Grace Notes: Changing the way I practice through yoga

Ever since I started at Trinity Laban, my teacher had been saying to me how good yoga is for you, and how it’ll improve strength and relaxation of the muscles when playing. I ignored her for about 2 years (using various excuses every time she asked) and then just before last Christmas I started. The main reason for this was that my right shoulder was (note the past tense……!) giving me grief and no amount of thinking about relaxing while playing was helping. It kept half popping out, was painful most of the time and was starting to hinder the amount of time I was able to play for. I decided that I needed to try something, so I and started yoga.

I didn’t have a yoga mat when I first decided to start, and as my flat has no carpets I just did a few simple routines on a towel. Not ideal, but better than nothing. Since I got a yoga mat for my birthday in January however, I’ve been doing at least a 20 minute practice every day.

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(I do not own this image)

Being a student, I can’t afford £10 per yoga class, especially as I’d like to go more than once a week. So I decided to look on YouTube for yoga teachers, and after a bit of searching and trying out routines I’ve found a woman called Adriene who I really like. Her channel ‘Yoga with Adriene’ has all sorts of types of routines of different lengths, all geared towards various goals, so you can choose exactly what you want to focus on for that days practice. What I especially like about her though is that she encourages you to ‘find what feels right’ and not to just try and copy exactly what she does if it’s not going to be beneficial to your body. She also gives lots of options for some of the harder poses, meaning that just because you find something difficult at that particular time, it doesn’t mean you have to sit out the practice.

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(I do not own this image)

I have been completely converted to the power of yoga. I find that waking up in the morning and getting straight onto the mat really sets me off on the right foot for the day and gets my body moving, meaning that by the time I go to practice the violin, I’m already pretty warmed up. Through learning the different poses I’ve also been able to incorporate some of those into my stretches before practicing violin (I’m going to do a blog on that soon), and they really help to open up my shoulders before I have to stand in an awkward and unbalanced position for the rest of the day.

Although it takes a while (as with anything in life) to get into the habit of getting onto the mat every day it’s completely worth it. Going back to poses that I couldn’t do two weeks ago, but now can, gives me such a sense of achievement (like being able to touch my toes. Anyone who knows me, will not have failed to notice that my legs are stupidly long and so I’ve never been able to touch my toes. I’m so proud of myself that I can now!). It’s another way of expressing myself (like this blog) that’s not playing the violin, and through that I find it very rewarding. I’d totally recommend giving it a go, and you’ll be surprised with what you find you can do!

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Grace Notes: Music of the week – Shia Surprise!

I’m afraid that today’s  post is going to be a tad surreal. The song I’m sharing with you is very  strange in its own right, but when combined with a string quartet, a couple of choirs and contemporary dance it gets a whole lot stranger.

The song ‘Shia LaBeouf’ was written by Rob Cantor in 2012 and is his imaginings of meeting the blood-soaked cannibal actor Shia LaBeouf in the woods (this is a work of fiction I hasten to add – he is not a cannibal). It became very popular, thanks to social media, and lots of remixes and videos for the song have been created.

Recently , however, Rob Cantor released a music video himself called ‘Shia LaBeouf Live’ which has been orchestrated with choirs and more instrumentalists added. There are also a group of contemporary dancers some of whom don a giant ‘Shia LaBeouf’ head towards the end of the song. The video ends with a lone audience member clapping and as the camera pans round, it is revealed to be Shia himself.

Although this is a strange and pretty creepy song I really like it. The lyrics are just fantastic.

Running for your life (From Shia Labeouf.)
He’s brandishing a knife. (It’s Shia Labeouf.)
Lurking in the shadows, Hollywood superstar Shia Labeouf.
Living in the woods, (Shia Labeouf.)
Killing for sport, (Shia Labeouf.)
Eating all the bodies, actual, cannibal Shia Labeouf.

My favourite line is: Wait! He isn’t dead! Shia Surprise!                          

The way that Rob has written this song is seriously creepy. The old style sound of the voice and the whispers do evoke a sense of fear. The original is great (https://soundcloud.com/rob-cantor/shia-labeouf) but I feel that the atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the strings and the voices. It adds another level of creepy.  All this combined with the comedy means you’re left with a very bizarre mix of emotions at the end

I hope you enjoy this song! After writing this I’m going to have it stuck in my head for days! Looking forward to seeing you on Monday for a blog post that couldn’t be more different…

Grace Notes: Music of the Week – October 24th

Hello and welcome back to Music of the Week! The return of ‘The Apprentice’ (a guilty pleasure) has influenced my first choice and a BBC prom I went to in the summer has influenced my second.

Prokofiev’s ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a wonderful piece. In the section ‘Montagues and Capulets’ the famous low brass oom-pahs and the unison string melody stepping over the top in a dotted rhythm is the section from the ballet that most people know. (Or signifies that Lord Sugar is coming back to BBC1.) However, I’d really like to talk about the whole piece. I’ve seen the ballet and last summer I played the second suite in a concert with YMSO and discovered some other beautiful passages.

The ballet was composed in 1935 and the ending was originally written so that it was happy, but he was persuaded that this would have been a step too far. It was written for the Kirov Ballet but because it was so tricky for the dancers it wasn’t performed for a few years (the premier was in Brno in 1938). Once the music had become popular he then wrote three orchestral suites and a solo piano piece based on the ballet themes. Aside from the ‘Montagues and Capulets’ theme (which is epic and so much fun to play), my other favourite movement from the suites is the ‘Death of Juliet’. It’s beautiful and has many moments of bittersweet passion and pain which could bring the audience to tears.

My other piece that I’d like to share is a collaboration between the string trio (two violins and a double bass) Time for Three and Joshua Radin (an American singer, songwriter and actor). It’s an acoustic song called ‘Everything’ll Be Alright’.

I first came across Time for Three at a BBC Prom. My brother is a huge fan of Aaron Copland and there was an ‘Americana’ prom last summer so I went with him to watch the BBC Symphony Orchestra play. I wasn’t sure what to expect in the second half as all it said on the website was ‘Brubeck’. I was in for a treat. The orchestra opened with ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk’ by Dave Brubeck, which had been arranged by his son (Chris Brubeck) for orchestra. This was very exciting but short, so my brother and I were left wondering what was coming next in ‘Travels in Time for Three’ (by Chris Brubeck). I loved this piece. An American string trio walked out and they proceeded to amaze us with a virtuosic performance of what was essentially a jazzy concerto grosso. After this, I went home and found as many different videos as I could by Time for Three.

I was introduced to Joshua Radin by recommendation from one of my friends who emigrated to Canada when we were 16. We keep in contact through Skype, Facebook and email often share YouTube videos and songs. About a year ago, I was sent ‘Winter’ by Joshua Radin and that became one of my favourite songs.

On Monday I was browsing YouTube, came across a collaboration between these two, and I loved it. Even though there is only a string bass, two violins and a voice with guitar, it’s magical and haunting. I hope you like it as much as I do!

I’m looking forward to seeing you all on Monday, when I’ll be talking about a halloween concert I’m taking part in on Sunday with BBC NOW and NYOW.

*I do not own any of the above videos