Kay Tucker in conversation with Melanie Spanswick

My Music Talk Series continues today ‘Cellist Kay Tucker who is the founder and director of Stringbabies. Stringbabies is a method of teaching stringed instruments to young children. It has twice been shortlisted for the Inaugural Rhinegold Music Teachers Awards for Excellence in music education. I met up with Kay recently at Steinway Hall in London to chat about this increasingly popular method of learning.

Kay was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire and began studies on the cello at the age of 12, continuing studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

She combines teaching with performing in a piano trio & string quartet and is in much demand as an Adjudicator throughout the UK, having worked at well over 100 festivals including the National Festival of Music for Youth.

Her teaching experience has covered all age ranges and abilities and her particular passion for teaching beginners led her to develop an early years cello & general musicianship system, ‘Cellobabies’ which along, with a version for violin and viola, is rapidly attracting support & interest throughout the UK and abroad. ‘Stringbabies’ (the umbrella name for this approach) is now being delivered with great success in Surrey Arts, Music for Bedford Borough, Hackney Music Service and Music Cornwall. This work has led to Kay being invited to give seminars and training to teachers all over the UK and Kay is now working on adaptations for Double Bass, Piano, Recorder and Flute, the latter two with colleagues.

In 2013, Stringbabies was shortlisted for the Inaugural Rhinegold Music Teachers Awards for Excellence in music education and it has also been shortlisted for the same awards in 2014 in the category of excellence in primary and early years music.

Stringbabies is currently involved in four of the new music hubs – Hackney, Surrey West Sussex and Cornwall.

Over recent years, Kay has worked as a consultant to Trinity Guildhall, having selected and co-selected repertoire for graded exams and diplomas.

Kay became an Adjudicator Member of the British and International Federation of Festivals in 1997 and undertook the Post-graduate Certificate in Adjudication in 1999/2000.


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Hungarian Dances at The Musical Museum

Finding a new venue is always an exciting discovery; I had never visited The Musical Museum at Kew Bridge in West London, but it is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year and in addition to housing some interesting musical artefacts it also hosts a concert series as well as many other activities. The Museum’s concert hall is a delightful space, set with a high stage and beautifully ornate early Twentieth century grand piano; it’s akin to stepping back in time and provided an intimate setting for a Sunday afternoon of music making.

Hungarian Dances is a novel written by author and music journalist, Jessica Duchen. It was published in 2009 and traces the life of a Gypsy violinist and her family. Jessica has turned her highly acclaimed book into a concert which effectively incorporates extracts from the novel with Gypsy inspired music. Words and music are most certainly a winning combination, and the performance was a wonderful mixture of expressive narrative punctuated with music for violin and piano by composers from various genres and historical periods.

This format is becoming an increasingly popular feature in concert programmes. It’s a happy marriage of two eloquent art forms and is so successful because it bestows the perfect opportunity for storytelling. Jessica’s narrative was both powerful and poignant, and her delivery commanded total attention. The balance between words and music was very well judged, with neither dominating.

The heroine, Mimi, is taken from her Gypsy roots, and introduced to a different world through her intensive training as a classical violinist. The audience are taken on Mimi’s journey which is full of twists and turns; love, loss, displacement and personal transformation. Romance was juxtaposed with grittier topics such as references to concentration camps and inevitable death. At each stage an appropriate work was presented, nostalgically characterising the various landmarks in her career, family life and ultimately the life of her Granddaughter too; the music evocatively reflecting the mood of the story.

David Le Page (violin) and Viv McLean (piano) offset Jessica’s narrative exquisitely. They treated the audience to a veritable feast consisting of ten mainly Gypsy influenced pieces from Dohnányi’s Andante rubato alla zingaresca which opened the concert, to Monti’s ever popular Czardas, the piano part of which was imbued with some interesting chromatic (that’s jazz to you and me!) chordal additions and this rendition brought the house down. Claude Debussy’s Violin Sonata closed the first half and really demonstrated their skill, both with regards to ensemble (they have quite clearly worked as a duo for years) and in creating a shimmering sound world of Impressionistic colour.

Mimi’s introduction to Professor Bela Bartók coincided with an account of the composer’s Romanian Dances which were delivered with gusto, rhythmic drive and total commitment. No self-respecting Gypsy music recital would be complete without Ravel’s Tzigane, which was, for me, the highlight; played with real panache and flare, and full of essential Gypsy inspired rubato. A couple of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances (arranged by Joachim) were choice inclusions, and less familiar but equally lovely were the Valse Triste by Franz Von Vecsey and Hejre Kati by Jenö Hubay. The selection was an eclectic, fragrant pot- pourri of different musical textures, styles and sentiments.

Hungarian Dances – The Concert was an impassioned, mellifluous and emotional voyage; a snapshot of human life and in a sense, of humanity too. The audience loved every minute and were totally absorbed by the enduring, compelling partnership of words and music.

You can purchase the novel, Hungarian Dances here.

Do visit www.jessicaduchen.co.uk and www.jessicamusic.blogspot.co.uk for more information on forthcoming performances.

www.musicalmuseum.co.uk


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.