Woodfines are proud to be sponsoring Vanessa Bystry who has taken up the exciting challenge of learning a new instrument for the Note Race Grade-1-athon taking place 10th September 2017. With the concert fast approaching Vanessa has been updating us with her progress via her blog which can be read below:
What is the Grade-1-a-thon?
I have signed up to be a member of the Cambridge 'crew' in the Oxford and Cambridge Note Race 2017. The Note Race Grade-1-athon will see me and more than a hundred other Cambridge musicians take up the challenge of learning a new instrument on which we have had no previous experience, take Grade 1 within nine weeks and perform in a full orchestral concert on our new instruments at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge.
This year, the Cambridge Grade-1-athon has thrown down the gauntlet to Oxford, where musicians will compete with us to raise the most in sponsorship and achieve the highest average Grade 1 mark.
I have chosen ….the harp!
Did you know the harp has 7 pedals?
I’ve always liked the sound of the harp but knew absolutely nothing about the instrument so this was always going to be a challenge.
I was very surprised to learn at my one and only group harp lesson that the instrument is bigger than me (being 5ft 9“ I wouldn’t say I’m vertically challenged) AND it has 7 pedals! What was I supposed to do with those? My husband sniggered and said something about gears but I have since learnt that the three for the left foot and four for the right are for adding accidentals and changing key. Just hope I don’t have to play a piece with quick and multiple key changes...
Farewell long nails
I also discovered that long nails are a no-no. Not that mine were of lengthy proportions in the first place but in order to play the harp properly, they have to be practically non-existence otherwise the nail creates an ugly‚ 'buzz‘ on the strings. Can’t be having that if I’m aiming for a good mark!
In that first lesson there was so much to remember. Elbows out, flick your fingers up into your hand – fingers low, thumbs up high – and don’t forget to BREATHE! At the end of the group lesson there was a stunned silence as the enormity of what we had all signed up for sunk in.
5 weeks down the line
This is my fifth week learning the harp and now I’ve got over the initial shock of it all – including getting it home in the boot of my car (it came with its own protection‚ duvet and sack barrow!) all is going reasonably well. Just difficult slotting practise around a full-time job and family commitments. I normally have a quick practise at some tricky corner while the potatoes are on the boil!
The glide on the harp strings followed on entering the kitchen for breakfast is wearing a bit thin now with the teenagers (lots of eye-rolling) but I will soldier on!
We are raising much needed funds for three charities
Apart from the huge personal challenge I am hoping to raise as much sponsorship as possible for three children’s charities:
The Alf Dubs Children’s Fund - Lord Dubs, one of 10,000 Kindertransport children rescued before the outbreak of World War II, is leading efforts to help a new generation of unaccompanied child refugees.
Blue Smile provides life-changing support to Cambridgeshire children with mental health difficulties. Through arts-based therapy in schools, Blue Smile helps the most vulnerable of children to find happiness, fulfil their potential and make brighter futures.
Home-Start Cambridgeshire helps families struggling with post-natal depression, isolation, physical health problems, bereavement and many other issues to build better lives for their young children.
If you are able to sponsor me, I would be very grateful. You can do so on my fundraising page at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/vanessabystry1.
Orchestral concert – Sunday 10 September
On Sunday 10th September I will be taking my grade one exam in the morning and playing in an orchestral concert at West Road Concert Hall in the evening.
Please do come and bring your friends to what promises to be an ‘extraordinary’ performance! You can buy your tickets at: https://www.adcticketing.com/whats-on/concert/the-oxford-and-cambridge-note-race/. I look forward to meeting you there!