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Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week – 7 August

Here’s your weekly dose of cello news.

Cello News

Yo-Yo Ma Joins Taiwanese Musician Abao to Celebrate Indigenous Day

Yo-Yo- Ma joined Taiwanese Indigenous musician Abao (Aljenljeng Tjaluvie) online to create the new song, “Zemia” remotely, for National Indigenous Day on 1 August. The title, “Zemia,” means “dancing in circles” in the Paiwan language.

The song

is based on a traditional tune of the Amis tribe. The . . . video also features . . . [the] Bulareyaung Dance Company and contemporary artist Reretan Pavavaljung . . . Abao also included young singers from eight Indigenous tribes and recorded it in a 360-degree panoramic view. Abao said she hopes the music video can help people get through the pandemic.

Abao spoke highly of Ma, describing him as being

“unbelievably friendly, modest, and humorous.”

Pavavaljung explained that visually,

the video was based on three major concepts from the Paiwan tribe — earth, heaven, and spirit.

Gautier Capuçon: Democratizing Classical Music

Cellist Gautier Capuçon said the idea for his traveling music festival with free concerts, “Un été en France” (“A summer in France”), was inspired by the pandemic lockdown. He said:

“I saw it as a way of creating, of getting out of traditional concert halls. I think it’s very important to go to towns and villages where the cultural offer is sometimes a little smaller. I had this desire for several years to meet them . . . Last summer, I did 23 concerts and we’re doing it again this year.”

When asked why he wanted there to be free concerts, he responded:

“It was very important to me. My parents are not musicians, they discovered music partly through free concerts. Who knows, if these concerts hadn’t been free, I might never have made music. There is of course the idea of ​​democratizing classical music, of making it discoverable by another audience.”

Update from Meena Karimi, the 16-Year-Old Afghan Cellist and Composer

Meena Karimi

Meena Karimi, 16-year-old cellist and composer. Photo courtesy Robin Ryczek, her teacher.

Remember the news earlier this year about 16-year-old cellist and composer, Meena Karimi and her piece dedicated to the women of Afghanistan? Her teacher, Robin Ryczek, contacted us this week to tell us that Meena has been accepted to study at Interlochen Arts Academy, starting in fall 2021.

Congratulations, Meena!

Meena said:

“I’m very lucky and grateful for the opportunity to be studying in Interlochen. I know it will have a huge and wonderful impact on my life and get me another step closer to achieving my dreams.”

Particularly in light of current events, as a young, female, musician in Afghanistan, Meena faces many challenges. These come

“in the form of societal pressures, conservative pushback, gender inequality, and misunderstandings related to music and musical practice.” – Robyn Ryczek

Nevertheless, Meena is fiercely determined to persist in pursuing her dreams despite the daunting obstacles in her path. Here is her speech about her composition, “Dawn,” given for International Women’s Day in March 2021:

We wish Meena all the best and send her our congratulations!

Learn more about Meena and see how you can help her achieve her dreams on this GoFundMe page created by her teacher, Robin Ryczek.

Yo-Yo Ma to Play Water Music in Prague

Yo-Yo Ma is scheduled to perform at the Prague Sounds festival this autumn. However, rather than playing indoors, he will perform the Bach Suites on a floating stage on the Vltava River in the city center.

The Cello Makes History at the BBC Proms in 2021

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 7 August

Argentina’s Sol Gabetta. Photo by Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Redferns. Credit: Roberto Serra / Iguana Press

Country Life featured an article about the cello at this year’s BBC Proms. For the first time in history, the program will include four cello concertos:

  • Elgar, played by Johannes Moser (9 August)
  • Dvořák, played by Sheku Kanneh-Mason (5 September)
  • Saint-Saëns, played by Sol Gabetta (2 August)
  • Walton, played by Steven Isserlis (12 August)

Cellist Paul Watkins and the Emerson String Quartet

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 7 August

The Yale School of Music featured an article about Paul Watkins and what it was like to join the Emerson String Quartet in 2013. He was the first new member of the group in over 30 years.

