overture from Egyptian Nights, Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik 1st mvt., Strauss Blude Danube Waltz, Shostakovich-Festive Overture, Vaughan Williams English Folk Songs 1st movement, Coleridge Taylor Danse Negre, Herbert American Fantasy, Lloyd Webber Evita

April 8
The Emerson Waldorf All-School Orchestra and Band Spring concert on the Southern Village green. A big undertaking, starting with all levels together playing an arrangement of Wagner's Die Meistersinger.  The middle school orchestra played an arrangement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and the Purcell Chacony. The High School orchestra is still very small, but they did play the Telemann Viola concerto with Matt (the violin/viola teacher) playing a movement and two students playing the other 2 movements.  The HS Jazz band was fun to listen to.
Certainly the music department has come a long way since Jason became the music/choral director.
The cello section

April 10

One of Musica's favorite gigs, the annual Duke Reunion Brunch in Duke Gardens. The gardens are in spectacular bloom and the music of 10 strings wafts over the gardens courtesy of the Duke sound sytem experts.  Duke alums wander around drinking mimosas and enjoying the upmarket box lunches (we get them them too, but the mimosas have to wait until we are finished playing!) Wisteria covers the Pergola at the top of the gardens, beds of tulips going down to the Fishpond which has had a revamp, and where we sit close to. Sadly a tree that used to give us shade was taken down to provide room for a patio. Better for us to play but we missed the tree. Fortunately it wasn't too hot this year. We play for 3 hours with a break in the middle. The program is varied, something for everyone - light classics, Rhosymedre is an annual favorite, Handel's Entrance of the Queen of Sheba, Vivaldi Summer, Stamitz orchestra Quartet, pop - Beatles, Joplin rags, Moon River, La Vie en Rose, and we always end with Orange Blossom Special

The Musica String Ensemble

Later that afternoon, after popping in to Kate's 7th birthday party, I went on to the monthly meeting of the Carolina Chapter of the Viola da Gamba Society of America. We played from Book 4 of the Jacobean Consort music, Orlando Gibbons, Five part in Nomines and Coperario Fantasias in 4 parts. All good practice for Dartington!

April 11
Group cello rehearsal of the Beethoven Rondo.

April 15
Rehearsal for the UNC Consort of Viols concert on May 1st. Last time we will all be together before the dress rehearsal, as people will be away for Easter.

April 16
A wedding ceremony at the Carolina Inn. The bride had luck on her side, North Carolina was hit by a huge number of tornados that ripped throught Raleigh and south eastern parts of the state, killing many people and huge amounts of damage. Trailer parks and neighborhoods were decimated. In Chapel Hill we had a tremendous downpour, I thought it would come my bathroom skylight, but fortunately didn't. It blew over after about 20 minutes so I was able to make to the Carolina Inn. Although the ceremony was moved inside, the bride got her wish of having her wedding photos taken outside, and it turned out to be a gorgeous evening.

April 17
The Durham Symphony Pops concert in Hillsborough went ahead, and it was a beautiful day. I love to play outdoors, there's nothing like it on a good day. The house of our conductor who lives in Raleigh was in the neighborhood that sustained so much damage and he went rushing back after the concert to see if his house was still standing. It was.

April 19 & 20
Rehearsals for the Easter program at Muir's Chapel, Greensboro.  We were a string quartet - Suzanne, Laura, Kitty and me, and Suzanne drives us the 50 miles each way, so we have good conversations and catch up time.  The work is a contemporary Christian cantata "Who do you say I am?" by Larson and we ended with the Halleluia Chorus. The Choir Director, Chuck  , did an excellent job of  training the choir and putting it all together. We have played there on many occasions. Chuck's wife Susan was the choir director of St. Matthews Church in Hillsborough before they married. We have also played there many times over the years. It's a tiny Episcopal church over 175 years old, built when the British were there.

April 22
UNC Viols rehearsal

April 23
The Durham Symphony Pops concert at the Central Park Pavillion in Durham. A very stormy morning, but cleared up by 3pm. Enthusiastic and large crowd.

April 24
Easter Service at Muir's Chapel in Greensboro. The church was packed and the music was very well received.

April 25
Cello group rehearsal. The Rondo is coming on well.

April 28 
Rehearsal in Duke Chapel for the Womens' Voice choir concert. Directed by Allen Friedman we are playing the Stabat Mater by Pergolesi and  the "Cradle of Fire". We are a small string orchestra with harpsichord and harp. The Cradle of Fire has lush instrumention and the         movement has a beautiful duet for the two cellos.

April 29
Final UNC Viol rehearsal before the concert. 


