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Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week – 31 October

Here’s your weekly dose of cello news.

Cello News

Cellist Specializes in Creating Scary Soundtracks

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 31 October

Cellist/composer Chris Thomas collects sounds.

Thomas loves to usher moviegoers from emotion to emotion, from lighthearted humor to edge-of-the-seat anticipation, relief, terror, dread or niggling uncertainty. “Don’t Look Back” follows a young woman who, along with several other people, witnesses a murder. When eyewitnesses start dying mysteriously, she fears for her life, uncertain whether the attacker is human or supernatural.

Currently, Thomas is about to launch his “pandemic project,” a full-year online class on film scoring that he just finished filming. He is also working on another movie soundtrack, which he wouldn’t talk about just yet.

Every Aquarium Should Have a Resident Cellist

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 31 October

During the aquarium’s pandemic-related closure, the Newport Symphony Orchestra and the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport collaborated to provide a new form of enrichment for its animals: live symphonic music. Together, the nonprofit organizations filmed a music video in front of the sea otter window. The duo performed George Frideric Handel’s very appropriate “Variations on Water Music Themes,” a production that each institution hopes will aid animals and cultural awareness.

“Every aquarium should have a resident cellist,” Newport Symphony Orchestra cellist Adrienne Welsh said.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Cellist Chosen to Help Meld Children’s Book with Soothing Music

“My Magic Breath” is a 15-minute video that was developed as a response to the pandemic. It debuted last month as part of the Chicago Public Library’s “Live at the Library” series, but now is being shared widely at schools and libraries.

Cellist Karen Basrak, like the other featured musicians, performed her piece in a recording studio, playing it four to five times before choosing which one to use and be set with the narration by Chicago’s First Lady Amy Eshleman. – Courtesy of Todd Rosenberg

North Carolina Music Teacher Uses Social Media to Show Diversity in MusicCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 31 October

A North Carolina music teacher is finding new ways to promote inclusivity in orchestras and symphonies.

Sharon Wellington-Wilkins has been playing the cello for more than 50 years, and spent most of her life as a music teacher and performer. She now teaches beginner violin lessons at home through her company “Violins-R-Us“.

Wellington-Wilkins joined forces with cellists of color around the world, and they’ve filmed several virtual performances.

“People started connecting virtually, people that I probably never would have had an opportunity to play with in a live setting,” she says. “But because of COVID, people are accessing technology more, social media, and connecting that way.”

Mike Block Makes Beautiful Music at the Polls in Somerville

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 31 October

Last week we reported that Mike Block was organizing live music at polling stations across the USA. This week, we hear that his plans are going well.

“Our goal is simply to make voting a more positive experience,” said Block, who already got his mail-in ballot. “I’ve already run into two friends who were in line to vote, so it’s nice to feel connected to everybody,” he said.

Cellist Dara Hankins: A Musician Who Overcame Career Barriers, Even with the Pandemic

Recently featured in Yo-Yo Ma’s performances commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, cellist Dara Hankins has been in the news a lot this week.

With musicians from all over the map scrambling to find footing online, it’s easy to overlook a problem down the road: how will musicians whose careers are starting now or are in the middle stages of building one, attain the notoriety that leads to greater things? This is especially a problem for Black classical musicians who have traditionally been less than welcome in major classical institutions. As always, though, the musicians themselves are not waiting around for someone else to provide answers. The way they’ve carved paths for themselves shows their personal resilience and offers a ground-level lesson on how the arts are going to survive the pandemic.

Boston Symphony Orchestra Cellist Fights the Doldrums with #cellominute ChallengeCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 31 October

Before COVID-19, Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Mickey Katz kept an Instagram profile populated mostly with meals he made and his rescue dog. Now it’s almost all cello, all the time. And with a little help from his friends, he’s introduced a handful of minute-long miniatures to the world.

During the earliest, deeply disorienting days of the pandemic, Katz stayed upright by challenging himself musically, he said in a phone interview last week. He started by posting one movement a day from the evergreen Bach cello suites. When he neared the end of the cycle, he posted a call on Facebook for composer friends to write 60-second pieces for cello.

Mickey Katz’s cello miniatures are available Oct. 29-Nov. 19.

Clever Mom Makes Her Point by Playing her Daughter’s Cello  Like a Violin (Thankfully Remembering to Retract the Spike!) 

“We’d been arguing over playing with a straight bow for a few days. She said, ‘Fine! You show me!’” And with Min being not a cellist, her daughter thought she had called her mother’s musical bluff. She could not show her, could she?

But instead, the teacher took her daughter’s 1/10-size instrument and played it the way most known to her: as a violin. She played the melody Somewhere Over the Rainbow with a rich tone and, we note, a perfectly straight bow. Point very well made, mum.

