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BachFest brings out the cellos for a series of Cello-Bration performances

Zuill Bailey will team up with three other cellists for a series of concerts in Spokane and North Idaho next week. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Zuill Bailey will team up with three other cellists for a series of concerts in Spokane and North Idaho next week. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Cello-Bration Quartet is visiting the Inland Northwest next week, bringing works by Bach, Ravel and Rachmaninoff to Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint as part of the Northwest BachFest’s Summer Classics series.

The cello quartet includes BachFest artistic director and Grammy-winner Zuill Bailey, Melissa Kraut from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and rising stars Cicely Parnas and Jared Blajian.

Bailey has put together a colorful list of pieces from which he and the group will build each evening’s program.

“We want it to be interactive. The names of the pieces will be written down in no particular order … (then) we’ll walk everyone through the evening by telling the stories of the pieces and the behind the scenes, what they can listen for, what they’re going to hear, and then whatever piece we want to play at that particular moment, that’s what we’re going to play,” he said.

The list includes composers from the baroque, romantic and modern periods such as J.S. Bach, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Max Bruch, Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Fauré among others. Most listeners will recognize Fauré’s Pavane and Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise.

“There’s going to be something for everybody,” Bailey said. “The program is sort of open ended and we’re continually adding on to it. It’s very exciting.”

The Chaconne by Bach arranged for four cellos and originally written for violin should be especially so.

“This is all sort of blooming out of the idea that Bach is basically the alpha and the omega. When (the audience) hears Bach like this I think it’s going to make quite an impression.”

Bailey explained that the program was designed to exhibit the rich lyricism and intimacy that the cello enables musicians to develop.

“Being most like the human voice (the cello) has the range to be able to play everything from a bass line to a viola line to a violin line and can cover everything. Over the past 15 or 20 years it was really realized that with multiple cellos, cello ensembles, that basically anything is possible. From percussive rock and roll to symphonies to solos to duos. Everything is possible. We’re celebrating the cello and the variety it brings to the table,” Bailey said. “We’re playing everything from Ravel and Fauré’s pavanes to rock and roll music by Patrick Laird to one of the greatest works for solo violin, the Bach Chaconne, for four cellos. We’re showing the ultimate variety of sounds. It’s going to be something very different.”

The range of music that can be performed with the cello makes for a program of a special versatility.

“I’m excited about every piece that we chose. They just zig-zag back and forth (between genres) and every piece we play gets me excited about the next. The only challenge comes with trying to keep control because it’s just so much fun,” Bailey said. “Cellists generally really like each other as people. It’s the first time where I feel like I’m in a little rock band and I’m loving it.”

Fostering that same kind of excitement in audiences is very important to the group.

“I believe that music needs to be inside and outside the concert hall, and outside is equally as important,” he said. “Just getting out into the community and playing in any possible place, schools, hospitals, malls, we want to be there.”

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