Thursday, March 31, 2011


Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Final rehearsal for the Durham Symphony classical concert,  with the winners of the Young Artists Competition. All 3 soloists played to get the feel of the Carolina Theatre. It is a lovely old renovated hall, with great atmosphere and an excellent venue for concerts, small shows (Gilbert and Sullivan for instance). The stage is a bit small for a large orchestra, or orchestra and chorus, but we manage to squeeze in somehow. There is a movie theatre adjacent to the concert hall, mostly art films, so it is quite a cultural center.
Curry seemed happy with the Beethoven and the soloists' music, but it would have been better to have had another rehearsal to get the balance between the brass and strings worked out.

Thursday, March 3rd.
Alan Neilson, the conductor emeritus of the Durham Symphony and founder of the Raleigh Symphony died at 11am this morning. He died peacefully listening to his arrangement of excerpts of "Die Meistersinger" that Irene had brought. She arrived in time to set up the recording. He passed away just before the big trumpet fanfare.

Here is a link to an article in the CVNC

I am to be in a string quartet playing for the service which is on Tuesday, March 8th. One of the violinists, Tasi, was the concertmaster for many years when I was in the orchestra, and still is, so it will be very special to play with her again. We have been asked to play the Barber Adagio during the service and other pieces during the Prelude and Postlude. Other musicians will be playing during the visitation and after the service at the reception.

Friday, March 4
Rehearsal with the Viol consort, no rehearsal next week as it is Spring Break for the university. We warmed up on music for the May 1st concert, then spent the rest of the time on the Will Ayton piece. It is falling into place much more easily. The Webern section is the hardest to put together, especially going from the bow to pizzicato and vice versa. That's not done often on the viola da gamba! 

Saturday, March 5 - Memorial service for Joyce Peck
The memorial service for an old friend and colleague today, Joyce Peck who died in February at age 83. She was a soprano, and she and Florence Peacock were our two singers in a baroque ensemble called "I Musici di Capella della Collina" (the musicians of Chapel Hill). The other members of the group were Mary Frances Boyce - violin, our resident musicologist PhD,  Eleanor Kinnaird -violin, (she eventually went on to become a lawyer and then a NC State Senator) and I on baroque cello and bass viola da gamba. Beverly was our first harpsichordist, but when she moved with her family to Texas, Jane Harris stepped in. Her PhD was on Elliott Carter, but she still took baroque performance practice very seriously, spending hours on the different tunings of the harpsichord. It was the period during the 70s when baroque performance was in vogue, and we got right into it. For several years we went to the Oberlin Baroque Institute in Ohio for top-notch instruction in Baroque playing. Florence went each summer, her singing teacher Penny Jenson taught up there. I was fortunate enough to study with Catherina Meints, both on baroque cello and viola da gamba.
At the memorial service, Penny and Florence both sang. Florence - "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" from the Messiah, and Penny the "Echo" Aria from Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Bo Newsome, a fine oboe player, played the oboe obbligato part. A church singer sang a wonderful song " His Eye is on the Sparrow" in somewhat of a gospel style which was very moving. Several friends and relatives spoke about Joyce and it was a very warm and personal sevice. The Handbell Choir played at the beginning and end.

Later that day, I went to Raleigh to rehearse for Alan's funeral. The quartet is Izabela Speiwak, Tasi Matthews, Yang Xi and me. The Barber Adagio was the trickiest to put together. The double stops are difficult to tune, and we spent time on them and phrasing. I had brought some other pieces for the prelude, which we went through, they are pretty straightforward. We have another rehearsal on Monday, and will put thelist together then. This is not going to be an easy gig, we are too involved in it, and keep thinking what would Alan have chosen etc.

Sunday March 6
Classical concert with the Durham Symphony and winners of the Young Artist Competition. The soloists were spectacular each in their own way. The violist had a lovely warm sound and was on top of everything. The alto-saxophone player gave a very exciting reading of his concerto, scale passages undulating up to great heights and depths, allowing us to hear the range of that instrument. The audience went wild! The violinist was exquisite in the Sibelius. Ethereal was a word to describe those shimmeringly high passages. Beautiful phrasing and musicianship, perfect intonation, just gorgeous.

Monday, March 7
Drive to Raleigh for a rehearsal for the funeral. Tasi had wanted to attend the visitation at the Funeral Parlor, the rest of us did not want to go. I had seen Alan at the hospital and it would be too much with the funeral the next day. So the 3 of us rehearsed the Martinu Trio until Tasi came. She had met friends and colleagues there and was glad to have gone.
We sorted out the music selections and it was quite late by the time I got on the road back to Chapel Hill.

