Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day five

We didn’t rehearse at all in Trinity Laban today. Instead, we had an afternoon rehearsal in the Recital Room where we could get used to the new space and also get used to the amplification. When we arrived all of the string players had small microphones that we place next to our bridges. We had a monitor in front of us so that we could hear ourselves too.

As we started rehearsing we discovered that we couldn’t have the monitor on loud at all because otherwise the mics on our instruments would start to feed back. This resulted on the audience being able to hear us, but we still couldn’t really hear ourselves. Luckily we had got used to playing like this during the week so I don’t think it hindered us too much.

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Rehearsing for the final performance.

I was pleased with how the rehearsal went and both Phil and Nic said that we sounded good from the audience, so I’m excited for the performance tonight!


Grace Notes: Stuck for something to do?

I just want to start by saying sorry for being late/infrequent with posts recently. It’s been mad in college and I haven’t been able to find the time to write! One of the reasons for this I mentioned in my last post. I have been working with a large group of people to put together the Trinity Laban opera, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


A taste of the theme of the opera… (I do not own this image)

Tonight is the opening night and I’m so excited for audiences to finally get to see it! We’ve had hours of rehearsals sweating away under lights and smoke, and the hot weather we’ve been having hasn’t exactly helped either! But it’s all come together and the first performance is 7pm at Blackheath Halls tonight.

Excitingly, tonight is sold out, but if you are interested in seeing it (which I’d recommend. It’s one of my favourite operas and I’m having a great time! But just a warning, I’d probably put an age rating of 12+ on it because of some of the content.) then check out the website and maybe get yourself a ticket.

It’s funny, witty, glam and has some amazing music. There isn’t a dull moment! If you happen to be in the area, you should definitely come along.

Grace Notes: Summer Projects

Over the next couple of months I have a few exciting projects coming up. I am have the final courses and concerts with both my county youth orchestra (CCVGYO), and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, which have been a part of my life for seven years! The CCVGYO concert is at Hoddinott Hall on July 18th, and the NYOW concerts are listed here. Keep an eye on my events page for all of these and more!

What I wanted to talk about is the upcoming Trinity Laban opera (A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Britten). We started rehearsals on Monday and have our first run through with the singers this evening. I played this 5 years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe and I’m really excited to revisit this piece as it holds some amazing memories for me. I’m looking forward to working with the singers tonight as I think the production will really start to take shape, and I can’t wait to see the set!

Another reason I’m excited to be in this production is that one of my best friends has a lead role (she’s playing Helena) and we finally get to be in a project together. With her being a singer, and me a violinist we rarely get put in college projects together, so this is particularly exciting!


Midsummer Night’s Dream promotional material (I do not own this image)

The performances are at Blackheath Halls from 1st– 4th July so if you’re around the area I’d check it out. It’s going to be an amazing production.


Grace Notes: How to prepare for a concert with only one day of rehearsal

Last Friday I took part in a concert with Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra where we played ‘A London Symphony’ by Vaughan  Williams. This was a ‘Side by Side’  project, which meant that teachers and professionals were sitting in the orchestra playing alongside us (in the string sections we had the pros sitting in the number 2 spot). What was most difficult about this project was that we only had one rehearsal as a full orchestra and one 2 hour sectional earlier in the week. I want to share some tips that I found helped me to prepare for this so that I wasn’t still practically sightreading in the concert.

Before you start to practice your part:

  • Listen to the recording so you can familiarise yourself with the work (if you are doing this for an audition and not a concert also research the background just in case you are asked any questions about it)
  • Mark in cues (often having a score for this helps too) by what you hear so that when sitting in a full rehearsal totally lost, you can get yourself back in again.
  • Highlight (always with a pencil though…) the exposed and fast bits so when you have a chance to practice you can zone in on those sections and not waste time practicing slow notes.
  • Listen with a metronome and mark in the approximate tempos so there won’t be any nasty surprises when you get to the full rehearsal (this has happened to me a couple of times and doesn’t make the rehearsal easy going!)
  • Keep listening. It can be really boring sitting and following your part, but just have it on in the background and get in your head through the power of osmosis.

(I do not own this video)

While practicing:

  • Practice slowly with a metronome, and gradually speed up any passages that seem too fast to play at first. To ensure you can really play it, take the metronome faster than you’ll have to do it in the concert and then you’ll be sure you can get it right on the night. You need to be really picky though, as there is no point in practicing mistakes fast. Don’t go up a metronome ‘notch’ unless you are comfortable with the current speed.
  • Don’t be tempted to play all the way through your part. The tunes are fun to play, but they are probably (obviously there are some exceptions) some of the easier bits of the piece. Especially if you only have limited time to practice, make sure you have highlighted what needs work and focus on those sections.
  • Don’t be afraid to write in fingerings. These will help when you get to that tricky bit and can’t remember the amazing fingering you came up with.
  • Play along with the recording (at this instance you CAN play the whole work) and then you get a better idea of where your part fits in with the rest of the orchestra.

(I do not own this image)

During the rehearsal:

  • Especially if, like in this project, you have a pro sitting in front of you, try and copy how they play phrases and within the section. For example, if (like me) you are a string player, watch for the part of the bow the front of the section are playing in or ask the pro for help with fingering for a difficult passage. (This applies even if you just have a normal section principal as well of course! )
  • Copy in the bowings (or if a non-string player any other markings) as fast as you can. Hopefully the desks in front of you will pass it back, but if they don’t then take it upon yourself to copy in the bowings quickly in your break as no one likes to see bows going in the wrong direction in the concert.

Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra (I do not own this image)

Hopefully this has given you some ideas as how to deal with a concert if there aren’t many rehearsals. Apologies for this being so string heavy, I’m afraid I don’t have much authority on sitting in any other sections of the orchestra! I hope some of these tips are useful to you, whatever you play. Thanks for reading and I’m looking forward to seeing you all for my next post!