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Joanna Borrett

Chiome D’Oro by Monteverdi

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Chiome D’Oro by Monteverdi
You can now buy our arrangement of Monteverdi’s Chiome d’Oro (Golden Head of Hair) at our violin and cello duet  online shop here:
This lively and vibrant piece is one of Monteverdi’s erotic madrigals and is about the attractions of women and the effect they have on men. Here’s a translation of the opening words: “Golden head of hair, beautiful treasure, you entwine me in a thousand ways, whether bound or loose…”
Chiome D'Oro by Monteverdi

About the music Our arrangement of Chiome d’Oro has lots of interplay in the parts. As with almost all baroque music, dynamics are not included so feel free to add your own. We have written out some suggested elaborations of the opening repeats and you could certainly do more if you wanted. The overall mood of the music is energising and happy.


About Monteverdi 
Monteverdi was  a successful and famous composer and he became a priest towards the end of his life. In this respect he bears a similarity to  his contemporary, the great English poet John Donne. If their paintings are accurate the two men looked remarkably alike when they were young.

Una Furtiva Lagrima by Donezetti

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Our violin and cello duet of Una Furtiva Lagrima ( A Furtive Tear) by Donezetti is now available. This hauntingly beautiful tune is the most famous aria from Donizetti’s opera L’Elisir D’Amore  ( The Love Potion) and it seems incongrous that it comes from a comic opera as it  completely transcends its context.
Una Furtiva Lagrima by DonezettiThe plot of the opera
L’Elisir D’Amore tells the story of a village boy called Nemorino who falls in love with  Adina. To win her affection he buys a ‘love potion’ from a visiting quack doctor – not realising that it only contains wine.
About our arrangement
In our arrangement the cello has the tune for a great deal of the time – reflecting the fact that it is a tenor aria. You can buy our duet of the aria here:

The Prince of Denmark’s March by Clarke

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We are now selling our arrangement of The Prince of Denmark’s  March by Jeremiah Clarke online. This famous celebratory piece is frequently played at wedding ceremonies and  has lots of elaboration and flourishes. Click here to hear a recording and buy our version of the music
The Prince of Denmark's March by ClarkeSo, who was the prince?
The Prince of Denmark was the husband of Queen Anne and reigned over Great Britain from 1702 and the couple had a long and happy life together. George was said to be quiet and self effacing and although he was thought ineffectual by Charles 2nd, he was admired by others for his homely virtues and unfailing good humour. It sounds like he would have enjoyed the music Clarke wrote for him.

The Lark in the Clear Air

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The Lark in the Clear Air
Our latest violin and cello duet is one of my favourite folk songs – The Lark in the Clear Air – and this warm-hearted, tender tune is ideal for wedding ceremonies.

The Lark in the Clear Air

The beauty of string sound…
Anyone who has heard The Lark Ascending by Vaughan William will know that the violin is excellent at evoking bird flight, and we have exploited this in the arrangement, which is calm and gentle and shares the tune between both instruments.


the words of the song…
Dear thoughts are in my mind
And my soul soars enchanted
As I hear the sweet lark sing
In the clear air of the day
For a tender beaming smile
To my hope has been granted
And tomorrow she shall hear
All my fond heart would say

…and the beauty of the Irish countryside
For me it’s no surprise that this music originates in Ireland, and when you hear this song it’s easy to imagine walking in the Irish countryside thinking only good things…

Famous Baroque Violin and Cello Duets

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We’ve just added two famous Baroque violin and cello duets to our sheet music shop: Charpentier’s Te Deum and Pachelbel’s Canon. Both are the most renowned works their respective composers wrote. The Te Deum is gloriously exuberant while the Canon is more reflective and a harmonious example of polyphony at its best. The standard of ther music is intermediate to advanced.

Why baroque is brilliant

Both these works are superb examples of baroque music which, with its skilful elaboration, manages to create order and beauty out of complication in a truly life-affirming way. When you think how comparatively tough things must have been for the average person in the 17th and 18th century it’s extraordinary that so much of their music is  celebratory. Exactly why this is I don’t know, but this music is a joy to play and ideal for recitals and wedding ceremonies.

Jerome Kern Violin and Cello Duets

By intermediate and advanced violin and cello duets, sheet music sales

We’re in the process of editing Jerome Kern violin and cello duets to sell in our online shop. The standard of the violin and cello duets is intermediate to advanced.The music will be added in around four weeks’ time. Jerome Kern’s music is now out of copyright and we can sell our versions of some of his most popular songs . These include Pick Yourself Up, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, I Won’t Dance, Long Ago and Far Away and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. We’ve recorded all of these on our cd Moonlight and Music and they include ricochet bowing, col legno, slides and soaring melodies – many in the cello part.

Jerome Kern violin and cello duets

What was Jerome Kern like?

Jerome Kern was a small, enthusiastic man with a tremendous amount of nervous energy. He studied classical composition in Europe and America and had a more thorough technical and artistic background than many of his colleagues .
Despite being one of America’s best known composers of light music he was impressively modest. He once told an admirer: “The fact that the theatre going public likes my music is no credit to me. There are many other composers who write better music that the public doesn’t like.”

