We’re just finishing editing our violin and cello duet of Gershwin’s beautiful love song Bess, You Is My Woman Now. Like Summertime this song comes from Gershwin’s only opera Porgy and Bess. When it was first performed in 1934 the work caused controversy as the dark plot – featuring violence, prostitution, drugs and poverty – was thought by some to be an unfair characterisation of the black community. Nevertheless the opera contains some of Gershwin’s finest work and is full of character and feeling.
Our website is now focusing on violin and cello duet sheet music and cd sales and to launch our new look we’ve added Roger’s Lunchtime Blues sheet music to our music shop. This fab short piece is very laid back and almost sleazy sounding. As long as you are comfortable sliding around on the cello it lies under the hand well. It’s the sort of music you could almost play with one finger – almost.
How did Lunchtime Blues come about?
So what inspired this composition? Roger writes: “It was a hot summer’s day. An old school friend, an artist and I had been walking around Peterborough looking at second hand books, drinking coffee and discussing philosophy. We somehow ended up in the garden of a pub by the river. An intelligent young lady was serving, her blonde hair reflecting the sunlight, her expression sultry. No words passed between us and nothing followed from this silent encounter except the piece – Lunchtime Blues.”
We are now selling nine classical and folk violin and cello duets at our online shop: Lilliburlero, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, Londonderry Air, My Love is like a Red,Red Rose, Dance To Your Daddy, Over the Hills and Far Away, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Bizet’s Habanera and Toreador Song. All the arrangements are medium to difficult in standard and have lots of interesting string effects. We will be recording these in May and will add the recordings to our website then, but we wanted to make the music available for sale right away as the string duet repertoire is quite limited.
How we know this music works
We perform the sheet music we are selling frequently so we know these arrangements work well; the cello usually has quite a few of the tunes and the balance between the parts has been thought through carefully with character one of our main focuses. We hope string players will love playing this music.
We’ve been delighted that our sales of La Cumparsita sheet music are doing so well and that this piece is proving so popular. We starting selling some of our violin and cello duet arrangements on our website just a couple of months ago and the music is being bought by customers from all over the world, including America, Japan, South Korea, China, Italy and Spain. La Cumparsita is probably the most well known piece of music we sell at the moment and seems to be everybody’s favourite tango.
Editing the music
It took us ages to edit the sheet music and scores to ensure that they were completely accurate but it was well worth the work.The string duo repertoire is very limited and we constantly aim to use the full range of violin and cello effects when creating our arrangements. We hope to be selling more string duo sheet music soon. You can buy our arrangement here:
The snowy weather in Peterborough has meant lots of work has been cancelled so we’ve used the time to focus on more folk music for violin and cello duet for our forthcoming recordings this Easter. I’ve just completed a sheet music version of Lilliburlero which I’ve put in ternary form, with an invented Scottish minor section, and Roger’s done a very imaginative adaption of Over the Hills and Far Away. My own next two will be The Dark Island – a lovely, romantic, lilting tune.
It was fascinating to hear Martin Carthy talking about folk music on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs last week, and his selection of recordings was wonderful, especially the singing of Edith Piaf and Maria Callas. Watching him on You Tube gives real insight into the world of folk music. There’s no point simply trying to emulate this, as our instruments and approach are different, but it’s always good to hear others singing and playing in a completely committed way and with true authenticity.
We are currently offering customers a Free Sheet Music violin and cello duet which can be played at their wedding ceremony or event.
Our increasing repertoire
Over the last year we’ve added more and more pop songs to our repertoire and most of these adapt excellently for string duo as they have long, flowing phrases.
The power of music
Music has a way of expressing feelings that is often more powerful and intense than words, and we are very committed to helping clients chose the piece which will fulfil their most romantic dreams. We will be continuing to widen our selection of songs over the coming year with more and more sheet music arrangements. You can like to our sheet music sales’ page here:
Next week we start rehearsing violin and cello folk duets for our forthcoming series of Fedora Strings’ engagements and recordings. It’s surprising how lost you can feel by missing a few days of practice, although it never takes that long to be back to performance standard again.
Folk music like Sir Roger de Coverley, Lilliburlero and Loch Lomond dates back hundreds of years and no one is sure who originally composed the music, which makes you wonder what makes a song last for centuries.
One of the things I love about the arts is that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what combination of factors does make something musical, intuitive, memorable and emotional. I just feel lucky that there is so much wonderful music around and that we have so many opportunities to play it.
Next year we will be focusing on classical performances of folk music, using different aspects of string sounds to make our arrangements more imaginative.We love so much of the folk repertoire and feel there is plenty of scope to develop classically-based versions of these well known tunes and that they are ideal for expanding the different effects you can achieve on strings.
But there are so many different ways of playing folk tunes. My favourite recordings include the interpretations of Russian folk songs by the great bass singer Chaliapin, violin versions of folk music by Heifetz and Percy Grainger’s string orchestra arrangement of Molly on the Shore. There are also many traditional folk performers I enjoy -one of whom is Duncan Chisholm https://www.duncanchisholm.com/
Is folk music more free? …
…well it’s more free in that there’s more scope for improvisation and most performers never use music. On the other hand, it is also far more repetitive and far easier technically – which has advantages and disadvantages.
You can only play as you are
Ultimately you can only play as you are, and for me classical performances of folk music for strings are the ultimate – but is good to borrow ideas and rework them in your own way. We already sell an album of six of our folk tune arrangements which you can find out more about here:https://www.fedorastrings.com/product/six-great-folk-tunes-arranged-for-violin-and-cello-duet/
You can now buy the violin and cello duet sheet music of some of our music. Last week we launched a page on our website where four of our arrangements can be purchased. We decided to start by selling our versions of four of the works we have made videos of – Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Summertime, La Cumparsita and Minuet and Trio – and we hope to continue to add to the selection over the next few months.
As almost all the duet music we play is of our own arrangements we now have a large repertoire, but it takes a surprising amount of time to translate these versions into completely accurate printed editions where everything has to be perfect. We tend to make so many changes as we rehearse that our own copies are full of changes and sometimes partly improvised.
The standard of the music is medium to difficult and you can hear all the arrangements we are selling by clicking on our videos.
While driving to a rehearsal today I was completely inspired by Heifetz’s expressive string technique when listening to a marvellous cd of his encore pieces, many of which were originally recorded in the 1940s. My favourite tracks were Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair and Deep River – both of which are full of intense, passionate slides. The cd includes Heifetz’s arrangement of White Christmas – the first time I have ever liked this song – and a recording of him playing a sentimental 1950s pop song on the piano that he wrote himself under the name of Jim Hoyl (see below) .
Piano or Strings?
As you can hear,Heifetz brings great warmth of tone to the piano – an instrument which I
think it is the best for just sitting down and enjoying playing music because it is so complete in itself. What I miss on the piano though is the ability to slide, to crescendo on a note, or to do vibrato – all expressive string technique that Heifetz uses superbly.
Anyway, the Heifetz cd motivated me to write my own violin and cello duet arrangement of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair which you can buy here: