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Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week – 27 November

Here’s your weekly dose of cello news.

Cello News

Yo-Yo Ma and the Meaning of Life

The immensity of Yo-Yo Ma’s talent is such that he would be globally admired if all he ever did was appear onstage or in a recording studio and then vanish after the last notes faded from his cello. That Ma has instead used his gifts in the service of spreading humanistic values — via cross-cultural musical collaboration, civic engagement and huge amounts of heart — means that his connection with the public goes far deeper than mere admiration.

During the pandemic, people, as always, turned to music for solace. Have you noticed common denominators in music that comforts? I’ve been asking myself all my life, “What is the purpose of music?” It’s like trying to find the meaning almost every day, because the purpose yesterday may not be the purpose today. What the pandemic has crystallized in my mind is that we need music because it helps us to get to very specific states of mind.

Bellevue Musician Reunited with His $40K Cello that was Stolen Three Years Ago

Stolen Cello Returned

For an elite musician like Alistair James, his instrument is an extension of his body.

He said a thief broke into his car, which was parked outside his Bellevue home, and swiped the cello about three years ago. His family filed a police report, but James says it felt like he lost a piece of his soul.

But last summer, James said his teacher drove to Des Moines, Washington to buy a used cello being sold by Melody Camp.

Then the improbable happened.

On a whim, next-door neighbor Raymond Gobin brought over another cello from his collection to simply show it off.

“It has a beautiful, sweet tone,” said Gobin, adding that his friend bought it for him in the parking lot of a Tukwilla McDonald’s for several hundred dollars, around the same time the cello that had belonged to James was stolen. “But I didn’t steal the cello.”

“I really want to thank him for doing the right thing,” James said.

The Irish Cellist Whose Online Outdoor Recitals During Lockdown Have Gone Viral

Irish Cellist Gone Viral

Cellist Patrick Dexter Outside his Cottage in Ireland

Patrick Dexter began posting videos of himself online playing the cello after the Republic of Ireland went into lockdown back in March. Since then, the open-air recitals, shot outside his picturesque cottage in County Mayo on the rural west coast, have been viewed millions of times.

The musician has received messages from people across the world expressing their love for his beautiful playing of the instrument, including from Irish expatriates yearning for their homeland during the pandemic.

“I feel reаlly grаteful thаt there аre people thаt wаnt to listen to something thаt I’m plаying for no other reаson thаn thаt I love it.”

Click here to go to Patrick Dexter’s YouTube Channel.

Winners Announced At Pablo Casals International Award for Young Cellists 2020Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

Xuanan Xu from China was awarded first prize and will receive €18,000.

The AENA Special Prize and 3rd prize were awarded to Petar Pejčić from Serbia and Felix Brunnenkant from Germany.

The 2021 jury comprised Claudio Bohórquez, Gustav Rivinius, Henri Demarquette, Arnau Tomás, and Bernard Meillat.

Semi-Finalists Announced for Detroit’s 2021 Sphinx CompetitionCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

The Semi-Finalists have been announced for the 2021 Sphinx Competition, to be held virtually in January 2021.

The 2021 jury will comprise: Jennifer Arnold, Joel Krosnick, Tai Murray, Philippe Quint, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Matthew Van Besien and VC Artist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt.

The Junior Division Cellist Semi-Finalists (17 years and under) are:

  • Brandon Leonard
  • George T.A. Wolfe-McGuire

The Senior Division Cellist Semi-Finalists (18 to 30 years old) are:

  • Quenton Xavier Blache
  • Luiz Fernando Venturelli

The Life of a Cello

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

Starla Breshears

There is a fascinating connection between Starla Breshears (cellist of the Little Stars Trio, who performed a recital for the Guild in January 2017) and the world-renowned cellist Christine Walevska. The connection is a superb 1/8-size cello made by the 19th-century luthier Auguste Sebastien Philippe Bernardel. The whole story, which spans some 60 years, was covered in the L. A. Times (available on the internet) and a version appeared in the October 9, 2020 issue of The Week.

Starla’s mother starts looking on the internet, trying to find out more about the Bernardel cello, and she comes across a story about Walevska’s stolen instrument. They take pictures of the cello and email Walevska, asking whether this could be the same instrument. Eventually Walevska connects with the Breshears family and, after hearing Starla play, suggests they keep quiet about the cello until Starla is ready for a larger one. At that time Walevska will notify the Los Angeles police that the instrument has been found.

We’ll Never Let You Down: An Opera Tribute to Jacqueline Du PréCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

In 1987, British cello legend Jacqueline Du Pré succumbed to multiple sclerosis at the age of 42. Although she hadn’t played any concerts for fifteen years, a wave of sadness washed over the world. In her short career she had accomplished more than many other musicians in their entire life. She played on all the famous stages, was married to Daniel Barenboim and worked with the greatest conductors and orchestras.

Stichting Cellosonate Nederland and OT Rotterdam honour her memory with the opera We’ll never let you down. It was premiered online in the Cello Biennale on 28 October, and will tour the Netherlands in the coming months, corona permitting.

Montreal Cellist Who Beat COVID-19 Lends Music to New Inventive Marketing Campaign Selling Mask-WearingCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

A famed Montreal cellist who almost died of COVID-19 has joined a coalition of artists teaming as much as battle the pandemic by utilizing their artwork as a instrument.

Dennis Brott will present the music for a collection of movies by which skilled dancers will carry out whereas sporting masks. Brott recorded the soundtrack for the “Projet Masque” collection on Friday, one thing he says would have been unimaginable for him just some months in the past.

