Thank you very much to ESTA for providing me with the Joan Dickson Bursary which allowed me to attend the Senior Arpeggione Viola course run by Jacky Woods. On the first day of the course I really struggled with confidence in my playing standard. I felt that everyone else was amazing (which they were!) and I didn’t believe I was skilled enough to be there. By the end of the five day course, however, I found that my confidence in ensemble playing had greatly improved. I am much more comfortable and confident with playing loudly in front of other people and I now claim my solo parts with vigour and enthusiasm.
The first chamber group I was in played Embolada by Heitor Villa-Lobos, arranged for 8 violas. I really enjoyed it as the rhythm and general feeling of the piece was challenging and fun. I played one of the lower parts which had rhythmic sections and melodic parts, however the main theme was passed around each part throughout the piece. There was a section where I played a relatively fast chromatic scale from a high position on the A string, landing at the end on the C string. This part was a solo and I struggled with the intonation and taking my time with each note. During the first section, the main theme is played by the upper 4 violas, and the rhythm is played by the lower 4. Our challenge as a group was to play with full legato bow strokes and as loudly as possible to convey the passion in Argentinian music. The parts were very balanced and equal; no single one was harder or easier than the others.
The second chamber group I was part of played Kiddush by Kurt Weill, arranged by Jacky Woods for 12 violas. I played second viola, which challenged me to play stronger and more loudly in my solo sections. Originally the Kiddush was a Jewish prayer choral piece, so one of the challenges was to recreate the sound of a choir. The first viola had the majority of the solos, so the rest of the players were supporting. While everyone had a solo moment, the majority of playing was creating an accompaniment for the solos. Our aim was to create a warm, veil-like sound. I think in the end we did achieve our goal.
Improving in these skills has motivated me to become a better musician and my passion for viola playing has grown. I now have the confidence to try out for new opportunities that I would have otherwise not considered.