Tuesday, March 8, Alan's Funeral
The quartet had arranged to meet at the church at noon to warm up before starting the Prelude at 12:30pm. The service was to start at 1pm.  I had decided to go to Whole Foods for a late breakfast. My kitchen was a mess, I had had no time in days to clean up with all the running around. It worked out well as I was able to collect my thoughts and have a restful meal.
My fears were confirmed when I got to the church (I was the first, just as the casket was being brought in), and I broke down in tears thinking I could not possibly play where our chairs were.  The quartet had been set up in the front of the church, up the steps to the altar area and bang in front of everyone coming in.  I had mentioned to Izabela that I preferred to be on the floor, so as not to distract the people when we were playing. The music should float across the room, the congregation should not have to see the macinations of getting ready to play etc. Unfortunately the piano was on the floor, and although it was not going to be used, there was nowhere it could go. In the end, we went to the other side of the altar. There was a little curved area with wooden panelling which would make for good acoustics. It was still up the steps, but the congregation could focus on the casket instead of us. After my meltdown I recovered with the help of some hugs from orchestra friends and we were able to tune and warm up.
The Prelude
Handel - Andante from the Water Music Suite
Chopin - Prelude from op.28 #4 arranged for string quartet
Bach - Air from the Suite in D
Franck - Panis Angelicus
Faure - Pavane
Elgar - Nimrod
During the Service
Barber - Adagio from the string quartet
Hymn with congregation - "Abide with Me"
Lovland/Graham -"You raise me up"

There were 2 readings, one was read by Bill Curry the conductor who took over the Durham Symphony after Alan retired from it in 2008. The Gospel and a homily from the pastor, who turned out to be the father of a bride we had played for at her wedding at St. Matthews Church in Hillsborough some 8 years ago. In those days, working at UNC, John also played the bagpipe and I had hired him on a couple of occasions! I had not recognized him through my veil of tears, and was glad when he came up to me. Dear Michael, who, since moving here from New Jersey has played viola for Musica for more than 15 years, was principal viola of the Raleigh Symphony until recently, and still is for the Durham Symphony, gave a remembrance of Alan that was superb. He was close to Alan and had picked up many of Alan's idiosynchratic mannerisms every conductor has, and could mimic perfectly in Alan's voice,  an oft-repeated sentance "Know what I mean?" It was such a warm, funny, heartfelt tribute to a friend. I'll never forget it.
There were 6 pallbearers who accompanied the casket to the hearse. It had a beautiful spray of green leaves and white flowers. Alan is to be buried in Roslyn, PA near his parents and brother. Irene and her husband are flying up there next Wednesday for the burial.

Here is Michaels' remembrance as transcribed by John Lambert, a longtime friend and supporter of Alan.

The reception was held downstairs in the church hall. People had brought plates of goodies, and Phyllis and her daughter Meredith were the hostesses at the punch bowl. Phyllis had retired quite late from teaching violin and viola at Meredith College for many, many years. In fact Alan and I had gone to her retirement lunch, and yes, her daughter is named after the college! There were so many people to talk to and reminisce with, I didn't get to sample much of the the delicious food people had brought. Later, several of us sat around a table and enjoyed the companionship. We were all old friends, and had lots of memories playing under Alan. As Irene had arranged for the service to start at 1pm, I was still able to get home in time to teach my afternoon students, and by the time they left, I was glad to relax and go over the day.

Here's a slideshow of photos and condolence book.

 Friday March 11- Cello Workshop
A quick run in between spending time with my grand-daughter Kate (Friday afternoons are "our" time) to listen to my student Jeffrey play for clinician Wendy Bissinger who is here for 2 days. Friday is for masterclasses, Saturday for groups and recital. Jeffrey played the Bourrees from Bach's Suite #3 in C. I was very pleased with his playing, execellent intonation and good articulation which Wendy commented on. I was glad she worked with him on his bow hold, he has been lazy about getting it really comfortable. He has grown so tall she suggested he might benefit from the Tortelier end pin - the bent one. A good idea. I was pleased he did this, as he is extremely shy, but I think since he got a place in the Junior All-State orchestra auditions last week, he is feeling more confident.
Saturday March 12 - Cello Workshop
Wendy had agreed to coach my cello ensemble on a piece she had arranged in four parts, which we love to play. It is the Rondo from Beethoven's 7th Symphony. Before that Wendy and two other teachers, Mary Frances Boyce and Phil Warren were having a teachers' meeting. Luckily, two of my students arrived early, and we used them as guinea pigs for vibrato and extension teaching techniques. 
quite number of my students came to the coaching, some could not as it was a winter break for some schools. A couple of students of the other teachers joined in and we had a great session. I think Wendy was impressed that we were able to get through the whole movement. There are some tricky sections and it is easy to fall apart. The fugue is the most challenging, and the section where the first cellos noodle in triplets and the bass has the bom bombom rhythm, can get a bit rocky. In between them the second and third cellos have a lovely slow melody, so the noodling has be non-intrusive, a very hard way to be.  Wendy made suggestions about dynamics which are crucial in this piece. It will be a great exercise for us to work on all the dynamic levels there are.
A very nice lunch with Wendy, we had a lot in common with travel stories, both having been to Australia, and comparing the state of the Arts in both countries. She went back to the workshop while I ran home to do some errands. I returned to see my 7year-old student (Jeffrey's brother) doing well in the beginner class. He really enjoyed himself and has progressed well since starting in September. He is almost at the end of the Suzuki Book 1. Jeffrey does help him, so it's good for both of them.
After the beginner class was the recital, and we started with the "Swan" by Saint-Saens and the Squire "Tarantella" then worked our way down the books ending with everyone playing Twinkle and Variations. Not a long performance, but an enjoyable way to round out the day. I hope Wendy can come back again, she has good ideas and imparts them well to teachers and students alike, all in a very relaxed environment.

