Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who's who in Folk Cello

At times I'm amazed at the number of people that play cello at some level. And so many that are really very good! Many are college trained to some degree. And many that play professionally or semi-professionally at one level or another. And there will be no shortage in the foreseeable future: so many children study cello!

Yet, it seems to me, in the folk-related genres there really are very few widely-known cellists. I have some ideas on why this is so; some of those thoughts may be considered fighting words if expressed within some circles, but I'll float some of them in a future post.

Ok, so who, exactly, is out there, playing/recording at a professional level in a folk-related genres? Well, here's some names, listed in categories of my own choosing. Perhaps readers will want to add a few (names and/or categories):

The Classicists: Those whose playing is generally consistent with mainstream classically-oriented cello.

- Abby Newton Performing since 1973. Contributed to over 70 recordings. Largely Celtic repertoire. Currently with violinist David Greenberg and harpist Kim Robertson playing "Baroque-folk."

- Nancy Blake Performing since 1974. Married to well-known fiddler/mandolinist Norman Blake. Also plays guitar and other instruments. Largely Americanna repertoire.

- Barry Phillips Performing since 1980's. Cellist/arranger/producer working with a loosely affiliated group of folk musicians centered around Santa Cruz, CA. Repertoire has spanned many traditions and countries of origin.

- Yo-Yo Ma In addition to so many unique projects - Americanna with Mark O'Connor & Edgar Meyer, and with Alison Krause; Central Asian with the Silk Road Project.

The Young Groovers: Those who emphasize driving rhythms and rock-influenced groove patterns.

- Rushad Eggleston Also a singer/songwriter. Works with some very well-known multi-genre fiddlers. Includes some jazz, blues, and other more modern idioms.

- Natalie Haas Plays with Alasdair Frasier, typically as a twosome, Mark O'Connor, and others. Repertoire is largely 18th/19th century Scottish, with some 20th century compositions consistent with that style, but modernized by her high-energy bass/rhythm grooves.

Up and coming college student: Ariel Friedman. Plays/records with her sister Mia, and with Hanneke Cassel.

The Folk Singers: Those who are predominately folk-style singer/songwriters.

- Lindsay Mac Folk/pop singer/songwriter with jazz & rock elements. Her songs are often stories, sometimes autobiographical.

- Caroline Lavelle Sings and writes in the English/Irish tradition. Also has performed with Loreena McKennitt and with the Chieftains in what she describes as Chamber-Folk.

- Ben Sollee Appalachian-influenced singer/songwriter. Also performs in a quartet with banjoists Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleack, and fiddler Casey Dreissen.

The Educators: Those who are primarily educators. At present, I have only entry.

- Renata Bratt President of the International Association for Jazz Education String Caucus, chair of the 2007 American String Teachers Association Alternative String Styles Steering Committee and vice-president of the Kuumbwa Jazz Center Board in Santa Cruz. Writes articles, books, records CD, and conducts workshops for students and teachers. Researches and teaches techniques commonly employed by folk-oriented cellists, but omitted from classically-oriented cello pedagogy.

The One-and-Only's: Those in a category all by themselves.

Sean Grissom, the "Cajun Cellist". Fiddle tunes and music similar to fiddle tunes, strongly influenced by Cajun-style fiddling. Features double shuffles, blues notes, and slides.

There they are, until you give me more names to add. I have not included studio musicians that to play on some folk-related recordings, or on folk band tours, but rather have a focus in music written and traditionally played by regular, non-classically trained folk. Nor have I included players like Denise Djokic (as much as I like what she does) that play formally-composed classical music that was originally inspired by folk music.

So who else should I have included?


Emily said...

I wish I could help, but as it turns out, I am learning who's who from your blog! Thanks for turning me on to so much new (to me) talent.

Maricello said...

Good list, Terry. Here are some others, though some might not quite fit your definition of folk:

Three Scottish/Celtic cellists:
Christine Hanson
Fiona Hunter (vocals and cello)
Seylan Baxter (vocals and cello)

Martha Colby
"acid folk cello"
a glitzy web site worth looking at

Gideon Freudmann
folk, jazz, improvisation, etc.

Kristina Forester played with Renata Bratt and Rushad Eggleston on their "Great Big Taters" CD, though I think her personal style is more contemporary.

Kristen Miller, also probably more contemporary than you are looking for.

Jennifer Adams, the cellist with Montana Skies, also "fusion," "crossover," or whatever that term is to indicate a mix of styles.

Michael Daniels, who plays with the Adagio Trio, folk, classical and religious, meditative music.

I have heard Eugene Friesen play a fiddle tune, but it was mostly in mockery of the genre. He is a wonderful contemporary cellist, with occasional folk influences. (He was a teacher of Rushad)

New Directions Cello might be a good source of other names.

There seem to be lots of good not-always-classical cellists.

Guanaco said...

Nice list.

Montana Skies (w/cellist Jennifer Adams) is on my rapidly-expanding list of 141 cellobloggers.

Anonymous said...

Mike Block plays all styles but is really awesome with rhythms and grooves. He also composes multi-cello pieces, and sings slightly goofy songs while playing (sample: one about his crush on Claire Huxtable). Check out his myspace for samples.

Peter Lewy said...

I have been called Folk: Here are some samples of my work


or just google Peter Lewy. I hope you enjoy. All the best, peter

Alex Monaghan said...

Scottish cellist and singer Wendy Weatherby

Saskia Tomkins said...

Canadian Cellist George Crotty plays jazz, celtic and Arabic music, has recently recorded an album called “2 Bird’s” (I think)
Also check out the wonderful string quartet “Fretless”. Thanks for your list!