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Workshop Chronicles – 2018

We always seem to think that the current Cellospeak workshop year is the best ever, and that remains true with the 18th annual workshops, held during the first two weeks of August 2018 at bucolic Bryn Mawr College. Our indefatigable and immensely talented leadership team of Artistic Director Bomin Collins and Executive Director Susanna Mendlow, along with Accompanist/Conductor Gary Fitzgerald and our stellar faculty, delivered once again. This year we enjoyed the return of veteran faculty and welcomed Katlyn DeGraw and Natalie Spear to the team. Both Skill Builder Week and Ensemble Week were filled with challenging and inspiring opportunities to learn, perform, and experience fabulous cello music, as well as to feel firsthand the “Cellospeak magic” of unbridled and non-judgmental appreciation that showers every participant who simply tries their best to improve. The two weeks were also full of great social pleasures, including reunions between longstanding friends, budding new friendships, camaraderie with faculty, post-recital receptions and late night sightreading fun.

During Skill Builder Week, 46 participants welcomed several scheduling and teaching innovations. Ken Law and Bomin Collins taught morning technique sessions, each followed by an applied session where participants put the technique lessons into practice. The sessions covered such topics as different approaches to practicing, theory, music styles, and sight reading. One Thursday, Bomin highlighted different approaches to practicing and playing a Beethoven minuet. On Friday, Ken demonstrated various student repertory pieces, inspiring participants with the actual beauty of such familiar student sawhorses played by a professional. Optional afternoon classes included Bob Battey’s “Bach Suite Workshop,” Lynne Beiler’s “How to Care for your Cello,” and Irina Tikhonova’s moderated panel session “Inside the Cellist’s Studio.”

Highlights of the recitals during the Skill Builder Week included a performance by Cellospeaker Bee Reynolds of Bartok’s Romanian Dances, which was also performed by the faculty in an arrangement for cello sextet. Alan Saul Saucedo Estrada played an Italian aria from the 18th Century (returning with another aria during Ensemble Week) and several faculty played tangos arranged by Jorge Espinoza. The Skill Builder Workshop culminated in a Friday night send-off with each skill level playing the trios they had prepared during the week.

During Ensemble Week, 53 participants enjoyed section-specific warm-up classes, cello choir rehearsals, scheduled time to practice quartets both with and without coaches, and unstructured time for practicing. Optional afternoon faculty sessions included Ismar Gomes’ Beethoven Sonata Seminar, Jorge Espinoza’s Tango Workshop, and a return of Irina Tikhonova’s “Inside the Cellist Studio.”

As usual, evenings sparkled with wildly appreciated participant quartet performances as well as one demonstration after the other of the virtuosity of our incredible faculty. Recital highlights included two extraordinary cello duets: In a rare moment, Gary Fitzgerald played the cello on the first movement of Beethoven’s G Minor Sonata with Cellospeak participant Cathy Whitten on piano. Later that evening, Jorge Espinoza and Susanna Mendlow put on an amazing performance of a special two-cello arrangement of the monumental Bach Chaconne for solo violin. Recital fun was capped off with a faculty performance of Fitzenhagen Concertwaltzer quartet (featuring the brilliant Irina Tikhonova) punctuated with party blowers.

It is a well-known tradition that our Founder Dorothy Amarandos gives each performer a kiss following their performance. As she wasn’t able to attend most of the workshops, different participants took turns sitting in the “first chair” to dispense the kisses. Dorothy was able to join for the final night of recitals and everyone was delighted that she was there to perform the kissing duty herself.

The final concert program of Ensemble Week was a tour de force. Performing once again in the stately Great Hall, the Cello Choir rose to the occasion under the baton of Gary Fitzgerald to perform a difficult program with great confidence, and the faculty did not fail to impress. As is tradition, the concert (and workshops) concluded with a reading of the beautiful song “Shenandoah.”

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