Grace Notes: Believe it or not, I have a degree!

Last week I left Gothenburg for the first time since arriving in August and flew back to London for my graduation. I was really excited to go back and see my family and friends, and it was made so much better without my violin as my hand luggage!

The day started off well (as in I managed to be up and awake at 4am so I could get to the airport on time), and everything was going smoothly until we boarded the plane. There was fog at Gatwick and so we were stuck on the runway at Gothenburg Airport for two hours!

I finally made it to London and spent the rest of the day darting round seeing friends before meeting my parents for an evening meal.

The day of graduation itself was lovely. We were very lucky that it wasn’t raining! Like children, we were very excited to wear all the robes and I definitely felt a little bit like Harry Potter in them! The ceremony was nice (aside from the panic just before you walk onstage to graduate that you’re going to trip over in your heels and regret not wearing sensible flat shoes…..) and it was great to see our whole year being back together again.

What felt like thousands of photos were taken and then my old flatmates and our families got to go for a quick pub meal.

Then suddenly it was time to go again and I was rushing back to Gatwick and back to Gothenburg!

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Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Finale

The last night of CoLab was a big event. There were multiple projects going on in Blackheath Halls in three different locations at once, between 7 and 11pm. We weren’t performing until 9.15, so it was really nice to get a chance to see what everyone else had been working on for the past week or two.

The night was running slightly late (due to the multiple stage changes), but once we got on we had a fair amount of audience. I was really pleased with our performance. I thought that we really gelled and worked with the acoustics that the room gave us.

Here is a video clip of part of the performance.

I was particularly pleased with the string improvisation section and thought we worked well together and managed to create some really interesting sounds and shapes. It was also interesting performing with our sound amplified. I couldn’t hear a difference from where I was sitting, but after talking to the audience and listening to recordings I can hear that it made a big difference to the performance and we were far more prominent in the mix.

Overall I thought we grew as a group and managed to put our own stamp on ‘Lifecycles’. It was really great being able to work with the composer Phil as it really put the music into context and gave us a much deeper understanding of the piece. I’ve really enjoyed this project and hope that I’ll get the chance to do something similar in the future!

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: COLAB 2016 – Day 4

Today’s rehearsal began with just the strings. We needed to work on the improvisation movement, and talk about how we are going to structure it.  We started by being given an order to come up with the ‘idea’ and then as each player voiced their idea we had to mimic them, and weren’t allowed to move onto the next player until everyone had taken up the idea. This felt too structured, so we then began to work in pairs to have more than one idea on the go at once. This worked far better an allowed us to create more complex textures, however this was still too structured and limited us to who we could share ideas with. We finally came up with  an arching structure that was completely free. Through eye contact we passed ideas and motifs around, but were also free to play our own thing if we wished to. Through using these techniques I feel that we have come up with an effective and exciting improvisatory movement and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens on the night of the performance.

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Later, when the full ensemble arrived we worked on all of the movements in order. I think they are all starting to sound really tight, and we should put on a great performance tomorrow night! We also had our first chance to rehearse with the vocalist, which made those movements make far more sense!

I’m very excited for tomorrow night now!

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day 3

We started todays rehearsal by playing through one of the shorter interlude movements. I really enjoyed this as it gave us a nice warm up before moving on to rehearse all of the bigger movements from the piece.

Here is an excerpt of us rehearsing one of the trickier passages from the movement ‘Intoxicated Delirium’.

To get the rhythms tighter we looped the difficult sections, starting from the bottom. We’d loop the bassline and rhythm section a couple of times, then add the first melody and after getting that right we’d add the next. By working like this we made sure that we had solid foundations to build on, resulting in a neat performance.

We also slowed things down and made sure everything slotted well together and gradually sped them up until they were at the proper tempo. By doing this we could hear all of the parts clearly and I found it really helpful, particularly in the sections that felt like different parts were in different time signatures.

Tomorrow we are doing one of the few movements we haven’t covered yet. It’s an improvisation for the strings, so I’m interested to see what sort of things we get to do.

Grace Notes: COLAB 2016 – Day 2

Today was the second day of our CoLab project. We arrived and began rehearsals at 10 and used our time looking at the rest of the pieces that involved the whole band (as some of them are smaller group improvisations).

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Here is a video of us rehearsing a movement called ‘Rememberance’. It starts off with some really eerie string glissandi with an improvised piano solo over the top, before the flute and clarinet join in with the strings.

One of my favourite movements that we played today is called ‘Intoxicated Delirium’. It’s all about how you think and feel when you are intoxicated. It begins with a cool Cuban style beat and then has a folky tune over the top. The folk tune is first in 18/8 and comes back later in the piece in 4/4. I love this movement because it’s very rhythmic and exciting. Some of the rhythms are pretty complicated though and took some time to get right. I think it’s almost there though!

In the afternoon we broke off into sectional rehearsals. We had a string sectional, led by Nic Pendelbury and went over the exposed and tricky bits. We started off by playing one of the sections where we were providing the harmony and worked on our tuning as a section. We then moved onto some of the more complicated rhythmic sections. With Nic keeping time we played the interlocking cross rhythms, slowly at first, gradually speeding them up until we could play them completely in time. We also clapped and sung our parts (when we were playing across each other) to ensure we 100% know where we were supposed to play.

I’m looking forward to putting all of the sectional work together tomorrow and beginning to get a sense of what the completed work will sound like.

Grace Notes: Less than a week to go!

In 5 days my brother Sam and I will be performing in St Peters Chapel, Oxford at 7.30pm. There have been a few stressful moments in the planning process, but I think everything is now coming together.

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I had a violin lesson today and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t want to do anything too radical on the pieces I’m playing on Saturday, as I’ve had some bad past experiences of teachers changing things on the day of the concert and resulting in me mistakes due to the unfamiliar new fingering or bowing. In the end we just worked on technique (arm weight) which was actually really helpful and I’m excited to start working on it after the concert.

Both Sam and I have been busy practicing and promoting. We’ve been sharing our event on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and are hoping we can draw in a few more audience members through social media.

If you happen to be in the area, would be amazing to see you there!