• Tanya Tomkins
  • June 5, 2013

United Kingdom of Cellos

Monday night at San Francisco Conservatory I played in the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s “Cello  Squared” program. The backstage area was as entertaining as the onstage area — think a circus, or the movie Topsy Turvy (if you haven’t seen it, and you are at all interested in the behind-the-scenes of a production, you must see it immediately!). The program involves pieces that use electronics, pieces that involve gongs, paper accordions, singing, high school students’ compositions, and, oh yeah, a lot of cello music!

The set-up and logistics of a concert like this provides a parallel drama to the concert itself: various cables that don’t work, levels that need to be set, click tracks pinned onto clothing, different heights of chairs that need to be found, nervous composers with pieces about to be premiered, and, yes, cellists (Leighton Fong and me) pacing around backstage wondering which piece was next in the complicated and extravagant line-up of music.

I was prepared for the extreme technical and musical demands of such a program, but was completely taken by surprise by the virtuosity of the production of it! This was largely due to the multi-leveled talents of Anna Presler, Artistic Director, and Kurt Rohde, Matt Schumaker and Sam Nichols, all composers and masters of electronic music and its set-up (heavy-lifting and a mysterious understanding of how these machines all work together!)

All I can say is, my job suddenly seemed easy once on stage with my beloved colleagues. It was another lesson in music as a vehicle for letting go and staying open to the unexpected. It is in real time. There’s no going back!

If you would like to be a part of this crazy adventure in yet a new space, please come tomorrow night (Thursday) in Mill Valley at the Throckmorton Theater at 8 pm.

For tickets and info:


See you there!

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