A drive to Raleigh after the workshop for a rehearsal of the Martinu. It was a good rehearsal, we got ideas of tempo and worked on sections. I was glad to get home though, it had been a long day and I was tired.

Sunday March 13  
Our monthly meeting of the Carolina Chapter of the Viola da  Gamba Society of America. We meet at the school of one of our players, and play consorts to fit the number of players who come, some from quite a long way. It's a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  
This is where I started playing the treble a few years ago.  I always swore I would not play the treble as I am not one for high-pitched instruments, but one day, they were desperate, and having several bass players but no treble, I was coerced into trying it out. The strings are the same as the bass, although an octave higher. Reading treble clef was no problem, and lo and behold I fell in love. I have on longterm loan the treble that belongs to our harpsichordist from our Oberlin Performance Institute days, who thought she might play treble but never did take to it.  
Looking ahead to Dartington Summer School, I asked to play some Jacobean consort music and Orlando Gibbons' Five part In Nomines, as that is what is on the menu for viols in the first week, coached by the Rose Consort.
Monday March 14
Back to reality with a Martinu rehearsal at my house. Driving back and forth to Raleigh can get very tiring. We also went over the Arvo Part Stabat Mater to familiarize ourselves with it. I have the CD in my car and always feel so relaxed just listening to the sonorities. It's like being in another world. I hope we can give that impression when we perform it.  
Thursday March 17
Each year around this time we play for the Internal Medicine Conference at the Friday Center at UNC. This must be at least our 10th year. The doctor in charge of the Conference is a classical music lover, and he always books the string trio. His favorite piece is the theme from Schubert's "Trout Quintet" which fortunately we have an arrangement of.  This year it must have been a larger than usual group of attendees, as we were in the Atrium rather than the Magnolia Room. We much preferred the Atrium as it gave us the opportunity to play out rather than keeping under the conversation level. There was much more space for people to walk around. They love us, it is such a change from their seminars and they really listen. We play a wide variety of music styles from baroque (of course they love the Vivaldi Seasons and Violin Concertos) Romantic, Debussy, Beatles, fiddle tunes (it was St. Patrick's Day after all!)
Saturday March 19
Make-up lessons in the morning for students who have missed due to sickness, mostly colds and flu. There has been so much around, so far I have missed it, but I know I will succumb one of these days. It's impossible to stay out of range of coughs and sneezes. 
After lunch the rehearsal for the Durham Symphony concert at the Emily K. Life Center in Durham. We have played there every year since the the center was built by the basketball coach at Duke University in honor of his mother. Naturally there is a huge basketball court which is used as an assembly and concert venue. The center is used for afterschool classes and all sorts of events.
The symphony is to be joined by the Durham Childrens' Chorus and students from Kidznotes, a string program in Durham based on the El Sistema program started in Venezuela for indiginous students. There will be much more about this program in this blog later this year. The orchestra played the first movement of Beethoven's 2nd Symphony, the Coleridge Taylor "Danse Negre" and the Victor Herbert "American Fantasy". We were joined by the children in the "Children's Chorus" from Bizet's Carmen. The Kidznotes students played the Pachelbel Canon with the orchestra, then they joined with the chorus and orchestra for an arrangement of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.   It's good to see so many students involved in these groups, it can only lead to good things.

Sunday, March 20
Well it had to happen, I am sick with a cold. Feeling exhausted, but managed to stay in bed all morning to get some extra sleep. Filled myself full of DayQuil and off I went to rehearse with the singers, and Izabela and Yang Xi at the Museum of Art. We spent a lot of time on the Part which eventually pulled together. I do love the piece. Al is going to give a discreet beat at the beginning to keep the strings together, as we have a long passage on our own before the singers come in. They then rehearsed their William Byrd Mass until they realised we had been sitting around waiting for some time for our turn in the auditorium. We rehearsed the Martinu until we were asked to leave as the museum was closing. Hopefully we will have more time to get used to the acoustics at our next rehearsal there.  
No more rehearsal until the 28th, so I have time to get over this cold and prepare for the Viol Consort performance at UNC on the 27th.
I staggered through the week resting as much as possible, but having to prepare the 4th and 5th grade cellists for their debut with the school orchestra on April 8th. They normally don't play public concerts until 6th grade, but as this event will be an outdoor affair with parents bringing blankets and picnics, it's a good chance for them to get an idea of playing in a group, and it will be quite large. I have 17 or so cellists playing,  so we need plenty of room.
March 24th, 1961 was the date of my first concert with the Cleveland Heights High School Orchestra.

