Review by Judith Caldwell
A benefit concert was held to support ‘Blooms for Africa’ and ‘An Instrument for Every Child’ where a lot; and I mean a lot, of local cello enthusiasts got together to celebrate the instrument and raise money for the causes. This year over 100 cellists performed.
It started small & classical with a Sonata for two cellos by Handel which was lovely and let us know that the auditorium at Compass Point Bible Church has excellent acoustics. Then we heard two very young talented brothers, Maximilian & Theodor Aoki, play a much newer piece.
Entitled ‘Counting Stars’, it was very different and truly lovely – sometimes sounding Japanese and at others Country & Western. The third cello duet was again new music and was very intricate and well played.
The Hamilton Cello Extravaganza Ensemble consists of 12 very accomplished cellists and they were joined by composer Raphael Weinroth-Browne to play one of his compositions called ‘Aftermath’. I am not really a fan of much new music but this offering was interesting, tuneful and quite complicated and I found it to be a very pleasurable listening experience. I hope he writes a lot more music. The Ensembles second offering was also a new piece called Exquisite Night by Margaret Tobolowska and it was plucked and played and very different but also great listening. After an outline of the work done by An Instrument for Every Child presented by Astrid Hepner, we heard from the youngest cellist of the day – 12 year old Phillip Darley. Phillip is a gifted musician and has won numerous awards already. He chose a piece called Julie-O by Mark Summer which I found difficult to listen to, I could find neither a coherent rhythm nor any melody to use as an approach to the work.
Our bubbly Emcee Kellylee Evans accompanied by Kirk Starkey on cello and Rachel Derry piano offered us some Nina Simone jazz leading up to intermission. Kellylee has a lovely voice, clearly loves music and is an excellent entertainer and I really enjoyed both her singing and her Emceeing. She even managed to get us to whistle & stomp like rock groupies!
After intermission and a presentation about Stephen Lewis’ Blooms for Africa, it was on to larger groups. The Ensemble came back to offer Bachianas Brasilieros by Heitor Villa-Lobos and it was lovely to hear the familiar sounds of his folk music and latin rhythms played so beautifully. After all the new music it felt like coming home. Then they played another new piece called ‘Requiem’ by David Popper who is apparently well known is cello circles for his difficult etudes. This was quiet rather than mournful and very rich and tuneful and seemed perfectly suited to a cello ensemble.
THEN the huge cello group – 100 cellos on the stage. It was obvious from the start that this group had rehearsed and practiced. It was conducted by Cynthia Carey and they offered the audience Bach; Saint-Saëns; Pablo Casals & U2 ending with a song written (and sung) by Kellylee Evans. It was an excellent ending to a lively concert. The interest in cellos is not waning and the offerings, especially the huge ensemble pieces, are getting better and better.