Be sure to follow Min Lee.

Cellist Zoe Keating Got Defrauded on Facebook — So Why Isn’t Facebook Investigating?Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 31 October

The Artist Rights Alliance (ARA) is calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Facebook’s alleged failure to stop a livestream scam involving the name and image of cellist Zoe Keating.

Upon “immediately” reporting the fraudulent concert listing and livestream link, Zoe Keating was allegedly told by a Facebook employee that they didn’t “go against any one of our specific community standards.” Additionally, Facebook purportedly informed Keating that she could “change her settings” if the advertisement proved “bothersome” – or simply block it altogether.

In spite of Keating’s moving quickly to bring down the criminal’s falsified-livestream operation, though, the Artist Rights Alliance said that the impersonation effort carried on “for weeks” after the fact. “No one other than the company knows how many people were victimized, robbed, or phished,” wrote the ARA.

Yo-Yo Ma Performed in a Ceremony Honoring Pittsburgh Shooting Victims

Cello News Yo-Yo Ma

The 11 Jewish men and women killed during the massacre at the Tree of Life building on Oct. 27, 2018, were remembered two years after the shooting in a ceremony livestreamed on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

Yo-Yo Ma performed for both those whose lives were lost and for those who have been helping. He quoted his friend, Mister Rogers, who advised that in a crisis, “Always look for the helpers.”

Read more and watch video footage here and here.

“Culture has no borders”: Belgian-Armenian Cellist Plays at Upper Mosque in Shushi, Artsakh

First cellist of the Belgian National Philharmonic Orchestra, Sevak Avanesyan, who has recently performed ‘Krunk’ (Crane) by Komitas at the bombarded St. Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi town of Artsakh, made another performance, this time in the Upper Mosque in Shushi.

The cellist performed “Persian Fire Dance” by Austrian cellist Kian Soltani.

He released the respective video on his Facebook account, saying that “culture has no borders.”

In Russia, “There’s Nothing to Hide”: A Phone Call with One of Putin’s Closest Friends, Cellist Sergei RolduginCellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 31 October

“I have to say we got really lucky with our president,” the cellist said. “He often asks about our new talents and pays a lot of attention to our foundation. We are thankful and feel that our work is needed, and is in his interests.”

New Hallmark Christmas Film Features Actor/Cellist Luke Macfarlane as Leading Man, “Jackson”

Love Hallmark Christmas films? Love the cello? Be sure to watch Chateau Christmas this holiday season. The male lead is both an actor and a cellist.

The interesting thing is that when the role was offered to him, Jackson’s character played the violin. Being a trained cellist himself, Jackson’s character was then made to play the cello instead.

We’ve been hearing about Hallmark’s Chateau Christmas for some time now as a pianist friend of The Cello Museum, Karen Allred, arranged and performed the piano music in the film, braving international travel, quarantine, and the rigors of filming in order to perform her music. What she didn’t mention was that the male lead is a cellist.

Read more here.


Cellist Diana Golden: Tanbou Kache

“I hope listeners will become curious to learn more about Haitian and Caribbean classical music, bringing about more awareness, programming, enjoyment, and study of these repertoires by audiences, performers, and scholars alike.” – Diana Golden

Album Review: “Shaking Studies” by Judith Hamann

An album of slow drones, tension and release, Judith Hamann’s Shaking Studies is an interesting listen, a LP of four slow-moving, almost microtonal pieces that to open-eared listeners, are captivating.

Debut Album From Irish Baroque Cellist Carina Drury Out In November

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 31 October

Irlandiani is the debut album from the Irish baroque cellist Carina Drury. Picturing the musical life of early 18th Century Ireland, the album explores the influence of Irish traditional music on Italian baroque composers living in Ireland at the time, and how a fashion for the Italian baroque style also influenced the Irish composers of the day.

Preorder here.


Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child Performed by 15-year-old Cellist, Brandon Leonard

The Breathing Hand (Live), Composed and Performed by Jo Quail with the Choir of Cappella Gedanensis and Alicja Lach-Owsiany 

The Breathing Hand (Live) from the 20th November 2020 release of Five Incantations on deluxe double vinyl (AdderStone Records)…

Music For Cello & Teenage Engineering OP-1 Synthesizer

Leaves was composed on Teenage Engineering OP-1, then Zhang improvised a cello line over it.

– Camera: Sony a6300
– Synth: Teenage Engineering op-1
– Cello: Yamaha Silent Cello SVC-210

– DAW: Ableton Live
– Video Editing: Final Cut Pro

South African cellist Abel Selaocoe

South African cellist Abel Selaocoe is redefining the parameters of the cello (between Western and non-Western musical traditions with a view of helping classical music reach a more diverse audience).

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