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After reading Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D. Seeley

Every year, honey bee colonies move house. It’s called swarming. It’s how the colony, as a superorganism, reproduces. [Beekeepers do what they can to control and manage swarming – but that’s another story.]

I’ve recently been reading Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D. Seeley. What he demonstrates, through decades of scientific research about honey bees and their collective-decision-making, is astonishing.

Continue reading After reading Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D. Seeley

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A Gift from The Lady

Sometimes you hear a real gem on the radio. Some years ago while driving on holiday with the car radio on, I heard Aung San Suu Kyi, the then Burmese Pro-Democracy leader, give an interview to Eddie Mair on PM on Radio 4. Speaking as a piano teacher, I couldn’t get over how lucky we all were to receive such a gift of encouragement to take the chance to learn an instrument when young, and all done with such a light touch. Few presenters have Eddie Mair’s knack of creating informal conversations Continue reading A Gift from The Lady

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Silence in music. Silence and music.

I used to teach piano in schools. At the start of each new school year, I would speak to a class, or all the classes in a school year, or perhaps a whole school, to tell them about the piano and piano lessons. The idea was to recruit new pupils. Usually, I took the opportunity to tell the children something about music in general, and how music worked on the piano in particular.

Continue reading Silence in music. Silence and music.

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Tablet – a Scottish recipe

  • Butter (slightly salted) – 100gms
  • Milk – 250ml
  • Condensed milk (sweetened) – 1 tin (397gms)
  • Golden syrup – 20gms
  • White granulated sugar – 1 kg (cane sugar rather than beet though both make excellent tablet)
  • Vanilla extract or essence – 5-10ml (1-2 teaspoons)

I have made tablet all my life, although I have to concede that my mother (I should say ‘our’; there were a lot of us!) helped me at least until I started school.

Some tablet recipes are ultra-simple. Something like this: Combine the ingredients and bring to the boil. Continue boiling till the mixture looks medium brown. Remove from the heat, beat for a few minutes, and pour into a greased tray. And, in a sense, that’s all there is to it. But if you look at some of the comments on YouTube or cookery websites, brief instructions like that sometimes produce inedible results. But so do longer, more detailed instructions!
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Performance is special…

Saturday 12 November 2016 was a Pupils’ Concerts day. As usual, there were two concerts with a full range of ages and stages in both concerts. Also, as usual, everyone rose to the occasion. It is remarkable how it is in the nature of performance to make a special occasion of each and every performance no matter how simple or complex the music, no matter how old or young the performer.

Here is a YouTube playlist for many of the items from both concerts.

Enjoy! Esther Cohen, Archie McLellan

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How much to practise

Everybody has to decide for themselves how much practice can be fitted into their lives and family routine, but the mastery of any skill involves constant repetition. It follows that the more frequent reinforcement there is, the quicker the development of the skill will be. The important thing is to make practice a matter of daily routine, not an optional extra. In an ideal world, children would practise frequently and spontaneously. But even with the best will in the world, not to mention swimming, dancing and what-not to be fitted in, it sometimes happens that the day is over, it’s long past bedtime, and no practice has been done. Agreeing a routine helps make a habit of practice, so that it is done with a minimum of fuss and is fitted into the gaps of the busy after-school schedule of many of today’s children.
Continue reading How much to practise