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Busy musically

Now that the Covid restrictions have eased somewhat, the Ecole de Musique is back in business and I seem to have a somewhat hectic week of cello activities.

As well as my lesson, I am now attending the lesson of the eleven-year-old Lilou, so that we can get to grips with Vivaldi’s concerto in G minor for two cellos.

One of the main challenges of a stringed instrument, especially the cello, is mastering jumping round the different positions. For those who have never played an instrument, you have to imagine that your four fingers can only stretch so far on a string, and if you want to play higher notes, you have to move your hand up – without the aid of frets that guitarists have to help them land on the right spot. Eventually cellists reach so far up a string, that the thumb is no longer under the finger board and has to follow the fingers.

Then there comes a point when the thumb is used as a finger up on the fingerboard – ‘thumb positions’. My teacher, Anne, is insisting that I play part of the Vivaldi in the thumb position rather than jumping between lower positions. I’m finding it fiendishly difficult to master and very sore on the thumb! I’m not helped by the arthritis in my third and fourth fingers, which have to bend more in thumb positions.

On Tuesday evening I play with another cellist, Nathalie, and two violinists. Our big challenge at present is a lovely prelude by the baroque composer, Marin Marais. Well, it could be lovely … … Nathalie is a clarinetist who took up the cello less that two years ago.

And on Saturday mornings a very motley collection of adults (the school are now setting up separate ensembles for the schoolchildren) massacre, and I mean massacre, the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony 40. My cello technique betrays the lack of rigour that child pupils undergo when learning this difficult instrument, but I have to say honestly that it is quite good compared with some dire noises around me. So I can’t say that I really enjoy the Saturday sessions.

Nathalie has been thrown in at the deep end, so yesterday she came round and we went through the Marais and Mozart and some other pieces, working on the fingering and bowing.

All of this, plus daily (in theory) practice takes up a large part of my week and energy. But I will try to soldier on as long as my right shoulder prothèse (prosthesis) and arthritic left fingers allow.

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