Archive for December, 2007

Measure 33: Second, Third & Fourth Cello Performances

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2007 by cellomuser

This past Sunday (12/23/2007) I was able to perform twice in the same day.

Our church has two morning services ­ so any “special music” performances are played twice. The song I was asked to play in was called “Mary Did You

Know”. My part was very, very simple but played in important part in the song. Overall, both performances we played were excellent. The guy that did the singing did a superb job ­ I was really happy for him. The other instruments that played were two acoustic guitars, one bass guitar, and a djembe (West African drum). Both performances from a group perspective were A’s. I would give myself an A for the first playing and a B for the second.

At our Christmas Eve service (12/24/2007) we were planning on playing “What Child Is This” with people singing all three verses. However, the music director thought that the key we played it in two weeks back was not a congregation-friendly singing key. So, my part was nixed – and they just did a simple piano / acoustic guitar accompaniment. However, about 10 minutes before the service started – they asked me if I would be willing to play the version we did two weeks ago as an opening song (no people singing) to set the tone for the evening. Although, I was not warmed up, I said yes and we went up there and belted it out. I would say it was a solid B.

Overall, I am really happy to be playing with this particular group of folks. It has been a great confidence builder as well as a learning experience. I want to stick with this thing and keep on taking lessons. My parents bought me the “Yo-Yo Ma: Complete Cello Suites – Inspired by Bach” DVD series. I have only watched about 30 minutes of the 1st DVD. Thus far – I have really enjoyed it.

Outside of cello stuff – my professional life is keeping me pretty occupied. I am filling in for my boss at work while he is in India for three weeks – which has limited my time off. However, I will carry over 14 days into 2008 – so I will need to figure out a way to use some of that time. Maybe Emily Wright will be traveling in the region at some point giving lessons?

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Measure 32: First Cello Performance

Posted in Uncategorized on December 19, 2007 by cellomuser

This past Sunday evening I played for the first time with the musical quartet I previously mentioned. It was just one song – “What Child Is This”. Overall, I would say that the performance as a whole was a B; my part of the performance I would rate as a B-.

I was already nervous – since I have never played the cello in front of a crowd – this crowd was about 225. But to make matters worse, there was a small snafu when we walked up on the stage. The chair I was supposed to use was in the wrong place, and the person that was sitting in it did not realize it – I had no chair to sit on. So, cello in hand I am standing there looking and feeling like an idiot – someone finally helped me by grabbing a chair for me. Of course, it was the wrong height, not comfortable, and I had to re-adjust my end pin. And then I had to retune – the A and D were a half step flat and the G & C were a half step sharp – I felt rushed. Once I was done tuning one of the whistle players remarked to the crowd “thank you – we are done” to break-up the awkward waiting period.

For the first verse of the song – I did not play. As I began to play on the second verse, the pitch on a few of my notes was slightly off. I was able to adjust very quickly but I started getting nervous which resulted in my bowing hand shaking, which resulted in what one person described as “beautiful” vibrato. Um – ok – thanks for the compliment but that was not vibrato – I haven’t even been formally introduced to that yet. By the end of the song – the “beautiful vibrato” had vanished – my tone was good and even. I told him that it was not intentional.

Overall, the song sounded ok and it ended well. There were quite a few compliments after the fact. Some take-aways for me were:

  1. Take your time tuning. Some of you had already suggested this, but I still felt rushed. Keep in mind I had tuned up no more then 10 minutes before hand – but the heat on the room and on stage was enough to have to re-tune.
  2. Ensure that stage logistic type of things is hashed out before hand; double check.
  3. Overcoming nervousness requires mental will and getting more experience playing in front of folks.

Finally, I was supposed to play with the band this Sunday upcoming and we had practice last night (the song that I was going to play in was the last on the list to practice). However, our son cut his hand and required stitches and I had to leave suddenly, so I did not get to practice. I do not know if they still want me to play – guess I need to follow-up with them.

Measure 31: First Quartet Practice

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2007 by cellomuser

This past Tuesday evening was the first time I practiced with the other three folks for the “What Child Is This” quartet. I am happy to report that the practice went just fine and they have asked me to start playing in a few other non-Christmas songs. Below are some observations that I wanted to share concerning this experience – especially since my only previous instrument performance was in high school band (trumpet and French horn).

Pitch – Between two Irish whistles and an acoustic guitar, I found myself listening to my pitch to make sure I was in tune with them. This just reinforced to me how fickle this instrument can be when it comes to fingering.

Tuning – Within 5 minutes of getting on the stage with them, I had to re-tune. I think the temperature was like 10 degrees warmer on the stage then in the rest of sanctuary we were practicing in. I knew there would be a small temperature difference – but not that big. If anyone has any practical guidance on how to discreetly check for tuning with breaking out the tuner – I would welcome the feedback.

Tempo / Playing in Unison – This was the first time where I have performed music (in front of a crowd) without a director. Overall, we did fine maintaining a tempo. My part is by far the easiest – but there are places where I am changing notes where no one else is- sort of like an half-eighth-eighth-half and I found myself holding the first half too long.

There were about six other musicians that stuck around for the quartet practice and they absolutely loved the cello. My instructors have both said that my intonation is very good and the feedback from the other musicians would support that. I think it was a combination of the room we were playing in and the fact they had a new instrument to hear.

Another question I would pose to those reading is how loud I should play. I quickly realized that this instrument can generate some volume. My current instructor has been encouraging me to play hard and loud – while balancing the need to adhere to the notation. While we were practicing, I was afraid to play too hard for fear I would drown out the other instruments.

