A Slice of Summer
Dec. 28, 2010
I am looking at you walking on
the beach in your wonderful Slice of Summer
album you shared with me at "Strings by the Sea".
In a few words—I LOVED IT! What a treat to hear your creative artistry. I appreciated the variety of instrumentation—what
great people you have to work with.
I so appreciate you as a colleague. Thank you for the gift of your music—you
touch many lives.
Smiles, hugs and best wishes for the new year.
Roosevelt University CCPA (Chicago)
Music Institute of Chicago--Academy
DePaul University CMS (Chicago)
Author of Cello Playing is Easy
Dec. 9, 2010
I'm not in the habit of writing fan letters, at all. Then again, I
figure sometimes it's nice to let people know that they do great work. Here in the town of Hilo, Hawaii, I
play cello in a string quartet of adult beginners that all started playing their respective instruments 2-3 years ago.
I formed it through meeting some "violin moms" through my Suzuki cello teacher and an adult student that took lessons
right after me. It's been quite a kick for us, and our Tuesday afternoon practice sessions are mirthful, if not
always graced with superb intonation...
Anyway, I found a couple of your arrangements through the Strings Charts
website, and they've been quite nice. At our November recital, we (the aptly-named "Barefoot Quartet")
played Simple Gifts
and it sounded (if I may say so myself) pretty respectable. We're playing another recital in January, and we're
going to play either Amazing Grace
or Tangerine Blue
, depending on what we can manage to get together in time. The arrangements are fun, and a very welcome departure for
us from the standard Suzuki repertoire...
We played at a party last Tuesday night, and since we only had a few Christmas
songs, we padded the program out with both "Simple" & "Amazing"
and they went over quite well. I have your album "Great Big Taters"
which I really enjoy.
Well, there you have it. A fan letter. Hmmm... On behalf of myself
& my fellow Barefoots, keep up the good work!
Regards, Happy Holidays, & so on...
From a fan, May 2011
The Scottish Fiddlers came to Roseville, I went to see a friend
76 fiddlers, and boy was I surprised. You all had the intention of
having fun, not just playing music
You channeled Jimi Hendrix and Jethro Tull.
I bought Great Big Taters. I've listened to it 3 or 4 times
today alone, just can't get
enough, and I will have to buy your other CDs.
Not wanting a response, just
wanting to say Thank You.
Corbin Keep, Cello City Ink—Newsletter of the New Directions Cello
Assoc. v. 14, No. 1 Spring/Summer 2007
Not long ago, during a conversation we were having abouut reggae,
a drummer friend remarked to me that he loved the fact that his son, also a drummer, didn't play reggae “with an
accent,” whereas he himself did. What he meant by this was, because he came to the genre much later in life—just
as someone who learns a foreign language as an adult usually can't shake the accent of their native tongue—that
his son's reggae chops were more authentic than his.
Like my friend's son, Renata Bratt doesn't play
with an accent. Whether rendering a tearful Scottish air, sawing an Irish jig, or hoe-downing traditional American fare, she
always sounds as if she was born playing this music. Considering that there is not much of a tradition playing tunes like
this on the cello, this is no small achievement.
Bratt is ably accompanied by fellow cellists Rushad Eggleston,
Kristina Forester & Natalie Haas, as well as guitarist Jim Lewin. In various combinations, they provide fertile ground
for Bratt's delicious potatoes, at certain points taking over the main lines with seamless aplomb.
All of the
tracks are excellent, however there are a few standouts for me. Bratt's rendition of Star of the County Down carries
a great breadth of emotional intensity, like meeting the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life (yay!)—but
they're with someone else (waa!). The happier Cripple Creek, as served up by Bratt, Egglestons and Lewin is so
convincing, you could easily forget that it hasn't always been played on the cello.
No potato famine here, it's
all feast. Anyway you slice 'em, these humongous spuds are fiddlin’-ly, cellistically, finger lickin’-ly delicious.
Amy Catron Flores from the Journal of the American String Teacher, February, 2007, Vol. 57, No. 1
This is one of the best organized and user—friendly publications of Irish fiddling music that I have ever seen.
All 47 tunes are performed on the included CD. They are indexed by level, from first position through fourth position. Bratt’s
Introduction includes notes on how to play the style of this music, including ornaments and grace notes, and even specifically
how to groove using chopping. She also provides instructions on how sets and sessions work in real life. If you are looking
for a fun, useful, and extremely clear Celtic cello duo book, this is the one to purchase.
Ray Jenkins, South Australia
...got your Fiddling Cellist book, wow! the best music book I have ever bought, great CD, I am learning things that no
other book has shown, and so much of what I have learned by the school of hard knocks, now makes sense.
...congratulations on the best musical instruction book ever, - I have 12 books for, fiddle mandolin and guitar,
most of the relativly useless, taught myself without them. You have cracked it.
Sera Smolen, Cello City Ink—Newsletter of the New Directions Cello Assoc. v. 12, No. 1 Spring/Summer 2005
From the perspective of classically trained teachers in the old days, popular musical forms like fiddling would be used
only as a diversion, a fun break from the “meat” of lessons and classes. However, there are pedagogues who
can present world musical styles in the studio, orchestral program and classroom with theoretical and technical relevance
along with artistic insight. Renata Bratt’s background as president of the International Association for Jazz Education
String Caucus, as well as the ASTA Alternative Style Festival and Awards Committee, and former president of the Suzuki Music
Association of California indicates she thinks very clearly about string pedagogy, as well as the area of “new directions”
for cellists. Her new book, which comes with a CD, reflects her expertise in the area of string pedagogy, experience
teaching in the studio and classroom, as well as her thorough understanding of fiddling styles. This book is organized around
18 fiddle tunes written for cello as a solo, in duet, as accompanying instrument, and playing the role of the bass. This allows
both teacher and student to learn, one at a time, each role the cello could play in musical groups. Instructions are
very clear, and include ideas for things to focus on in the process of learning each step.
Steps for learning include ways to recognize what key a piece is in, which chords are being used, and in what measures.
These steps allow students to be ready for improvising on the chord changes, to quote melodic material, and to have rhythmic
ideas. At the same time, this book gives plenty of latitude for teachers to find thier own way to share this material.
Accompanying descriptions, explanations and short asides draw students into the rich world of fiddling. For example,
there are delightful paragraphs sprinkled through the book on topics like “chopping”, fiddle jams, listening to
live fiddle concerts, and learning by ear.
While there are many books for fiddlers who play violin, these books assume one has a tetrachord under the hand, like
violinists do. Cellists not only need to be introduced to fiddle tunes which work idiomatically for our left hands, but also
songs which are in keys which are more accessible for the cello. Scott Walker has written wonderful material for cellists
in this genre. Abbey Newton also has a new book we will review in our next issue. I wrote “Fiddling Tunes for
Cello and Guitar” in which left and right hand skills are presented parallel to the Suzuki repertoire. “The
Fiddling Celllist” by Renata Bratt supports both teacher and student aurally, technically, harmonically and stylistically,
step by step, to both master and enjoy fiddling with the cello.