One of the exciting aspects of NORCA and Sistema, is that we have a talented team, and many of the staff and tutors have projects outside of work they are developing for pleasure. Our cello tutor Alex Hobbs has been working with the equally talented singer Mari Joyce over the last few years, and their debut album Dear Moon also featuring 'harmony vocals' violin and percussion, has recently been released. We caught up with Mari and Alex to discuss what music and playing means to them.
“I think we all have that very human desire to experience a wholeness and connectedness that takes us beyond an isolated sense of self, and music offers a doorway to such experiences, in both listening and creating. There is something very special about the space of a collaboration. Each contribution of rhythm, melody, texture and voice blend to become something more than any one of us alone could create.
There is a real joy and freedom in inhabiting that space of play and creativity with others, and it’s fabulous that NORCA & Sistema are facilitating opportunities for young people to do this, which is such a powerful way to grow confidence, friendships and a sense of community.
I began playing guitar and singing in my early teens, but was always incredibly shy. I was asked to fill in for a friend’s slot at a gig in 2012 and I remember asking Alex Hobbs to play with me. I immediately appreciated the richness and depth of her cello playing, and over the years we ended up also playing with percussionist Lestyn Griffith, violinist Alex Patterson, and vocalist extraordinaire Johanna Herron, each of whom bring magical qualities in their playing.
Bringing a collaborative element to the music gave me a confidence that the little sketches and fragments I was creating could become something more, and I’m so glad we’ve kept making music together after all these years!
It’s been hugely satisfying to finally have been able to release our debut album this year, Dear Moon. At a time of isolation and disconnection, music has felt more important than ever.” - singer/songwriter, Mari Joyce
“I have a vivid memory of cello starting with me picking up my mums guitar and my brothers violin bow, sitting on a big chest in the hallway and playing it like a cello, I was around 6. It didn't work too well as the strings on the guitar are flat, but I soon found myself having lessons on a real cello. I have great memories of lessons, performance opportunities, playing in orchestras and going on residential trips at Easter and in the Summer.
As a teenager I decided to study science and languages, my cello went where I went, apart from when I lived in Germany, but it wasn't until I moved back to Norwich and began working at a local music college that I started reconnecting with and playing my cello more.
I began improvising, which was new to me. I am grateful to Mari for her beautiful and spacious songs it has been a lovely process playing with her and the rest of the band. We get together, play, and see what emerges. We have a few gigs booked in this summer - fingers crossed they can go ahead - I am so excited about playing music with other people after lockdown!
I was inspired to begin teaching cello when my daughter started learning with my old teacher. I knew what a fantastic teacher she is, so was really pleased when my daughter Eila said she'd like to learn, I sat in on her lessons and loved it. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment and soon after I had some cello students of my own and began working for Sistema.
I love the musical and social opportunities that Sistema offer to young people, it's a great team of tutors. Playing music in orchestras, bands and ensembles is the best. I have always felt lucky to have that in my life.” - Sistema cello tutor, Alex Hobbs
Dear Moon, inspired by natural rhythms, life cycles, relationships and love is a sumptuous listen. Mari’s rich vocal harmonies weave seamlessly with cello, violin and percussion, it’s a really stunning debut album and perfect to listen to as we ease out of lockdown. You can find it and listen to tracks on 'bandcamp' under the name Mari Joyce, and the album Dear Moon can be purchased as a download or a CD.