Sunday, 19 July 2015

Grade 3 Flute Preparation - Update

Just a quick update for those following the preparations for Janet's Grade 3 Flute exam (which is tomorrow!).

We had a lovely day at Burwell House today. Janet has been running a weekend residential for her Saturday Workshop String Orchestra. They had been rehearsing Beethoven 7 and Mozart's Overture to The Impresario. For the final rehearsal and run through she invited a few friends and colleagues to read through the wind and brass parts to get the complete sound so as no other clarinettists were available I was eventually invited along to make up the numbers. After a short wind and brass reehasral and an enjoyable Sunday roast myself and Janet set ourselves up. When we announced we were going to play some Mozart everyone assumed it would be the Flute and Harp Concerto. "Oh no, that's for next year. This is the Aria from Don Giovanni."

We got through it really well with a couple of minor slips from each of us and the audience applauded heartily at the end. They were however a tough crowd as they demanded some scales from Janet. She was insistent that wasn't necessary and hastily gathered the Men's Barbershop Chorus that had been rehearsing during the breaks from playing and drinking/eating over the weekend. They were followed by the Women's Barbershop ensemble who sang Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, all really well sung! It was then back into the house to perform the orchestral pieces and the strings also did the Waltz from Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings.

The sun shone and the atmosphere was relaxed and full of music and merriment so if we can get our examiner to engage in a little of that tomorrow afternoon we should do really well. A full report to follow tomorrow!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Another GOATee, another exam - Grade 3 Flute

I have written before that whenever I get asked to do something it has to fall into at least one of three catergories. 1. Be really well paid. 2. Provide top nosh or cake. 3. Be irresistably musically satisfying. Being asked to accompany Janet (2011 Top Flautist) for her grade 3 flute definitely falls into one of these catergories but I won't say which one!!

As with most musicians I know it is never enough just to do the bare essentials and in school on Friday Janet suggested we play her two pieces with harp accompaniment. Never one to turn down an opportunity to play my harp I instantly agreed. Did the exam board allow this sort of thing? I tentatively asked. Who cares! was the reply.

Chris and I were in Cambridge on Sunday so popped round to Janet's to pick up the music. I thought we had disturbed Janet's flute practise although seeing what was on the telly I think the Wimbledon final had already disrupted Janet's practise. However she was insistent that with the music perched on the shelf she could practise her Mozart and watch the tennis at the same time. We had a run through with me on the piano and Chris politely listened, awarding Jan 25/30 for La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni. We then did Neville's Waltz from Harry Potter and the semiquavers were quite evenly spread. The staccatos lost a little sound on the way down but it was accurate and had some character.
Combining two great loves...Wolfgang and Roger!
Having already got the lowdown from Laura (Janet's daughter) who had heard her play just a few days earlier I was pleasantly surprised by the standard and apart from one or two little hesitations (and expletives!!) for the high notes it was all easily to a passable standard! ("And I've got a week. I've still got a week to go," Janet said.) Janet treated us to a ride in her latest love, her Morris Minor, and we clung on tight as we zoomed around the country lanes of Cambridgeshire!
50mph. In the wet!

We arranged a rehearsal for Friday as we will both be in school and Janet repeated her mantra "I've got a week!" but then remembered "ah, but I'm out all next weekend running my Workshop string orchestra course". I remembered I will also be at Janet's course, helping out on the Sunday (satisfies two of my conditions listed above!). I asked if she thought the participants might be interested in a concert? Janet said just before she did her Grade 1 she played her pieces to the participants at her Saturday Workshop and left a bucket out for donations so that raised awareness of the SIA charity and was a big help in performance preparation. Whether the participants are interested or not I think they are going to get a performance next Sunday!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Grade 6 result...

I knew exam mark sheets were being posted out yesterday so I rushed home from school only to find my first private pupil of the day had arrived a couple of minutes early. I saw the envelope on the mat within a large pile of post but had to put it to one side while we did her lesson. An hour of advanced clarinet sight-reading later and I found the envelope and opened it trying not to appear to be too desperate even though no one was actually watching! I unfolded the sheets, turned them the right way, checked the name (my one was on top) and saw the mark... 82... a merit!! Marvellous! I checked Hannah's underneath and she had also got a merit so I am absolutely delighted for her as she has worked very hard while doing her AS level exams. (Of course these marks are provisional until the "results are confirmed by the issue of a certificate (or otherwise)" as stated on the report form. I have not know this happen but it is a procedure in place just in case something has gone wrong somewhere along the way.)

My best piece was Manha de Carnaval, while the Scarlatti was just over the pass mark and all other marks were well within the merit categories. Even the improvisation, which I probably wouldn't have paid good money to listen to, scored 8/10 so he heard some evidence of musical ability there. The phrase 'a little hesitant' cropped up in a few places so that is something to work on in future.

As to the future... I have two weddings to provide music for. The first is in August and is for my cousin Greg and his fiancee Libby. I am playing for the church service, background music as guests arrive and a couple of pieces during the signing of the register. They have given me free reign on music but I've already decided to do Bach C major Prelude. Then in November I will be playing for Alice, the sister of Jess, one of my closest friends and whose wedding I played at last year. (We had practised the Bach Prelude for Jess to walk down the aisle but she got there so quick we played about 8 bars!) Jess will be on flute for at least a couple of pieces. I have a long list to try out and have also been asked if I can do some Bob Marley as Alice's husband-to-be is into Reggae. I always like a challenge so will experiment with arranging Three Little Birds and Is This Love for flute and harp!

