Everybody’s favourite instrument had a chance to shine from September 27 – 29 as cellists from around Melbourne and afar came together for the inaugural Melbourne Cello Festival, hosted by the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. Did it live up to expectations? Josephine Vains was there – with her cello, of course …
Melbourne’s inaugural cello festival wrapped up on Tuesday night, and was a resounding success on all fronts.
As a cellist I’m constantly struck by what a friendly lot we are. After last weekend’s inaugural Melbourne Cello Festival, add to that: supportive, curious and daring. Melbourne’s cello scene is a healthy one and it was great to see the intergenerational melting pot interacting and inspiring each other over three days of cello-inspired focus. For those readers who missed it this year, the MCF involved a range of masterclasses, panel discussions and concerts, culminating in the Cello Xtravaganza, a 3-hour cello-marathon. A sold-out event, it featured cello ensembles from ANAM, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, New Zealand, Melbourne professionals and international guests. For me, most endearing of all was the participation of young kids from primary and secondary school, many of whom will no doubt follow a career in music, and ALL of whom had a big smile on their faces.
I spoke to Artistic Director Alvin Wong (pictured), whose enthusiasm drove the success of the inaugural festival. “I am most happy to see cellists at different stages of their careers, from a seasoned legendary artist [no doubt referring to Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, whose teaching was a festival highlight] to professionals to striving students to budding young talents, come together to share their expertise, their artistry and most importantly their joy with each other. We heard many genres of music, from Bach to Shostakovich to Apocalyptica [That’s heavy metal band Metallica lovingly played by a cello quartet], to music from The Simpsons.
“Personally, the most amazing moment for me was definitely to see all of them playing together at the finale Orchestra of 100 Cellos, and how the performers and audience melted into one united force, as if we temporarily forgot reality and our differences but just immersed in the sound world we all love.”
That hits the nail on the head. We play the cello because of the sound – let’s face it, cellos are awkward to carry around, expensive to buy and maintain and very difficult to master. We overlook that because the cello is so beautiful, so versatile and in the right hands can stir the passions like no other instrument, apart from the human voice of course. If you’ve never heard the sound of massed celli on stage you’ve missed one of this planet’s great aural sensations.
I took a straw poll at the festival to find a name for a collection of cellists. After road testing a few – a kinship, a pride, a buzz, a jelly – local cellist Paul Ghica provided the perfect word.