It’s about fifty-six miles from Portsmouth to Lewes so some people would think twice before making the trip. However, for string players in our area, there’s no better reason to go there other than to meet Julia Bishop.
Statuesque and stylish, Julia is a violinist who specialises in Baroque music, which flourished in Europe from the early seventeenth century until the mid-eighteenth century.
Julia played in the English Concert for six years. She co-founded a group called Red Priest named after the prolific Venetian composer Vivaldi. She’s also been with the Hanover Band, taught Baroque violin techniques at the Royal Academy of Music in London and led the Gabrieli Consort and Players. Currently, she’s a tutor at Chichester University.
Without a doubt, Julia is a brilliant teacher. Extremely knowledgeable and sympathetically patient, she demonstrates this ornate and sometimes extravagant style of music by telling it like it is or by playing on her violin.
Owners of modern violins and bows need not go to the expense of buying valuable period instruments to appreciate the benefits of studying Baroque playing. There’s a lot to learn for all string players.
At first glance, some of the music looks pretty simple. Unlike today’s players, Baroque violinists rarely have to leave the first and third positions. But there are subtleties in rhythm, tricky counting, strange manuscript markings and unfamiliar harmonies to get to grips with.
Above all, the use of the bow is where students can find techniques which are nothing less than gold nuggets for string musicians. As everyone knows the bow is the business end of the instrument. The left hand finds the note while the right hand brings it to life. Full bows, half bows, playing at the nut, tip or middle, coming off the string, using the wrist or elbow: there’s no end to the useful stuff which can be learnt.
Julia organises Baroque monthly workshops on Wednesdays and Saturdays at St Thomas à Becket Church in Cliffe, Lewes. There are three-hour morning sessions on Saturdays and longer morning and afternoon sessions on Wednesdays. The modest fees are great value for money. Julia also coaches individuals and small groups. Email her at Julia@redpriest.com for more information.
Portsmouth to Lewes by road is a fair old trip but it really is well worth the journey to meet this first-class teacher.