            My first concert attire

Friday, March 25, 2011, my eldest grand-daughter's 7th birthday.
Her mother treated Kate, her nanny, a school friend and me to a pedicure, a real treat for me as I don't recall ever having had one! after that, Kate and I had our Friday time together after dropping off her school friend. We went shopping for a birthday present, as I can't keep up with what she wants/needs. To round off the day we had a family birthday party at her house. It was a lovely time.
That was all after the final viol rehearsal, where we touched up on spots in the Will Ayton piece. Feeling more confident about my solo passages.
Saturday, March 26th
A noon reheasal with everyone. 10 cellos, 10 violas da gamba. We were able to get through the pieces a couple of times before the composer arrived from Rhode Island. We were quite nervous at the the thought of playing for him, but he was very happy with what he heard, and very complimentary when I met him after the rehearsal.
Sunday, March 27th.It felt a little odd having the whole day before playing a concert. Usually Sunday concerts for me are in the afternoon. However, I got good rest, warmed up and then left very early for the concert in order to get a parking space near the auditorium. It was the college basketball NCAA tournament "Elite Eight" round and UNC were playing, so there was no knowing how things would be on campus. I found a perfect spot and went off to Starbucks, the only place in town that did not have TVs showing the game.
Warm up and tuning was at 6:45pm. I was amazed when I saw the program. Brent must have been working on it for months. Except for the 16th century Josquin viol piece "Mille Regretz", everything was contemporary and the 4 composers were all attending! According to Brent's program the 5th composer Josquin,  had sent a text saying he was not able to attend.  
Three of the composers had the same last name, Anderson and are not related at all. The first piece on the concert was by Stephen Anderson, Associate professor at UNC. "Quest" composed in 2009,  was a duet for violin and cello with Leah Peroutka  and Brent. Great playing and ensemble.
The second composer, UNC Professor Allen Anderson wrote a suite in 1999 "Collected Letters" for solo cello which Brent played magnificiently. The movements were Rash Proposal, Affections, Apologia, Communique, Post(de)scriptions.
The Viol Consort and Cello Choir followed with the Josquin pavane "Mille Regretz" arranged by Susato, then  the commissioned piece by Will Ayton " Reflections on a Pavan" composed in 2010. It was exciting and a bit nerve-wracking to be performing the world premiere in front of the composer. However, everyone did their best and I thought we gave a fine performance. The sonorities of the cellos and the silvery viols meshed well. Except for the Webern section, too minimilist and choppy for my ears, the piece had interesting takes on the Mille Regretz Pavane, with a lovely dancing section in 7/8 time. I really enjoyed learning and performing it.
After the intermission, the Cello Choir played a short arrangement of the spiritual "Steal Away". There is nothing like the sound of a cello choir, just too beautiful.
Brent concluded the concert with a fine performance of "Spirit Songs" by the third Anderson composer, TJ. Now retired to Chapel Hill after a career at Tufts University in Boston, he composed this piece for YoYo Ma in 1993. The movements are Call and Response, Gospels, Serenades 1 and II, Vamp 1, Serenades III and IV, Vamp II, Shouts.
There was a good gathering on stage afterwards, with people chatting, obviously having enjoyed themselves.

Monday March 28,
No rest for the wicked. Trio rehearsal on the Martinu. At least I didn't have to drive to Raleigh. After a rather rocky start, broken string for one, we had a good rehearsal and the movement seems to be falling into place.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


January 1961
I started attending Cleveland Heights High School early in January,1960. Great culture shock, as I had always been to small private schools, and 3000 students was overwhelming. Also, as the American and British/South African curricula are different, the school administrators were not sure where I would fit in. I did mention I liked music, so with a sigh of relief, they told me to go to orchestra. The director was very kind, but baffled, as I didn't actually play an orchestral instrument. I had taken a year or so of piano lessons, not very helpful in that class. However, he said " Well, we need cellists, so here is a cello and a method book. My office is over there. You can practice there."
After two months or so, I knew I loved playing the cello and that it was the instrument for me, so my mother arranged for me to have lessons in the Saturday School of the Cleveland Institute of Music. I was at the Cleveland Heights High School for one semester. During that time, I did actually get to play in the orchestra and go on tour with them to Canada. It was so exciting - we went to Montreal, saw the Niagara Falls and other places along the lake. The orchestra played some impressive music -The Swan of Tuonela, Beethoven's first Symphony (I could play the first and last notes and a few in between, as it was in C, and I knew that scale!),  Grieg's Piano Concerto, Bloch's Schlomo. All this was so very new and thrilling for me, opening up a whole world of wonderful music. My fellow classmates were so friendly and welcoming,  including me in their activities.  I had never had such a fun social life before, and of course not a boyfriend, but  after a while I did meet a very nice young man, Hal.

