My Town Monday: Bach to Bach

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Zuill Bailey. Last night I had the opportunity to hear him and observe him playing his cello yet again at a pre-festival winter concert. The venue was at a winery and tasting room located in an historic building in downtown Spokane. Thick wooden columns rose from the wood floor to wood ceiling, candlelight flickered on exposed brick walls that were hung with a variety of artwork. But most importantly, there on a small stage was one of the premiere cellists in the world, along with a concert pianist, playing 3 concertos I might not have heard if I hadn’t been there that evening.

I have blogged about him before here and here. I heard and saw him perform in 2 different yet small, intimate venues last December, on back-to-back evenings (hence the title of this post which I had started 12 months ago after that experience) then was sadly side-tracked by the busy-ness of Christmas at work and home.  I couldn’t pass up the chance to see him perform for a fifth time and my husband surprised me by agreeing to come along.

We almost missed the beginning of the concert. It was my fault: I thought I knew where the winery was located, but I had us on the wrong side of the river near the site of the former railroad yard.  The old rail yards were turned into Riverfront Park and the site of Expo ’74. While there is a nice venue in the lower level of the Flour Mill (now shops and restaurants), that was not where we needed to be. It turns out that Railroad Avenue is next to the raised railway that runs through downtown. (You’d think I’d know that after living here for 4 years!) I was stressed nearly to the point of tears as we rushed to the correct address, parked, and walked hurriedly to the building, a full 5 minutes late. We barely made it to our seats before the concert began. I sat perfectly still, upright, with my hands on my knees, and peeked between heads and shoulders to see. It was serendipitous that the first concerto was intense and difficult to play in the designated key: it matched my mood exactly.

When Zuill Bailey plays, you can hear the layers of music and emotion build throughout the piece. His cello sings, weeps, exalts, triumphs, whispers, sighs, and dances. When you see him perform, you experience it even more so — layer upon layer, ever changing. His facial expressions, his entire body language, becomes part of the musical experience. This is, perhaps, due to how he internalizes the music when he memorizes each piece. Yes, he played all 3 concertos last night from memory.  And yet despite having such focus in his playing, there were times when there was a few measures of rest and he listened to the piano accompaniment only to hear the building rumble from a train going by… and he would look up to the vibrating wooden ceiling and smile.

By the final concerto, I was spending half my time watching my husband watch the cellist. SuperDad was clearly enjoying the experience and amazed at Zuill’s mastery. I think it’s safe to say there is another Zuill Bailey fan in the house.

Luckily, we will continue to have opportunities to hear Zuill Bailey play his cello: he is the artistic director of the Northwest Bach Festival and has expanded the festival to include opportunities to hear great music in a variety of settings everywhere he goes: schools, prisons, places that serve lunch to the underprivileged, along with smaller venues like the one I had tickets to last night.  He enjoys educating people about music and sharing his love of it everywhere he goes. If you ever get the chance to see him perform, especially if you at all enjoy classical music and the sounds of the cello, I highly encourage you to go!

Musical Mancake: an open letter to Mrs. G.

Dear Mrs. G.,

For more than four years now I have enjoyed mancake with my coffee. I commend you on the excellent and varied menu.

While I am particularly fond of the Firth flavor, I have also appreciated some of your more unusual  specialties. However, I have yet to see Zuill Bailey at Derfwad Manor. Please allow me to introduce you to him.

[Please note: Unlike a majority of my posts, not a single one of these pictures belongs to me — sad, but true. However, each and every photo is linked to the site where it was found.]

Zuill Bailey is widely considered to be one of the world’s premiere cellists. His own website presents excellent qualifications:

“His rare combination of celebrated artistry, technical wizardry as well as his engaging personality has secured his place as one of the most sought after and active cellists today.”

Did you catch that? One of the most sought after

Zuill Bailey_10

Having the pleasure of being at one of his recent performances, I can attest to the warmth and expression with which he plays his instrument — a 1693 beauty — and WOWZA! He can make that cello sing!

You’d be doing yourself a favor to stop right now to watch and listen to him play:

In my research, I came across an excellent review by Jane Coyne in which she writes,

“Bailey doesn’t play notes. He plays sounds and feelings. His cello is as beautiful as he is, but after watching him play it for awhile, it almost seems as if he becomes one with it and that he is dancing freely as an extension of it. His performance is simply a joyous experience for all. A living lesson in phrasing, his every stroke begins with absolute clarity. His fingers are fast and articulate, and he plays with a wonderful combination of strength and smoothness.”

And Commerce Press declares,

“Having Bailey around is an event.  Not only is he one of the world’s finest cellists, he is also known as a caring human being.” 

What do you think? Does he make the cut?

Sincerely yours,

MTM: Musical and Magical

I’m not a fan of hot summer weather, but last week I was more than happy to spend some time outdoors. On Wednesday and Thursday evening, Mozart and more was being played in my favorite city park.

Duncan Gardens at Manito Park

My friend ~A~ had two tickets at a table and invited me to join her for the evening on Wednesday. For our ears, there were 3 talented sopranos; an octet of horns, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons; a bassist and a guest cellist. For our eyes, there was the brilliant pink in sunset clouds, the expressions on the musicians’ faces and the candles lit midway through the evening.

We brought along a bottle of wine and wine glasses from home. A simple yet rich dessert of custard with fresh berries was served, along with water and coffee.

The loveliness of linen tablecloths and classical music by candlelight, combined with being able to see the singers’ and musicians’ expressions, made it well worth the $25 ticket price IMO.

Mozart on a Summer’s Eve

Zuill Bailey was there to charm us with his cello — and charm us he did! If you have never heard of this incredible musician, you owe it to yourself to click the link on his name. He is prime mancake  one of the premiere cellists in the world. I regret not having a photo of my own to share with you.

In fact, it was such a wonderful concert that I invited SuperDad and H-J to return with me on Thursday evening. We brought folding chairs (to set up beyond the cordoned-off area for paid seating), a picnic supper, and enjoyed the music for free. While we were not able to clearly see the musicians as they played, our ears could hear, our minds could imagine, and our hearts could swell with the crescendos. In other words, it was a fabulous evening and yet another reason I love living here.

Zuill Bailey is returning in March for the 2013 Northwest Bach Festival. I think I might need to purchase a ticket.