Watkins explained:

“It worked out beautifully . . . We got along well musically and personally. . . It’s a bit like being in love really . . . t needs to be love at first sight and it was.”

The article explains:

While joining a group with such a long, stable membership could be tricky, Watkins credits the other players with making the transition so smooth. “We have a very lucky combination of me having admired their work for a long time but also having enough confidence and experience before joining to know I could bring something to them,” he says. “To their credit they have the ability to know not only what they’ve learned over 30 years but to be open to new ideas coming from me. That and a sense of humor—it’s very important.”

Cellist Eugene Friesen Collaborating with the Harmony Museum to Preserve Music of  the Harmony Society

Cellos in the News: Top Stories of the Week - 7 August

Grammy Award-winning cellist Eugene Friesen is working with the Harmony Museum to record music of the 19th-century communal utopian community called the Harmony Society. The museum board has launched an online campaign to raise funds to cover the costs of recording and producing a CD in time for Christmas.

Cellist and Luthier Ruth Miyamoto Gives up Career in New York for Grandma

Here’s a wonderful story about cellist and luthier Ruth Miyamoto giving back to her grandmother:

In Our Own Words – Cellist Charae Krueger

Charae Krueger, Cellist

This week cellist Charae Krueger, the principal cellist of The Atlanta Opera and Atlanta Ballet Orchestras and a lecturer and artist-in-residence at Kennesaw State University, was featured in a series called “In Our Own Words.”

She writes that she considered last year

“a sabbatical year, or the great pause or the intermission. It was interesting to not have something to prepare for in terms of practicing . . .  It feels really special now, being with a roomful of happy audience members and musicians on stage. I have a new appreciation for that now.”

Beethoven and Bach helped her through the pandemic:

At the beginning of the pandemic I gravitated toward Beethoven. It was a way of expressing the worry, the pain, the fear, the suffering. Beethoven had many health challenges, but he had this ability to triumph over those challenges and find joy. To be able to write Ode to Joy! I have always found Bach to be a composer who expresses a sense of peaceful order, that everything is going to be all right. I played some of the Bach solo suites — it was like therapy.

Connection is essential. She cited E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End:

His theme is “only connect.” That really resonates with me. All the social unrest and the problems we have in this country — he addressed similar themes. Music can cross all those barriers.

Introducing Classical Synth-pop Artist K Mak

K Mak is the stage name of Australian cellist Kathryn McKee. She loves classical, electronic, and pop music, who names Bjork, Tori Amos, and Radiohead as three of her influences.

Learn more about her in this interview with her on

R.I.P. Cellists

Cellist, Composer, and Conductor, Allan Stephenson

British-born South African cellist, composer, and conductor Allan Stephenson (15 December  1949 – 2 August 2021) died at 71. He made major contributions to music in his adopted country through premieres of European works, contributions to an opera about Nelson Mandela, and work with South African musicians, notably Thomas Rajna, Olivier de Groote, and Hugh Masekela.

Although he was immersed in South African music, he never adopted a South African compositional style. He said:

“I can’t write music that is not going to sound English, even if I force myself,” he said. “Why would I do that when I feel I have my own style? It just would not be authentic. So I just keep writing music for myself and that keeps me in work.”

We offer our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. R.I.P. Allan Stephenson.

Click here to read about him in The Strad.

Click here for more about him on The Violin Channel.

Cellist Sheri Lynn Greening

Sheri Lynn Greening

Cellist Sheri Lynn Greening (19 November 1958 – 28 June 2021) of Camden, Arkansas, has died at 62.

She was a professor of music and accounting. She also played the cello in and directed the Lake Charles Symphony and South Arkansas Symphony.

We offer our condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues. R.I.P. Sheri Lynn Greening.

Read her obituary here.

Sign the online guest book or share a memory here.


The Strad Podcast Episode #6: Johannes Moser on the Elgar Cello Concerto

Johannes Moser

Photo credit: Manfred Esser-Haenssler Classic

The Strad Podcast #6 features cellist Johannes Moser. Online editor Davina Shum speaks with Moser about the Elgar Cello Concerto and more.

