Brave new cellos
As a musician, Derek Snyder wears at least three hats: performer, teacher, and arranger. The Cleveland-based cellist will be wearing all of them when he hosts the second annual "Cello Celli!" concert at Kerrytown Concert House on Sunday, April 13.
The founder and education director of the Cleveland Cello School, Snyder is a nationally known and highly respected chamber musician who has created numerous arrangements, primarily of the music of Dave Brubeck and stor Piazzolla, for cello ensembles. Locally he's also known as the driving force behind the annual Oblivion Project concerts, featuring the Phoenix Ensemble playing Snyder's arrangements of Piazzolla's nuevo tango music. Snyder is passionate about the cello, how it's used in classical music, how it sounds in genres not often associated with it, and its potential with new techniques and technologies not found in cellists' traditional training.
Bach's Suite for Solo Cello no. 3 is the only classical piece on the "Cello Celli!" program. Juxtaposed with it is Massachusetts-based composer-cellist Stephen Katz's Bitterroot Suite for Solo/Looped Cello. The combination ideally demonstrates the striking contrasts and underlying similarities between the two works. Bach's music requires that the cello simulate simultaneously the melody, inner voices, and bass lines, while the different dance rhythms of the suite provide its rhythmic underpinning. Katz accomplishes the same thing with looping. Looping, where a musician records a brief phrase and then plays it back while creating other layers of music above it, is commonly used in rock and jazz but is rarely found in classical music. Katz combines looping with his innovative strumming and pizzicato styles, many of them borrowed from guitar techniques. His compositions also incorporate African and Brazilian rhythms, and several other pieces on the program feature these influences and unusual techniques, independent of looping.
The other "Cello Celli!" cellists are Mike Karoub of the Royal Garden Trio, who's also played bass in James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, and two local teenage wunderkinder, Eric Tinkerhess and Nathaniel Pierce. Snyder calls
Karoub an "underknown treasure" who manages to make the cello sound right at home playing jazz: "What he does with the cello makes it sound like it's always been a part of that music." Tinkerhess and Pierce are young virtuosos, capable of absorbing all that their mentors can teach them and of expanding the possibilities - and quite likely the audiences - for the cello.
In a concert of many low notes, one of the high notes, literally, will be the only noncellist, violinist Gabe Bolkosky. Snyder's arrangement of Tom Waits's "Little Drop of Poison" of Shrek 2 fame - talk about varied genres - will feature the low range of the violin, its deep, dark sonority blending perfectly with the rich tones of the four cellos.
[Review published April 2008]