Finally, while we were taking a break I plucked out a few notes and one of the guys thought it would be nice to end the song on a cello pluck. The song ends with some keyboard music (one of the Irish whistle guys), and some fancy guitar something, with a one-note pluck (A, 1st position, G string) from the cello. Sounds weird to describe but it actually sounds nice.

Another song I am working on play with one of the Irish whistle guys is “Simple Gifts” in the key of D. I was inspired by the YYM / Allison Krauss duet and I thought it would sound good with an Irish whistle. So we are going to belt something out and play it along with the Irish song “Hold My Hand”. I really enjoy the musical creativity that can come along with these types of small group performances – it is just as satisfying as actually playing.

Measure 30: Seven Things…

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2007 by cellomuser

CelloGirl recently tagged me as part of the “Seven Things” barrel of fun. I am very flattered 🙂

So here goes…

  1. ITSJ – Introverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judging

Yep – That is my Myers-Briggs personality type. I have taken this test five times over the last 12 months (various times, unscheduled, etc…) and consistently produce(d) the same findings. I really enjoy socializing – if needed – but whenever possible, I enjoy solitude and peace / quiet. (http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes3.asp)

  1. Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1)

From 1993-1998 I was assigned to Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) – which is the Presidential Helicopter Unit. This was during the Clinton administration (Hillary, Chelsea during her teen years, pre- Monica Lewinski). It was great duty! I think the major take way for me was that most Americans do not fully appreciate the demands of the Office of the President, and the “stuff” they have to deal with. I do not care as much about political parties – more so then the person fulfilling the office. I have the utmost respect for anyone that serves as President of the United States.

  1. Son of a Baptist Preacher

My Dad is a Baptist preacher. As such, I grew up in a very conservative and church-based home – in Ohio. There were some things I did not get to do that my friends did – but I still managed to do some things behind my parents’ back; every kid probably does that. I learned a lot of lessons of what not to do from my older sister. I have the utmost respect for my parents and the life-style we lived. They will be the first to admit that they were not perfect parents – but who is? I continue to have a very strong relationship with them and they are wonderful grandparents.

  1. Married My High School Sweetheart

“J” and I dated on and off from when we were sophomores until we were married two years after graduating. There are times of introspection that I am still surprised she settled on me. Roughly five years of our marriage was while I was on Active Duty in the Marine Corps. I was gone quite a bit traveling the nation and world for that matter. While there are some military families that manage to make it – there are A LOT – that do not. I have to admit that wanting to have children and not have him/her grow up on a military basis heavily influenced my decision to leave the Marine Corps. Anyways – we have been married 14 years.

  1. Very Few Number of Friends

I have a very few number of non-Marine Corps friends; lots of acquaintances but very few friends. One of the active friendships dates back to 1998. I had just left the Corps and was working in DC at a lobbying firm. “G” got me started in the information security profession. He is now the CIO of a very prominent non-profit health-related organization. We try to talk once a week. Another active friendship goes back to 1999. “D” and I crossed paths when “G” (from above) was pretty much forced to leave the company after an acquisition- such irony. Since I moved back to Ohio in 2002 (see 9/11 below) – “D” and I have worked extensively together – mostly me doing information security consulting for companies he has been part of. Both of these guys have been very influential in my professional career –mostly all good! Once in a while, I do cross paths via email with some of the guys I served with in the Corps – there is still that comradery and understanding that makes being a Marine so special.

  1. Quasi-9/11 Transplant

After leaving the Marine Corps in 1998, I lived near and worked in Washington, DC from 1998-2002. 9/11 was an amazing day. Once all the dots were connected and DC figured out what was going on – mass chaos erupted. I worked about two blocks from the White House (13th & G). Our building went into chaos when a contractor painter accidentally pulled tape from a fire alarm he was painting around causing alarm in the whole building. People were already freaked out by the uncertainty of planes that were still flying around and the fact that the Pentagon had been hit. Mass chaos usually starts out with a domino effect. One building sees another building clearing out and it just compounds from there. The subway stations were jam-packed with people scrambling to get out of the district; luckily the plot did not include chemicals in subway stations – otherwise there would have been tens of thousands of more casualties. The only thing that allowed me to communicate during this chaos was my Blackberry. Cell phones were not working. Later that day I was able to get on the roof of our building with a building engineer and another former military guy and see the Pentagon and the smoke coming from it. I will never forget that. When I finally did make it home that night to my wife and our two year old son – I asked her if she was ready to move back to Ohio. Six months later, we moved back – with no job – just some consulting income from the company I was leaving and some small consulting gigs here and there. Things have worked at well since moving back to Ohio.

  1. I Love Gaming.

Although I spend hardly any time gaming these days, I absolutely love playing video games. There is nothing better then spending a few hours at a time struggling through some tough game. Because I play so little, it can take me about a year to get through like a Halo type game. The Wii is one of the best consoles to date. Our entire family has stayed up before playing Wii sports. Our son now has to play grandma and grandpa in bowling every time they come down. My current shoot-em up game I am playing is some SOCOM Navy Seal game for the Playstation Portable (PSP). The PSP was a gift to my son from a family friend and came with a few games. We have only had it for about two weeks – so there have been a few nights that I have brought it up to the bed to attempt a few missions. I turn the volume down low so it does not bother my wife while she is reading.

BONUS 1: I am a news and political junkie. Oh, and for what it is worth, American news media is a shame. I do not discount all of them but when I am looking for facts or breadth of coverage, I hit BBC and Drudge – sometimes CNN. Of course, Google News is also effective up pulling up some different spins on stories / issues. FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC – waste of time.

So there you go – some revealing things, but not too much – I hope it meets your expectations CelloGirl. I guess I need to think of a few people to tag; I will post those separately.