Cello makes everything better. A musical fact. Something I learned over multiple concert performances. Some events I was watching, a bum in a seat, as they say. Some shows I was part of, up on the stage, the instrument being played beside me. Other times I was simply in front of a screen, a bowl of snacks by my side. And when I started reading Wired for Music, knowing the author – Adriana Barton – played cello, I was certain it too would make everything better. Once again I was right.
Numerous examples come to mind of this fundamental cello-esque truth. One surfaced when my wife Deb and I went to a Yo-Yo Ma concert, the venue an orchestra hall. Neither of us had felt such connection through a sharing of music – four strings and one player – filling a venue, two-thousand strangers, with passion and joy.
Another time I was watching TV, a series filmed on Iceland’s glacial shores. Multiple characters, multiple stories, multiple scenes. The soundtrack, mind you, was entirely played with one instrument. Cello. Making every vignette extrasensory. Euphoria, grief, terror and bliss. All on four strings, with one player. What emotional alchemy was this? What magic was being conducted? The answer, the cello. Played well, by someone who cared.
The next instance I was transported by the hourglass – body and bouts, a bridge and a board – I was walking through the heart of Palm Springs, a tourist going from a museum to market, then home. And there, tucked in an alley off the main street, was a woman playing a chipped ancient cello. The instrument, two-hundred years old. She played exquisitely, though nobody seemed to care. I stopped and we spoke. I asked her about the antique.
“Yeah,” she said with a sarcastic grin. “Got this from my dad. The only thing he ever gave me.” Her expression softened, the hurt dissipating. “It’s a pretty good gift though,” she added. And played me a song. As uplifting as that concert hall show, that evening with Yo-Yo Ma.
Once more I witnessed cello’s verity, in a home built of concrete, the house interior a concert hall stage. The owners, a couple from San Francisco, who’d moved to Vancouver and constructed a home like the one they had moved from in California. Purpose built. Welcoming artists, performers, into their space, the living room a high, slender concert hall. To this day it remains, arguably, the coolest venue ever. An acoustically true, multimedia living room, able to accommodate sixty lovers of music, art and performance, in the comfort of somebody’s home.