“When I first went to the cello after coming house, my bow was like this on the string,” he instructed Global News, making his hand tremble. “I simply couldn’t get a sound out.”

Interview with Alan Harrell about the Cleveland Orchestra During Covid-19 Times

Alan Harrell

Not being able to work or perform, Alan Harrell, a cellist with the Cleveland Orchestra, began teaching music classes during the summer for children on Facebook Live. Now, he’s back doing what he loves: playing with the orchestra.

“It’s just great joy because we’re able to make music and do what we were born and trained to do, so there was just a lot of joy to see your colleagues and get to play Beethoven,” said Harrell.

While Harrell is back on stage, not all members of the orchestra are able to safely perform because of their need to not wear a mask.

“Because we don’t know about the transmission for winds and brass, they can’t play right now,” Harrell said. “And so right now it’s just strings and percussion and we’ve had pianists do.”

James D. Wolfensohn, Olympic Fencing Cellist Who Led the World Bank for 10 Years, Dies at 86

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

James D. Wolfensohn, who escaped a financially pinched Australian childhood to become a top Wall Street deal maker and a two-term president of the World Bank, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 86.

But he was more than a financier. He led fund-raising efforts as chairman of Carnegie Hall and headed a revival of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. An accomplished cellist under the tutelage of the renowned Jacqueline du Pré, he performed at Carnegie Hall on his milestone birthdays. And as a university fencing champion, he was part of Australia’s 1956 Olympic team, competing in front of his fellow Australians in Melbourne.

Success Story: Despite Pandemic, Gwinnett Middle School Orchestra Presents ConcertCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

Teachers of all subjects are having to be creative in their new, socially distanced, often digital teaching this year. Here is one success story of a middle school orchestra in Georgia that used in-person and digital performance in combination to present their fall concert.

“At the beginning of the year we were all digital. I was wondering if we’d be able to do the concert,” cellist Emmy Queen said.

On the night of November 19th, half of the 7th and 8th grade musicians socially distanced at the school, while the other half played via video conference. Add in a little live stream, and you’ve got yourself a concert. “It just shows that no matter what’s going on, people will still come together,” cellist Bella Dimuzio said.

An Interview with Princeton Student and Cellist Robin Park: COVID-19 and Racial Equity in Music

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

As a cellist, Park has received numerous accolades, including Grand Prize at the Caprio Young Artist Competition and the National YoungArts Foundation Competition. Previously, he was Principal Cellist of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America in 2019 and a two-time alumnus of the New York String Orchestra Seminar.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, Robin was active as a section cellist of Symphony in C, one of three professional training orchestras in the United States. Robin currently studies cello with Leo Singer, Professor of Cello at the McDuffie Center for Strings, as well as with Richard Aaron, Professor of Cello at the Juilliard School and the University of Michigan.

In our conversation, Robin and I touched on topics of music practice and performance, racial and economic equity in classical music, and the effects of the pandemic on the University’s academics and music-making. This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Johan Dorrestein is Leaving the Cello Biënnale AmsterdamCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

As of 1 January 2021 Johan Dorrestein will step down as Managing Director of the Cello Biënnale Amsterdam. Johan is leaving after no less than eleven years in which six Biënnales took place.

Johan: After eleven intensive years and six editions of the Biënnale, the most recent of which I will surely remember for a long time to come, I’ve decided to end this chapter of my life.
This decision evokes in me conflicting emotions. I feel that I have done enough, but at the same time I am bringing an incredibly beautiful chapter of my life to an end.

Click here to read the full story on the Cello Biënnale Amsterdam website.


The Radio 3 Documentary – Sunday Feature: The Myth and Mystery of Anja Thauer

Anja Thauer

Learn more about “the German Jacqueline Mary du Pré” in this podcast.

The Suncoast Culture Club Presents: Natalie Helm, Principal Cellist of the Sarasota OrchestraCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 20 November

Her tour of the world includes Louisville, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Des Moines, Boston, Montgomery, and finally, Bradenton/Sarasota. Natalie Helm is celebrating year number five as the principal cellist of the Sarasota Orchestra and she’s here to tell us about her organization Upward Notes, what she finds most valuable in a conductor, why she has named her cello “Ricky,” and so much more.


Lisbon Solo on Best Experimental Music on Bandcamp List

In notes for Lisbon Solo, veteran cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm says he’s long considered his instrument a “four-string busy box.” It certainly lives up to that description on these 10 untitled tracks, all recorded live at Studio Namouche in Portugal. Throughout, Lonberg-Holm’s strings are in constant motion, and the resulting sounds are relentless in their speed, activity, and density. But Lonberg-Holm manages to get such a wide range of sonic variety out of his instrument that each beginning is like taking a new breath. Where one piece sees him sawing violently until it sounds like his cello will break, another finds rhythm in chopping notes. Yet another stretches tones into meditative expanses. The one constant is Lonberg-Holm’s active mind, finding new ideas with every move of his bow.


World Premiere – “Thinking Too Much:” Mario Godoy, Alexander Hersh, Sherry Karver

Introducing Musaics of the Bay’s 22nd “Stay-at-Home Symposium” Premiere featuring composer Mario Godoy’s piece for solo cello and fixed media electronics, “Thinking Too Much.” The composition is given its virtual world premiere by cellist Alexander Hersh, and is based on Sherry Karver’s photograph, “Thinking Too Much.” Cello samples were recorded by Doug Machiz of the Friction Quartet. “Thinking Too Much” is best experienced with headphones.

Click here to learn more about the Musaics Symposium.

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