...I live in the U.K., but I am American. I grew up in California, where my "cello parents" were Ira Lehn and Margaret Rowell. I played in the California Youth Symphony as a teenager (but the wrong years--right in between two of their wonderful overseas tours!) and later played in the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra--I started the same year Kent Nagano did. Those were exciting times, because Kent was doing in-depth study of the works of Messiaen and we did several west coast/U.S. premieres, including one that Messiaen himself came to hear. I mention it because that was the greatest moment of my musical existence.
I moved to the U.K. about ten years ago--I am a minister in the United Reformed Church (Presbyterian, Congregational and Disciples). My job is all-consuming, which is why I need an all-consumingly-passionate sort of hobby on the side. The cello keeps me human (I hope!). I play in a mediocre amateur orchestra on Monday nights. One of the disappointments of life in this country is that there is quite a big gap between the amateur playing standards and the professionals. I am in between, and it really hurts! There are a couple of good semi-pro chamber groups in the area where I live (Newcastle upon Tyne--northeast of England, near Scotland) but naturally the cellists who are lucky enough to be in them have them sewn up tight. Somebody will have to die before there's a vacancy for a newcomer. I don't blame them--I would be exactly the same!
Recently I was having a quiet moan about this with a cellist friend and found that she was feeling the same. So we've decided to start ourselves a cello quartet. I'm excited! I hope that the ICS will be a place we can exchange information about good repertoire for cello ensemble.
My other particular interest is in cello festivals. We have an outstanding one here in the U.K. every other year (it takes place the first week of May in even-numbered years). It is at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and is organized by Ralph Kirschbaum. I also know of one happening in late October this year in Kronberg (near Frankfurt), Germany.
P.S. I've been recruiting my British friends to join, so hopefully one of them will write in to you as well. And thanks for all your work on our behalf. The ICS is exactly what I was hoping to find when I talked my husband into buying our modem!
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