We held our annual Canada Day concert as part of the Pointe-Claire Canada Day celebrations last week. It was really, really good. Having brass and percussion certainly kicks things up a few notches, and also relieves some stress. After dress rehearsal, some of the cello section laughed about how we no longer felt the need to practice like crazy to try to polish the last little things, because no one would be hearing them anyway. In all seriousness, though, I’m happy with how I did considering the lack of time I had to practice this material.
We’ve played the Capriol Suite by Peter Warlock before (twice, I do believe) but in the arrangement for string orchestra. This time we had the percussion and a BRASS SECTION (it deserves capital letters because it was VERY THERE) and it totally changed the feel of it. Also, it was a more aggressive interpretation on the part of our conductor, so all in all, a very different piece. I enjoyed the Tchaikovsky waltz from Swan Lake (also much more energetic than I’d expected), and as it was Canada Day and a dance-themed concert, we naturally played Strauss. I grumble about Strauss, but playing through waltzes gives me a much more refined appreciation of them. This year’s was Tales from the Vienna Woods, and we also did the Thunder and Lightning Polka, which was deliciously rollicking, crashy and loud thanks to the percussion, and a lot of fun. We played some Dvorak Slavonic Dances to end the concert, and while at times I think Dvorak orchestrated these with particular attention to trying to kill cellists, they do sound fabulous.
I realized that it’s been four years since I’ve officially owned this 7/8 cello. I love it. It’s a tidy, trim little thing, a workhorse that matches me in whatever I ask of it, and it’s developing some very pretty sound in the upper register as it ages and is worked in. (Or maybe that’s me. Or both of us together.) It doesn’t have any oddities that I’ve found yet, just nice even sound from bottom to top. I consider myself extremely lucky to own it. (I need to replace the strings this fall, and it really should have a check up, since it hasn’t been back since I bought it in the summer of 2009.)
I can’t even imagine not owning a cello. Playing on a borrowed instrument and not being able to allow yourself to make as deep a connection as you want to must be incredibly difficult. And yet, that’s the position my friend Emily has been in. She’s a professional cellist and teacher, and a year ago she was forced to sell her cello in order to make ends meet. We’re talking a totally different bracket of cello, here. Selling mine would maybe net me a grand. Emily’s… well, let’s just say it was a heck of a lot more than that.
But in selling it, she also sold a friend, a companion, an instrument that had been with her for the entirety of her professional life, and most of her student life, too. And while a colleague lent her a cello so she could continue to work, she was missing… well, she was missing a soul mate.
Henri is a 1938 French cello with dreamy, rich sound. He and Emily fit together beautifully. And she’s asking for help from friends and strangers in raising the last of the money she needs to buy him. In typical Emily fashion, her way of thanking sponsors is to give back to the community by working with charities, veterans, public schools, and various assistance programs. There are fun personal thank-yous, too — Emily’s quirky stick figure drawings, copies of her quite excellent cello technical manual, and so forth — but Emily’s all about giving back at large, and outreach. It’s no surprise, because she has an enormous heart and sense of justice, and she values everyone and everything.
So when HRH asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I really thought hard about it. Did I want a gift certificate to the local spinning supply studio, and a free afternoon in which to visit it? Did I want a pair of hand carders? Did I want books? And then I knew.
HRH is donating money to Emily’s fundraising campaign as my birthday present. Because I know that Emily and Henri are meant to be together, and because I know what it’s like to own your instrument and be able to allow yourself to fall in love, to make that deepest connection. And if I know that on my own superficial, amateur level, then I can only imagine what it’s like on Emily’s professional level. To be a professional musician without an instrument… it’s unthinkable. And I’m happy to be able to direct my husband’s birthday present to me towards a friend’s need, and know that many, many people will benefit by it in the long run.
Emily’s website is EmilyWright.net.
Her fundraiser can be found at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stark-raving-cello-fundraiser.
Here’s an interview by Zero 2 Maestro with Emily about her situation.