Our World From Up Here

Our world from up here

Vast scenes below then hypnotic

Sunsets far and wide

And warm until memories 

Like a canal flow gliding

Open to us and run free- 

Alive in the clouds but 

Below the moon still 

Glowing black like darkened

Emotion pouring to heal

And your voice to seal 

Echoed cries from their booming

Larsen Magnacore Cello String Review

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Strings are to a musician like ballet shoes are to a dancer. Just as each dancer is very different and requires different size and softness of shoes, every cello is vastly different and requires different strings to compliment the resonance of the instrument. My cello has an especially bright and powerful quality, especially on the A string, but it also has the tendency to sound brash. It also often has projection difficulties on the low strings, particularly in high positions. I knew more could be done to improve the sound and I started to think about trying new strings in order to address this issue.

With this in mind, I got in contact with Larsen some weeks ago, eager to try new strings on my cello. Having been a devotee to their standard cello strings for quite a while, I was hearing great things about their Magnacore strings and was desperate to give them a try. I’d been reassured how balanced the string sounds were across the cello and, knowing my cello was in desperate need of this balance, was excited to try them. Suffice it so say, I was not disappointed! I changed the A and D strings first and noticed an immediate increase in the sound quality. The strings needed virtually no playing in time and adapted to my cello immediately. A strings on my cello often have the tendency to sound increasingly ‘brash’ on my cello, but the Magnacore A string had a sweetness that I was convinced my cello wasn’t capable of producing. The D string matched the A both in resonance and quality of sound and was so buoyant to play. Finally I have found strings that create equal tones on both A and D, I have struggled for so long with a brash A string and a muted D string, thanks to these strings I feel my strings compliment each other and my playing.

I later replaced my G and C Spirocore strings with the Magnacore C and G and, once again, the effect was immediate. The strings were so much more responsive on my cello and the resonance was electric. I did find the strings to feel quite a bit stiffer and not entirely flexible under the fingers, though they tuned up easily and maintained tuning with no issues. In saying this, it was as I expected that the bottom two strings took a few days to play in and feel totally settled. This created an short period of discomfort, but it quickly subsided and, once settled, my cello produced resonant and expressive sonorities that were unprecedented but certainly welcome!

Proof of the strings’ transformation of my cello came about when I played the Bach Suite no.3 in my cello lesson last week. My Teacher immediately mention how much she thought my sound had improved. I mentioned that I’d recently changed my strings to Magnacore and she was fascinated at how much of a difference they had made to my sound in such a short space of time.

It’s such a joy and a blessing to find strings finally that work with my cello and not against it. I’ll certainly be using Magnacore again and will be intrigued to witness their longevity. They cannot come more highly recommended!

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Hattie Butterworth

How busking can make you into the musician you want to be

  During the summer I’ve been busking regularly in some of the small towns around my area in order to save some money for returning to boarding school (as I like to party ;)) When I first started busking I experienced very similar emotions that I would if performing formally. I would worry the night before and pray that it would rain or that I could get out of it. Thinking back to that now is funny as I will do anything to have a bit more money as I spent the first year of sixth form completely broke and borrowing a lot of money from people (which I do not recommend!) Nonetheless, I saw busking as hugely exposed and scary concept that was the height of embarrassment and anxiety. How wrong I was! I think busking has proved to me how experiences decrease in fear the more you do them- It’s a very tangible example of this and a large part to play in this decrease is the reception you get from everyday people.

When in a high-pressured music school you often rely on your peers and parents for praise and confidence. It can often feel as if all the teachers are nothing but critical and it is difficult to read into what they REALLY think about your performance or assessment. It’s not surprising, therefore, that in this environment you find yourself making comparisons and judgments with everyone else and becoming a highly strung, emotional individual. This is another reason why performance anxiety is high as you receive little if any praise from the teachers you respect so highly, so every performance becomes a battle to impress and discover what they really think of you. As soon as you take the music you love out onto the street, you are providing the atmosphere for a market square or cobbled street and the effects are pleasing. You feel as thought you are ‘playing’ the houses and the people that walk past. You become the music much quicker and practice a mindset which is so vital in a performance. Of course, earning from your music adds to the huge joy and gives such a satisfaction. You feel worthy and your endeavors are all worthwhile at last! People are genuinely interested in you and your music. “Are you a student?”, “Would you please play Bach G major prelude?”(invariable request grrr!!), “Thank you so much- what a treat to hear a classical busker!”. Compare this with “You haven’t practiced this”, ” It went wrong because you played it too fast”, “I’ve certainly heard you play that better”. I’m not for one minute saying that I don’t feelI deserve criticism. I understand that it is an integral and inevitable part of life at a music school and a very realisit simulator for the world of music. I think it’s important for artists to know their talent and worth a bit more. This means sharing with normal, everyday people an atmosphere that would otherwise not be there. Throw in £100 at the end of the day and you’re game!!

I encourage everyone to become a busker and get to know your worth and talent. Get payed for being the atmosphere, learning your repertoire and sharing the joys of being a musician as well as the stresses and pressures of being a student.