Romance and lyricism

Jerome Kern’s natural feel for lyricism and his ability to express romantic sentiments made his songs instantly popular. Their lyrics are easy to empathise with.You can buy our versions of his songs below:
Broadway violin and cello duets

Improvising on the Cello

By string teaching

Improvising on the cello encourages a great sense of freedom and for quite a long time I have been incorporating this into my cello teaching – occasionally with almost miraculous results. I had had no idea where to begin, but a lesson with pianist Lucinda Mackworth Young was a huge help. Lucinda showed me how simple improvisation can be and came up with many easy but effective ideas that have transformed my teaching and given me a strong basis to develop my own improvisatory approach .
Improvising on the cello

A sense of freedom
Why is improvising such a good thing? It gives you freedom ( I always have an image of Mel Gibson in Braveheart when I say that word ).The classical music world is focused on perfection, and frankly it is so hard to play an instrument to the highest level that the effort involved can create a sense of inhibition and stress. While it’s true that there’s no substitute for regular hard work, it’s sad if this means you cannot look at your instrument without a feeling of joy in your heart.

How easy is it?
As with anything, the more you practise improvising the better you get. I also think that the more you are aware of how composers put things together – of the chords, modulations and intervals and how they affect your feelings – the more sensitive an ear you develop and the more you can ‘own’ your interpretation in performance.

Improvising helps with composition
Roger and I have often used improvisatory ideas in our violin and cello duets and we know from experience how this can suddenly bring a sheet music arrangement to life. Oh for the days of baroque music where pupils were taught to improvise from the very beginning and expected to do so in live performance.

Biking improves cello playing

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Biking improves cello playing
A few weeks ago I started biking  on an exercise bike for twenty minutes a day- the first time I have ever done any regular exercise –  and I’ve been delighted to find that biking has definitely improved the technical side of my cello playing. Perhaps it should be obvious that a job which involves  intricate co-ordination is likely to be improved by being physically fitter, but it  had never occurred to me, and no teacher or other professional player I have ever met has mentioned this.
biking improves cello playing
Although  other forms of exercise may work well, biking seems to be extra good for enhancing co-ordination. Two years ago I went with a friend who has early stage Parkinson’s to a small spa town in Northern Italy where they have developed an exercise programme which can dramatically improve Parkinson’s symptoms; they have discovered that just fifteen minutes biking every day  is especially effective.
Biking improves cello playingAlexander Technique
It’s easy to focus on the artistic and perfectionist sides of playing an instrument and forget that – if you step back a bit emotionally –  the cello and piano are large instruments that need quite a lot of physical grappling to get around with ease. Alexander Technique  can be very helpful in teaching optimum use of the muscles of the body and encouraging relaxation, but if you find things easier generally you are probably less likely to tense up or over use your muscles om the first place.
I don’t write as an expert in this area, I’m simply passing on my own experience; but it’s been so positive  that I am likely to stick to this particular non New Year’s Resolution, even if I don’t stick to any others.


The best sheet music arrangements

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The best sheet music arrangements
How do you create the best sheet music arrangements and can they ever be better than the original instrumentation? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Jascha Heifetz’s violin versions of Deep River and White Christmas and Phillip McCann’s cornet playing in Count Your Blessings and Softly Awakes My Heart are just two performers whose interpretations are so expressive that the words of original songs are superfluous.
the best sheet music arrangements

Changing the instrumentation
Borodin’s Polovstian Dances sounds better in an orchestral version than with the original chorus, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise works beautifully on the cello and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No 8 and Britten’s Simple Symphony both sound as good in their string orchestral versions as they do in their original quartet format, and were arranged by their respective composers.

Interpretation and imagination are almost as important
However good the arrangement, it needs vibrant interpretation to realise its potential – which composers seemed to cherish in the baroque era. Here’s what Robert Donington has to say in his book  A Performer’s Guide to Baroque Music: “ The baroque ideal was to depend on the individuality of the performer to fill out the implications of a sketchily notated text. Whoever took on the performance, whether he were the composer or not, took on responsibility not only for virtually the whole of the expression, but even for many of the notes.”

Most modern classical players would feel a little daunted by this, but  it certainly encourages a healthy sense of  imaginative freedom.

Violin and Cello Duet Arrangements

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How important is it to stick to authenticity when creating  violin and cello duet arrangements – or indeed adapting a book for film or theatre? If you change too much you can lose the whole point of the music. However, if you are altering a piece dramatically anyway – say arranging an operatic work for violin and cello duet – trying to aim for complete accuracy doesn’t always work. In many ways you need to accept that the medium is so different the whole thing needs to be re-imagined to come to life. Simply copying and necessarily leaving a lot out can result in  a lack of vitality.
Violin and cello duet arrangements

Red Priest create hugely imaginative Baroque arrangements





Copying alone doesn’t work
Adding new ideas true to the spirit and character of a work can hugely increase the energy and excitement of performance. How far you should go with this is a matter of individual taste, but not morally wrong. Shakespeare’s plays will never be diminished no matter how many varied interpretations they are given; and Bach will never be a lesser composer no matter how many styles his music is played in. Performance and interpretation are about re-creating music, not just copying notes – and this also makes the process a lot more fun.
Mel Gibson and Glenn Close’s oedipal interpretation of Hamlet