New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher – Inbal Segev Showcases 20 New Works for Cello

Inbal Segev. Photo by Grant Legan.

Photo: Grant Legan

Cellist Inbal Segev and her husband commissioned 20 composers to create 20 new works for the cello in 2020.

“It was ambitious, but I realized quickly that it’s a project that’s going to take a couple of years,” she says. “Composers need time to cook; they need time to think about things. And then I needed time to work on the on the pieces. And since there’s 20, we didn’t book all of them at once. First I reached out to my friends and the people who are more local and were obvious choices to me. And then I started listening and venturing out to a lot of people who I’ve never heard of before even.”

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Watch the trailer for the first volume of the recordings of this project here:

The first is the first volume of 20 for 2020 is available now (released on 25 June 2021):

Cellist Zoë KeatingCrosscurrents KALW logo. Click to go to the show.

Here is an interview with cellist Zoë Keating, recently nominated for an Emmy Award for the soundtrack to Oslo. (See last week’s news.) Learn more about how Keating creates her music in this KALW Throwback Thursday show.


A Cellist at the Movies – Kian Soltani: Cello Unlimited

International release date: 8 October 2021

Available for pre-order now.

Cellist Kian Soltani’s upcoming Deutsche Grammophon album, Cello Unlimited, features his personal take on movie music, including themes from Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lord of the Rings, The Bourne Identity, and The Da Vinci Code.

With the imposed lockdowns last year, Soltani had the time to create this album. He said:

“I realised it would take a lot of time, . . . but I now had a lot of time! So I thought, why not give it everything? Why not spend all the time I have pursuing a dream I’ve had for many, many years, to create an album made exclusively from my own arrangements of epic movie scores.”

The album is a celebration of Soltani’s love of wonderful movie music and the cello as well. He said:

“The cello’s possibilities are infinite . . . Cello Unlimited is a celebration of the instrument as well as a celebration of epic film music, which can build bridges to connect people of all ages, but especially the young, with the classical world.”

Inbal Segev – 20 for 2020 Volumes 1 and 2

For information about the project and Volume 1, please see above, under Podcasts.

Volume 2 is expected on 27 August.

It is available for pre-order.


Gautier Capuçon – Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Gigue

Prague Cello Quartet – Clair de Lune

From their 2020 album, Broadway:

Salastina – Resident Cellist Yoshika Masuda Performs Xander Rodzinski’s “Inhale/Exhale”

Raphael Weinroth-Browne – Tumult IV – Fade (Afterglow) – Unending II (Live)

Here is the description from the artist (on YouTube):

Tumult IV is the last chapter of the chaotic Tumult suite – a final confrontation. This piece involves both the previously employed bridge percussion technique as well as some polyrhythmic layering that obscures one’s sense of where the groove begins and ends.

Fade (Afterglow) represents surrender – making peace with what is, before returning to the infinite. It has a hypnotic quality, and in a way the studio version was meant to cradle the listener almost like a lullaby, disarming them of their thoughts and beckoning them into the embrace of sleep. This live version contains an improvised solo which gives the movement a more impassioned quality.

The oceanic Unending II portrays the dissolution of self and its gradual subsumption by the natural world and the elements.

From the album Worlds Within Live (2021):

Cellist Yoko Afi, Age 11 – Bach Cello Suite No.1 in G Major – Prelude

Tina Guo and David Lyon – Electric Cello and Guitar Djent Battle

Chanyoung Park – Just the Two of Us – Cello Jazz Improvisation

Lesibu Grand – Not Sweet Enough, String Version Featuring The Punk Cellist

Cellists Doris Li and Jenna Wang – Someone You Loved Cello Cover

Eyeglasses (Iain Forrest) – “Let it Be” by the Beatles

Ears Wide Open – Cello Masterclass with Li-Wei Qin

Aboyne Cellos 2021 Final Concert

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