January 11, 2011- Durham, North Carolina
Rehearsal with the Durham Symphony for the Tribute to Martin Luther King Concert on January 15th. I had missed the first rehearsal on the 4th, as I was still in Capetown, South Africa with my family, (see my blog,  I was uncomfortable coming back, having spent a month not playing, and then to do even part of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was going to be challenging, and it was. Oh my sore fingers and aching arms, but the last movement is so magnificent I never even thought about it, until the next morning. We were joined by the Concert Singers of Cary and four excellent soloists. The other work on the program "Eulogy for a Dream" was composed by Willian H. Curry, our conductor. We had played it the year he was auditioning, and liked it then. The narrator came from a local TV station, and had wonderful diction.

January 14 - Rehearsal with the UNC Viol Consort
This is a group of graduate students, teachers and musicians who play viols at the university during the school year and perform 2 or 3 concerts a year. Led by Professor Brent Wissick, a fine cellist and viol player who performs all over the world, we have a great time. Brent introduces us to works that are not on the average viol players list, and in so doing stretches us to another level. We are now preparing for a concert on March 27th. He has commisioned a piece for cellos and viols "Reflections on a Pavane" by Will Ayton. The Pavane it is based on is "Mille Regretz" by Josquin, perhaps arranged by Susato.

January 15 - Concert  "A tribute to Martin Luther King". Durham Symphony in the Durham Armory.
The Armory was packed and the concert was powerful and moving.
Review of the concert

January 24 - Rehearsal of the "Stabat Mater" by Arvo Part.
with the "Triangle Trio" and "Tre Voce".  Two of my friends and I formed a trio of violin, viola and cello especially for a concert we were asked to play on April 3rd. It will be at the NC Museum of Art, and is part of a series "Sights and Sounds" put on by the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild and the Museum. We are to perform with three singers, soprano, counter-tenor and tenor. The program is the "Stabat Mater" by Arvo Part, the "Missa Breve" by William Byrd and the second movement of the Trio #2 by Martinu. In December while overnight in London, I had lunch with a good friend, Rogers Covey-Crump, a member of the Hilliard Ensemble, who knew the Stabat Mater piece well. He actually brought the Part's original score to show me. It was thrilling to get some performance tips from someone who knows Part well. In fact I think I understood Rogers to say that since Part had met the Hilliard Ensemble, he has dedicated all his choral works to them.
Our first rehearsal went very well and I absolutely adore that piece.

December 1960 - January 1961- Johannesburg, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Wales, New York.
My mother, who had recently married a Canadian-American, came to South Africa to take me to live with them in Cleveland, Ohio in the US.
After a visit to my brother in the then-Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Christmas with my Welsh family, we went to Cleveland, via New York. We crossed the very rough Atlantic ocean on the Queen Mary. I was quite ill with seasickness, so don't remember much about it. We were in New York for a few days, I was amazed by the skyscrapers and excited about buying a Davy Crockett hat. I'll never forget the bitter cold. Coming from the South African summer to the grip of winter was a jolt.

                                             Athens Airport en route to the UK - Dec. 1960
Moving to Cleveland, USA. where it all began.
I started attending Cleveland Heights High School early in January. Great culture shock, as I had always been to small private schools, and 3000 students was overwhelming. Also, as the American and British/South African curricula are different, the school administrators were not sure where I would fit in. I did mention I liked music, so with a sigh of relief, they told me to go to orchestra. The director was very kind, but baffled, as I didn't actually play an orchestral instrument. I had taken a year or so of piano lessons, not very helpful in that class. However, he said " Well, we need cellists, so here is a cello and a method book. My office is over there. You can practice there."
After two months or so, I knew I loved playing the cello and that it was the instrument for me, so my mother arranged for me to have lessons in the Saturday School of the Cleveland Institute of Music. I was at the Cleveland Heights High School for one semester. During that time, I did actually get to play in the orchestra and go on tour with them to Canada. It was so exciting - we went to Montreal, saw the Niagara Falls and other places along the lake. The orchestra played some impressive music -The Swan of Tuonela, Beethoven's first Symphony (I could play the first and last notes and a few in between, as it was in C, and I knew that scale!),  Grieg's Piano Concerto, Bloch's Schlomo. All this was so very new and thrilling for me, opening up a whole world of wonderful music. My fellow classmates were so friendly and welcoming,  including me in their activities.  I had never had such a fun social life before, and of course not a boyfriend, but  after a while I did meet a very nice young man, Hal.   

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Christmas Carols in a Nairobi Mall with friends of Gillian. Dec.2010

Being helped to find a hole for the endpin so the cello wouldn't slip on the floor!

Doesn't take long to adjust to playing 7,000 miles away from home!