Steps:

  1. Find yourself a wealthy town
  2. Play lots of Bach
  3. Take lots of breaks
  4. Stop when people want to talk to you (I didn’t at first but they get a bit peeved!)
  5. Play anything and everything- people just want to hear nice sounds!

Please light up the streets of Britain with your music and help people realize just how fabulous classical music really is!

Much love,

Hattie

Courier of the soul- A poem

Performing is delivering a gift

From writer to reader, composer to listener

You decide the path and perhaps the packaging

But you leave the gift at the front door

Ready to be discovered, unwrapped and cherished.

The package was in your care

Responsible for its preservation

You may enjoy the recipients reaction

But you are not the gift itself

You yourself aren’t the pleasure you provide

Music is the gift and you are

Giver, lover, traveler and believer

Hattie Butterworth

Sometimes we all get in the way of ourselves

http://youtu.be/GNc6qTwC7OY  I’ve never experienced a relaxed performing experience. It’s always been a matter of hoping and praying that practice will have been enough and that my performance will be a quarter as fluent as it was in practice. This has really frustrated me. How is it fair that I become a completely different musician when I’m under pressure or on show? It isn’t! I was determined to find a peace of mind in order to perform with a clear head and free body. I wanted the opportunity to trust my abilities and express all the love and emotion in the music whilst leaving all my anxiety behind.

I’m sure every musician can relate that this is far easier said than done! However often we vow to trust ourselves or ‘let go’,it becomes more and more difficult as we focus on ourselves. The past few weeks have taught me many valuable lessons about my anxieties and how to control them and I thought my findings could prove useful to others.

I think it was made clear to me by my mother at first that my performance anxiety was a result of an obsession I had with myself! This was a huge wake up call and scared me quite a bit… I realized that the performance hadn’t ever truly been about my love of the cello or beauty of the music. I’d always had myself at the center of the performance and played to impress rather than to enjoy. I’d imagine the reaction of the audience if I’d played well and focused on what success I could enjoy. Of course, even if I’d played well, I never felt truly satisfied with myself. My mum reminded me that “I shouldn’t be about you in that moment, your thoughts and feelings don’t matter. You aren’t the most important part- the composers’ music is what you’re communicating, not your anxieties or fears”. This message was a huge wake-up call. Nonetheless, I was certain to convert these thoughts and realizations into a mindful performance technique.  I firstly vowed to play for the composer and not for myself or my mother. In my performance at the end of my music course last week, I was performing the Prokofiev cello sonata. I felt nervous at the back of my mind but knew I had all my ideas together about the piece and wanted to express my specific interpretation. I said to myself “you’re playing for Prokofiev- you’re lucky enough to be the messenger of this fabulous piece from the composer to the audience. You’re taking them on this journey of different emotions. YOU DO NOT MATTER!” I had completely removed my anxious emotions out of the equation, realizing they would do nothing for the music, only tear my playing apart.

I walked out into the concert hall and felt very little fear. I was pleasantly surprised at my calm and genuinely felt as though I was in my practice. I didn’t experience bow shake or jamming fingers, as I have many times before. Instead I felt able to listen to my music and really enjoy my role as messenger. I didn’t feel the need to judge my performance. I knew for the first time I had played as well as I could have done. Of course some things still went wrong but these small things I had never quite perfected in the practice room so this didn’t bother me. I knew that ultimately, it certainly didn’t bother the audience!

(If you want to watch my performance its on YouTube at http://youtu.be/GNc6qTwC7OY )

I don’t know whether the audience sensed my peace of mind but I do hope they felt the music as much as I did. I know it will take further practice and faith to maintain this mindfulness and performance calm, but I feel as though for the first time I know it is possible. Why should an audience of music lovers (usually!) cause me to play with such little love and trust? It’s not logical.

I hope I’ve been able to offer a different perspective for some other musicians and performers and wish you all well on your journey to calm and mindfulness. I hope my story can at least give you faith that this peace of mind is possible. You all have the power to perform how you want to, perhaps sometimes we all just get in the way of the music!

I’ve written a short poem about my image of the performers’ role. I will post it as a separate post.

Much love and best wishes,

Hattie

Should I practice or should I just be?

  I am much more relaxed about my practice now a days. I have enough time to do everything and can wip out some constructive practice when needs be. But the rest of the time I’ve found to be a struggle. I understand that the time you spend mindlessly repeating a certain phrase can translate into excess tension and strain but this is a comfortable solution. Being constantly ‘constructive’ and ‘alert’ is a difficult mindset which is easy to wander off from.

I think I’ve discovered that just like when you’re leaning to meditate, it’s important to set an intention but not criticise your mind for wandering off. Conversely, bringing the attention back to your intentions whilst having a heightened awareness. 

Perhaps it’s better to only practice when you feel like it, but often I’m convinced we aren’t to sure what we feel like. I’ve decided that if I’ve taken out my cello, began to practice for ten minutes and still have no desire, then I can resign my attempts and return later with a fresher mind. Simply having this trust and agreement means that I actually find myself doing that very little and that time seems to pass very quickly.

I hope you all enjoy the work you do and don’t feel discouraged if your mind wanders- it’s what it’s designed to do.

Happy being!

Hattie 😘