To Grade 7 or not to Grade 7...?
The new repertoire lists for Trinity came out a week or so ago. I've already had a look although initially just to try out some new music but one piece caught my eye. She Moved Through the Fair is a folk tune, arranged by Alina Bzhezhinska for lever harp, and as this was one of the songs we sang at the GOAT Reunion concert in February. I guess I'll have to start with that one! Music is on order so as the term winds down I'll have plenty to keep me going.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Grade 6!

This is about as live as the blog will ever get! I am currently in the waiting area having done the exam although have waited until after lunch to post my exam review. Everything went very smoothly, Cambridge traffic was not that unhelpful and both myself and my clarinet pupil Hannah, also taking her grade 6, got here on time. Anne and Rohan are also here as they are stewarding and have pupils of their own so between candidates we catch up on the gossip and share exam experiences.
Updating the blog

I had a little warm up first thing and as there were others before me I had to wait around. While I accompanied Hannah (she played really well) Rohan tuned my harp. Sadly I haven't used Rohan and her harping skills as much as I should have. She always gives good, clear advice in lessons and I go away with plenty to think about and work on. Still, she tunes a harp efficiently so I am grateful for that!

I don't think the examiner realised it was going to be me doing the exam but managed not to look too surprised as Anne introduced me "This is Stephanie and she is going to do her grade 6 harp". I sat myself down and played the Scarlatti from memory. This went pretty well, no major mistakes but a few finger catches made some extra buzzing noises and while I definitely got loud and soft dynamics they were still a bit bumpy, so not completely solid. The Haiku I think was ok, one or two tiny hesitations and I really went for the big sound in the middle section, perhaps a bit too much judging by a violent buzz. Manha da Carnaval went much better than I could have hoped for. It had one or two hesitations but the bits where I have to stay focussed, where I have memorised a few notes, all went without incident.

It was then onto technical exercises and I started with Showing Off. I did this one without music and after the first few chords had been played with as much panache as I could muster I skipped a chord in my head and ended up one ahead. I left it as it was, did the twiddly bit and then played the same chord at the right time. I can analyse exactly what I played and know what I should have done but that is just part of the exam pressure. Mistakes that have never happened before crop up just when you least expect it! Still it got me focussed for the rest of it. The examiner picked Two Into One, the piece I have spent the least amount of time on and was writing the final fingerings in this morning. I got through it and there was some substance to it.

Sight-reading was ploddy and with plenty of mis-hit notes but I like to think I got the character. I probably shouldn't give the style away but I recall the shape of the melody and the tonality. Hannah and I compared exams afterwards. She doesn't like sight-reading so busks the notes and rhythms and concentrates on the dynamics. When she told me this I realised I didn't remember whether there were any dynamics on mine, let alone actually having done them!

Improvising was, er, improvised! The trouble with the lever harp is that improvising chromatic changes requires quite a lot of practise as you either have to be really quick with the lever changes, or be prepared with octaves. I tried to be prepared with the octaves but still got a little muddled. I busked through it, not completely satisfied but as I finished I dampened my strings, looked up and said "or something like that". The examiner smiled and said "thank you very much" and I was free to go!

I told Rohan, Anne and Hannah how it had gone and had a biscuit which was today's reward. I actually enjoyed it and think Hannah was amused to see her teacher taking a similar level exam! I just hope my blasé attitude won't make her any less conscientious about her own playing! Results will hopefully be available in a few days so tune in soon to find out how we both got on!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Grade 6 final preparation

I have my grade 6 exam tomorrow and after catching up on some last-minute-end-of-term admin I played my three pieces and three studies through to Chris late this evening (he couldn't find an excuse quick enough to escape) and that little session pretty much equalled what I have done since the Fete de la Musique! 8 performances (playing, school concerts, garden parties or conducting amateur groups) in the ten days leading up to the exam have taken their toll on my final preparation so I don't feel as ready as I would like. There should be no major breakdowns but it certainly won't be flawless! Anyway it's too late to do anything more so I will just go for it. I'll have another run through tomorrow morning. I could have kept the date quiet but Chris's parents Judith and Martin sent me a 'Good Luck' card so I realise I have mentioned it to a few people. Thank you for the message!

If I thought I was slightly unprepared I have to remember it could always be a lot worse. In other former GOATee news Jan, head of music at one of my schools and 2011's Top Flautist (see Blog posts in 2011!) has now decided to go for her grade 3 flute exam. She is entered for the final session at the end of term and has been practising her scales. She made a decision on which pieces to do and only got round to ordering the music last week! Nothing like leaving it until the last minute to get the job done! I am delighted to report that I will be accompanying Jan for the exam so I will report back after our first rehearsal.

In more Fete de la Musique news I was sent the following from the Saffron Walden Reporter! All those involved that I have been in touch with since thought the day was a roaring success so I am sure it will be talked about for some time to come.

Another clipping for the scrapbook!