At a Mall in Nairobi, I saw a flier for a group performing Christmas Carols that evening. Thinking it might be a violin teacher with students playing, I thought it would be enjoyable for Zoe as she loves the violin.  It turned out to be a lovely ensemble of two violins, cello and bass, all musicians from the Nairobi Conservatory or the Cathedral. I introduced myself and found we had a mutual friend in common - a former youth orchestra student of mine, Gillian, who had started a string program at a school in Nyeri, Kenya,  as part of her PhD dissertation. She had played in the Nairobi Symphony and met a lot of musicians. The leader  invited me to play a few carols with them, which I did. Zoe was delighted.  The cellist in the group is a suborganist of All Saint's Cathedral in Nairobi and invited us to attend the Christmas Eve service of Lessons and Carols, which we did.  It is a very comforting thought that, wherever you go in the world, even if you do not speak the language, if you play a string instrument or are an Anglican, you will find people to play with and a church to go to. I have played chamber music in many countries and not been able to speak the language, but have had marvellous musical experiences.  The furthest church I have attended was Wellington Cathedral, on my way to play chamber music in the South Island of New Zealand.

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Tuesday, February 1st - The Durham Symphony
We start rehearsals for the classical concert featuring the winnners of the Young Artist Competition. Winners' music is the Concerto for Alto Saxophone by Paul Creston, the first movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, and the first movement of the Walton Viola concerto. In addition we are playing Beethoven's 2nd Symphony, the "Danse Negre" by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and the "American Fantasy" by Victor Herbert. 
Many of us who have played for many years in the Durham and Raleigh Symphonies, know the Sibelius quite well, it is a popular choice for competitions. Alan Neilson, the conductor Emeritus of both  orchestras ( he conducted the Durham Symphony for 20 years or so , and founded the Raleigh Symphony in the early 80's), also programmed the "Danse Negre" quite often, so we are very familiar with that as well. I was somewhat surpirsied tht Curry who is a violist himself, was unfamiliar with the Walton. The "American Fantasy" is somewhat of a challenge, lots of scale and apeggio noodling, but not hard to put together. Herbert was a fine cellist himself and wrote good parts for the cello, enough to keep us busy! It's so good to play the Beethoven. There is a reason why his music is so well-loved. It's like putting on comfortable shoes and going for a walk down a favorite path, knowing one is going to have a great time. It's also like the relief one feels when speaking your own language and understanding everything, after you have been in a foreign country and not understood anything.   

Tuesday, Feb. 8   
Second rehearsal with the Durham Symphony. We spent most of the time on the Beethoven. It's just wonderful to play his music. Curry's conducting is so precise in rhythm and phrasing, it's hard to go wrong.  The orchestra really responds to him. Unfortunately, we are having problems finding players, especially first violins.  Part-time musicians are usually quite busy with their day jobs or families, or are in college and have other committments. Financially, the symphony, as with most orchestras and the arts during this recession period, is having a tough time. Grants and corporate gifts are not filling the coffers. The pay is not enough to make it worthwhile for some players, such as mums who have to pay sitters. Most of the Durham Symphony players are local teachers, professionals in other fields and  graduate students from the surrounding universities, although as travelling causes extra expense, it's hard keeping them. This season I became the Personnel Manager of the orchestra and am enjoying it very much. It's good to put a face to a name and to get to know more people other than those in the string section. Initially I was compensated, but in December, the musicians were asked to volunteer their services to help with the orchestras finances. I could not afford to do that as I need to keep my income stable, but I volunteered to do the PM job gratis for the remainder of the season. I have office hours in the morning for Musica (my booking agency) so it is not a whole lot extra to look after the roster. What is taking time on occasions is finding substitutes for musicians who cannot make a rehearsal. Originally I wasn't expected to do that, as I didn't have a sub list, but I try to help when I can. It makes one realise how much effort Alan Neilson put in to running  the orchestras. He did everything for many years, and only gradually was able to delegate some of the jobs to a paid manager. He had a knack of working with people and pulling it all together. Somehow he kept the orchestras going, many of the musicians played in both. I was one, 22 years in the Raleigh Symphony, principal there for 19 years, and also principal of the Durham symphony for several years. I was sorry to leave Raleigh, but the driving at the end of a long day became too much, so I returned to the Durham Symphony which is a shorter drive, and a lot of my old friends play there as well.  

Sunday, February 13 - Concert by the Pittsboro Bach Society Orchestra, in the Community House in Pittsboro, NC.
It is a group that meets 2-3 times a year. We run through the program at 3pm, then perform it at 4pm. The players are serious musicians - teachers, some professional players and some experienced amateurs. The program today is mostly Vivaldi, concertos from op.3 - the A minor for solo violin and orchestra, the Concerto Grosso in D minor, and the Concerto in D for 4 violins and orchestra in D major. The soloist and leader was Brian Reagin, the concertmaster of the North Carolina Symphony. There are some fun cello obbligato parts in the Concerto Grosso and the Concerto for 4 violins. I had a great time with them. The founder of the group had arranged 2 pieces for us - an Irish air "Give me your hand" for solo violin and orchestra, and "Madame Neruda" by J. Scott Skinner, also for solo violin and orchestra. Both lots of fun to play.

