Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Road to Cello - Chapter 5

Yes, we are finally approaching an end to this terribly long-winded story.

After hearing Barry Phillips' cello on that CD, I became more aware of cello on a few other tapes my fiance had: Barry Phillips on Northern Lights and Orison, and a few a couple of other tapes with other cellists.

Then, about one month later, my fiance and I attended a Chieftains concert. Before the concert I was aware of that fact that Derek Bell, long-time harpist with the Chieftains, had passed away the preceding October. The Chieftain's U.S. concert tour went on without that formerly crucial member.

When we arrived I was surprised to discover that, for the most part, a cellist substituted for Bell --- Caroline Lavelle. Ms. Lavelle did not play in everything, but in quite a bit of the Chieftain repertoire. She also sang a few solos accompanying herself on cello, standing, with an exceptionally long endpin.

She played pizzicato bass, bowed bass and middle harmony lines, and even fast melodies. I was particularly struck at how she played Give the Fiddler a Dram (sort of a Chieftains' "theme song") with them, at tempo (which is very fast), zipping up and down the fingerboard with apparent effortless. Hey, I thought, fiddle tunes that go beyond 1st position can be done at tempo!

As you might imagine, the typical crowd at a Chieftain's concert is more, ummm, expressive than the genteel, well-heeled audience at a typical Classical concert. As the concert develops, both audience and performers get caught up in the excitement. As part of that, the cello rocked! While flute and Uillean pipes and fiddle player made great sounds but, as seen from a distance, hardly moved, Ms. Lavelle physically propelled the band "Down The Old Plank Road".

Ok, maybe fate was telling me something here. I had to at least try the instrument out, even though I doubted I could sustain the effort for more than a few months. I visited a few music stores, not knowing which stores carried cellos, and didn't see anything appropriate. Then I looked on Ebay and saw slews of cheap cellos. Since I couldn't imagine that I would keep it up more than a few months, maybe weeks, and if I did keep going, I could get a real instrument without losing much of an investment, I bought cello and bow on Ebay for $139 + $40 shipping. Of course, at the time I realized I should get a teacher, but I had no idea where to find one. Later.

I know, I know, I did exactly, PRECISELY, what scores of Cello Chatters warn NOT to do! At the time, I had no idea Cello Chat existed. Shucks, I didn't know anything at all when that big box landed on my front porch.

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