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Taking my cello to France

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The cello isn’t the most portable of instruments. Of course, it could be worse – I can’t even imagine trying to move a double bass to another country. But as I walked clumsily down the aisle towards our seats, I could feel the whole plane looking at me and thinking the same thing: she should have played the flute. (People say this a lot.)

I’ve played the cello for 15 years, since I was 7. Although I chose the instrument, for a while I didn’t like practising, and it took years just to sound acceptable.

My parents didn’t want me to give up once I’d started so I kept going, and, slowly, I began to love the cello. At my teacher’s insistence, I joined an orchestra, and loved that, too. When I went to Durham University, 300 miles from my home, I took it north to play in orchestras there. So I knew I had to bring my old friend the cello with me to France and find a French orchestra, too.

You have to buy a seat for your cello if you want to take it on the plane. Leaving it in the hold is asking for snapped strings and broken wood, and having it shipped over separately would be just as foolish. Luckily, I flew with an extremely cheap airline and the cello’s seat only cost an extra £20, so it sat happily next to me in the window seat, and we had a lovely flight.

Finding an orchestra, however, wasn’t easy. I emailed at least ten local and not-so-local orchestras, and only got one reply inviting me to audition. But I was lucky enough to get in – that £20 had been worth it!

The next challenge is French. Here, they use different names for the notes from the ones we use in the UK: rather than CDEFGAB, they have Do, Ré, Mi, Fa, Sol, La and Si. This is extremely confusing for me when the conductor tells us where to start playing: “start at the high Sol” means nothing to me. And it’s hard to keep up with quick, whispered French conversations between cellists during rehearsals.

But if my cello teacher taught me anything (apart from, you know, the cello), she taught me to just do it – in the words of Nike. Every time I said I didn’t want to practise boring scales, or I didn’t like the piece, she would reply sharply, “You don’t have to want to do it – you just have to do it.”

So, here I am, doing it. And, 15 years on, I’m pretty happy to do it after all.


Do you play an instrument, have you ever played one, or would you like to play one – and why?


kaniza's picture
kaniza 19 March, 2017 - 17:45

I play the trikitixa, which is similar to the accordion but it is smaller and the sound is different. I chose this instrument because my mother started playing when she was young. In my family my sister plays the piano and my mother too. I practice when I have free time or when I must. If I have a performance, I get very nervous. I am nervous now because tomorrow I am playing on a stage. (but I don´t have to catch a plane!!)

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sanpai28's picture
sanpai28 12 November, 2016 - 09:20

I have never played an instrument. I played a guitar once but actually I only just vibrated the guitar strings so it doesn't mean 'playing a guitar'. I love listening to music but I'm not much interested in playing a musical instrument. But I wanna try a piano.

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gianggiang's picture
gianggiang 11 November, 2016 - 13:36

Erm, Is it possible to consider pen is an instrument ?, I like pen tapping very much, also it's sometime a bit noisy, but it's really interesting when I can create or learn new beats.

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narnata's picture
narnata 5 November, 2016 - 18:13

My daughter plays the cello. And every time she goes to some other city to take part in a musical contest I have to accompany her as a personal cello-carrier as this musical instrument is a bit heavy for her so far. I can only imagine how it was for you to travel to a foreign country with your cello and have all those astonished eyes gazing at you when you entered the board. But nothing can be compared with the divine sounds that the cello makes.))

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Tina - Coordinator's picture
Tina - Coordinator 6 November, 2016 - 11:07

Dear narnata,
Thanks for your comments on LearnEnglish Teens. This website is specially for teenagers aged 13-17 years old but it sounds like you are older than that. You are welcome to keep on using LearnEnglish Teens but if you are over 17, please do NOT post any more comments as we must keep this strictly for teenagers to interact with each other. You are welcome to join our LearnEnglish page for adults and post comments there:
Best wishes, Tina (LearnEnglish Teen Team)

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djoweken's picture
djoweken 5 November, 2016 - 12:41

play one instrument is good. It's my thinking Have i ever played one? NO. of couse i would like play one.
Play piano in particular. i would like play it because i lke classic music, it help me to find my calm ... etc

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