Tuesday, February 15
Third rehearsal with the Durham Symphony. The alto saxophone winner came to the rehearsal and we were able to go through his piece twice. It is fairly straightforward, but has a lot of fast unison chromatic notes, so that needs tidying up. We mostly worked on the American Fantasy and the last movement of the Beethoven and ran through the Sibelius to get a feel for it before the soloist comes in. 

Friday, February 18 morning
Rehearsal with Brent and the Viol Ensemble. We went through the whole of the contemporary piece, and I am beginning to make to understand it and like it better. It will be good when the cellos join us so we can get an idea of the whole. 
Drove to Raleigh to rehearse with Izabela and Yang Xi the second movement of the Trio #2 by Martinu. Am nervous, as have not played Martinu before. Izabela had said her piano quartet played the Martinu Piano quartet and that it was fiendishly difficult and took hours to prepare. We decided on a slow tempo and read it through without stopping. It has some interesting dissonances (maybe some were not actually in the music) but also some lovely sections. The cello part has a dramatic mini-cadenza right at the beginning, followed by one for the viola. Izabela is a bit miffed that she doesn't get one.

Tuesday, February 22,
Durham Symphony 4th rehearsal. Had all three soloists playing. They were all excellent. We had heard the alto saxophonist, who is outstanding. The music is still a bit tricky in the unison passages. The Sibelius with the violin soloist went well, as most of us know the orchestra accompaniment. The violinist was flawless, with a beautiful tone and very musical. Another challenge is the Walton, mostly rhythmical which we hadn't spent much time on.  The violist is outstanding, everything so effortless.

Wednesday, February 23
A concert by middle and high school musicians at the Assembly Hall at Carol Woods. The "Recolitus Piano Quartet" has 2 former Emerson Waldorf School students I taught. Now 10th graders, Emi Mizobuchi plays  viola and played chamber music at school, and Brendan Case, who started cello in my 4th grade class. The other players are Cissy Yu, piano, also 10th grade and violinist Taisuke Yasuda, an eigth grader. Individually they played a solo, or as in Brendan's case, sang a solo. I was impressed by his bass voice quality and fine tone. He is very musical and it showed as well in his cello playing as well. Lovely warm sound. All were very competent on their instruments and were well coached by Yoram Youngerman, the Artistic Director of the Mallarme Youth Chamber Orchestra, a local group of top-notch student players.  

Friday, February 25
Viol Consort rehearsal at UNC. We spent most of the time on the the Will Ayton piece. It has various sections depicting eras of music. My least favorite is the Webern section - minimalist and tricky snatches of pizzicato, which is not common on the viol. There is a lovely dancing section in 7/8 time which is fun to play. We have one more month before the performance, but Spring break starts March 4, so we lose a week.

Sunday, February 27
Another student event. I had promised my graduating senior, Jenny, that I would attend this concert as it is her last performance as a member of the NC Senior Eastern Regional Orchestra. An auditioned event for high schoolers, the winners are selected for either the String or the Symphonic Orchestra. Jenny won a place in the Symphonic Orchestra which she was pleased about, as she had played in the String Orchestra in previous years. They  rehearse for a weekend and perform on the Sunday afternoon in the Auditorium of the NC School of Science and Math. It is always standing room only. The String Orchestra, conducted by Dr. David Eccles, although well coached with good ensemble skills, sounded bland, partly due to the program.
The Battalia by Biber, arr. by Blahnik, was difficult to follow as it had many short movements (not listed in the program) so it was difficult to tell when it ended. It would have been helpful to have had some program notes. The Danzas de Panama - Tamborito and Cumbia y Congo by W. Grant Still, were fun but could have used more energy, as could have the March and Finale from the Serenade in G op.242 by Carl Reineke.
The Symphonic Orchestra conducted by David Wolff was outstanding. Although the program was more lyrical than rhythmical (except in the Allegro from Brahms' 4th Symphony), they were a tight bunch and the blending of the strings, winds and brass was excellent. David Wolff has tremendous energy and over the week had pulled the players together. The first piece was the Adagio from Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony. The sound from all sections was exquisite, with lovely phrasing and contrasting dynamics. The Brahms followed with tight rythms and much energy. The last work was the Suite of Polovtsian Dances #17 by Borodin, with snatches of the famous "Nocturne " from his string quartet (a cellist's delight!) All the sections had a chance to shine and they did earning a long standing ovation at the end. Keep an eye out for news about David Wolff. He is an international piano soloist, took conducting classes in Rome and now is the Artistic Director of the Carolina Philharmonic, a professional ensemble based in the Pinehurst area of North Carolina. They have a performance in Carnegie Hall on March 3rd. David is very much a performer and keeps the kids' attention. An excellent choice as was Dr David Eccles (2 conductors names David!)
A thoroughly enjoyable concert, the best I have ever heard from the Regional groups.