Wednesday evening’s post-dinner-pub-trip was serenaded by some amazingly talented traditional- Scottish musicians. They were kind enough to let us, (and were actually very encouraging for us to) join in and try out playing with them.. so we shyly brought out our instruments. We fiddled around by ear, improvising on the harmonies and tunes as we went along, and they also had some of the reels written out which we perched on tables between all the drinks to play and bop along to as well. Sarah taught us how to play the bodhran (pronounced Bow – rawn) and we picked up the signals for the repeats of the tunes, and also for changing tunes (which is generally the highly complex gesture of someone kicking their leg in the air..) it was exhilarating to play in a style different to our usual and make new friends. However, I think what made it most special was how poetically intimate the setting was for connecting and communicating with other players and sharing a love of music with everyone around us. The vibe of the whole pub could be so obviously influenced by what we played – it could both get more rowdy when we played certain popular tunes as well as turn more contemplative when other more calm melodies were played. When we are almost always used to a culture of audiences sitting quietly and listening, it was wonderful to have the immediate connection with people around us and to bounce off their energy. Overall, it was a reel-ly fun evening and for us to have been able to join in with this music making was such a joy!
We’ve had an amazing time on the Isle of Coll and have really enjoyed performing in the concerts. We have learnt so much from our tutors Dickie, Charles and Jonathan and it’s been great to have the time to rehearse together everyday!
At the start of the week, we felt like we had a huge mountain to climb as we had decided to work on three substantial string quartets. We chose to play Fanny Hensel’s Quartet in E flat major, Haydn’s Sunrise quartet and Beethoven Quartet op. 59 No. 3 in C major. We had previously worked on the Beethoven earlier in the year, but the other two quartets were completely new to us!
After having coaching with some of the tutors, we decided to mix up our rehearsal technique. Instead of always talking about possible musical ideas, we nominated someone in the quartet to lead the group and demonstrate their musical intentions whilst playing the music. We felt that this cut down our rehearsal time and any unnecessary chatting! It also really made us think about what we wanted to do with the music and take individual responsibility for the musical shapes.
Another interesting thing about this week was learning about each other’s learning styles and how we rehearse under pressure. Working intensively on a course is very different to isolated rehearsals at music college and we felt we had to pace ourselves and also look after each other! We realised that we had to work as one unit to achieve a corporate goal. This meant we had to be open to compromises and listen to everyone’s thoughts and ideas.
After a week of intensive rehearsals and three concerts in a row, we feel like we have really bonded and improved as a quartet. We can’t wait to continue playing together and get started on some new repertoire!
On Thursday we had a welcome afternoon off. After playing 6-8 hours per day all week, the physical and mental challenges of working with such vigour had taken a bit of a toll on the quartet…
We were driven to the top of a hill, which we descended with great expectations, but nobody really prepared us for the beauty of the scene that would meet us below. Hidden from view until the last few steps was a gorgeous, secluded beach. The water was stunningly clear and ranged in all shades of blue, from deep indigo to bright turquoise.
We were greeted by a friendly labrador and immediately all the stress of the week was kissed away by the fluffy friend. Ellie and Maris ran fast for the water, wanting to immerse themselves before they could feel the shock of the cold. It was so biting it was hard to breathe at first! But once we got used to it, the water was the perfect temperature for a brisk swim. We made our way to some rocks, climbed up and jumped off, back into the chill that was soothing our sore muscles. Ellie swam a couple of laps between the rocks while Maris coaxed Rosie into the sea and mocked Susie for not wanting to subject herself to the invigorating water. As we were leaving the sea, Rosie spied an extraordinary find: a whole sea urchin! A great souvenir from our time on Coll.
The quartet reunited on the sand where we built a sandcastle village and Rosie drew some sand portraits.
The beach trip was exactly what we needed to rejuvenate and inspire us. With newfound energy, we turned back to our pieces, excited to add more depth to our music. Our following rehearsals were creative and productive. This day was a good reminder that musicians are whole people, and we must care for ourselves as such. New experiences add to the bank of colors, emotions, and energies that we draw from to create profound expression in our art.
It’s been a busy time for the Ferrante Quartet as we were all performing solo recitals the week before we came to Coll. Rosie and Ellie actually had recitals the night before we set out! Due to the many rail strikes in London, our travel plans had to change and Susie and Maris found themselves on a 12 hour coach.
There were quite a few times we weren’t sure that the whole group would make it to the island! But we managed to meet in Oban where we spent a few short hours in a hostel before heading off in the early morning light to catch the ferry.
It was a long journey from London, but it was all worth it when we stepped foot onto the Isle of Coll and took in the scenic vista and the clean air. It’s been such a gift to get out of the bustle of the city and into the tranquility of this setting where we have the space to dedicate ourselves completely to our artistry. Surrounded by the countryside and fresh air, we are loving our first few days on the Isle of Coll. We’re staying all together in a lovely bunkhouse and rehearsing and having coaching in the An Cridhe community centre which has the hall where we’re going to be performing in later in the week. Every window has the most stunning views and the light and weather changes every minute!
Having formed recently, getting time to dedicate to playing together and growing as a quartet, away from our other student- and working- commitments, has been invaluable. With inspiring tutors to guide us through Quartet repertoire, the progress we have felt within our group, both individually and collectively has been amazing!
The music tutors have helped us to listen and work together, thinking about our collective musical ideas and intentions with phrasing. This, along with a love and enthusiasm for the repertoire has inspired us to continue working in this way as much as possible when we return back to London.
We have already learned so much about each other both personally and musically, and we can’t wait to show off our progress in the upcoming concerts.
#Coll-age #iloveColl #Coll-d #Coll-aboration #musi-Coll