Yes, I am still hacking away at the cello. For the past 8 months now, C, The Magic and I have been going to ELLSO (East London Late Starters Orchestra) to learn our respective instruments (2 cellos and a violin. We could almost make a band with that!), and even though our very kind teacher says that we're coming along really well, I still can't help thinking I sound like I'm taking a cat, stretching it out, and making it screech. Though I guess with a cello, that's more of a cow like screeching noise.. either way, it's not the beautiful, deep, non-scratchy tones of a cello that I fell in love with. In fact, sometimes when I play I feel like I'm actually offending the very instrument I'm trying to learn.
I've been told continuously that whilst it's not best to blame your instrument, the one I've hired from Guiviers is in fact, how do you put it, shite. As a beginners cello from a place that holds such prestige, I definitely wasn't expecting it to be the best one in our class, but I certainly wasn't expecting to be told it's the worst one in the class either. My cello teacher has finally realised his pleas for me to spend around £1000 on an instrument was falling on very deaf (and very mortgage laden) ears, so a few weeks ago he brought in a very inexpensive cello for me to try, and see if I wanted to buy. It's weird, because there's something about it that has me intrigued, as I keep finding myself smelling it. In orchestra rehearsal I find my nose pressed against it, taking deep breaths. It's got this really strange, sweet smell to it. I tend to do this mostly whilst being bored listening to first violins being told again and again how to play (as an aside: why not just play the way the conductor tells you? I don't get it? Why do they constantly need to be told two, three, four THOUSAND times what to do? Just do it. Please. The rest of us are ageing here). The thing is whilst I will probably buy it, I'm a bit disappointed that I haven't fallen in love with this new cello like I was expecting to. I'm wondering if it's because my teacher borrowed it to use in orchestra to show us how to play this really strange piece where we have to hit our instruments, play past the bridge, use the back of the bows to make noises. He then kept saying things like "hmm, this really is a terrible cello! I'm sure all of yours sound better than this! Wow, this bow is rubbish as well! I'm glad I'm using my worst instrument to show you how to play this piece. Now if any of you have better instruments, do not, I repeat, do NOT do this" - then he'd go ahead and smashes the bow against the bridge. Yeah that feeling of deflation that kicks in after your teacher, who is selling you the instrument, tells 30 odd people that it's crap is something that people should not have to go through. Consumer confidence is not riding high with this girl.
Tomorrow night we're playing at a pub in Greenwich. Our entire orchestra have split up into little performance groups to basically show off to each other, since in an orchestra only the selected soloists really get to stand out from the rest of the punters. So 5 of us in stage 1 cello (that's like the toddler school of the orchestra) are playing 2 pieces (well, playing could be a bit of an exaggeration. Hacking is another synonym. Crimes against music could be another), tomorrow night. When I practice alone, I think it sounds terrible, but there must be something about constantly being hungover at orchestra on Saturday mornings that makes me think as a collective, we could actually sound ok. Am I kidding myself? I guess we'll see tomorrow, when at the end of our two pieces people either give us a standing ovation as cello prodigies, or clap quietly and politely in that very British manner... C & I are also playing 2 other pieces, both composed by people from ELLSO. I am secretly chuffed we're allowed to play, since some of the people who are with us have been playing for years and years, and we've only been at it for 8 months. Plus, no one in the audience will really know which notes we don't actually know how to play yet, and that all my back extensions are just completely made up. 2 words for tomorrow night: Air bowing. Much like air guitar, in that no noise is made, but with an actual instrument between your legs. Oooh sounds a bit rude eh?
So wish me luck. I'm sure it will be fine. Besides, everyone there will be performing, so there is no real audience as such, so no one is really going to care what a bunch of first year cello students sound like. I might be a bit jaded but I don't really think anyone is going to care what anyone else sounds like, as long as they themselves don't hideously fuck up. Here's hoping I don't either!