The cello has always been my favorite instrument. I love the sound of it; so deep and sonorous but with a wide range. I love it when it’s added to acoustic guitar and I also love it when it’s part of the larger whole that is an orchestra.
In the fall of 2012, I found myself at a Flagstaff Symphony Concert. One of my friends in town (through a connection in his band) was friends with Tim Fain, a world class violinist (who’s played a decent amount with the one and only Philip Glass). Tim was playing at this FSO concert and they were doing two different versions of The Four Seasons. After hearing from my friends about how great of a violinist this guy was, I sprung for a front row seat. Apparently it wasn’t unusual for these kind of seats to be available for most orchestra shows the day of, but I still considered it a treat.
The show was great, even considering my lack of knowledge on the music. I’m a guitarist and I’ve never played the violin or cello (or any non-fretted stringed instrument for that matter), but I feel we as humans can hear when someone is great, regardless of our knowledge of how difficult the piece that they’re playing. Plus, I love this kind of music. Tim played like I had never heard a violin being played. His general presence was also something to be inspired by. He tended to move around a lot and the music seemed to be so in him, as if the violin was only one chosen instrument to channel this inspiring music through.
Not only was I inspired by Tim, but my ears were repeatedly happy to hear the principal cellist of the orchestra. There were sections in the music where his playing was featured while the rest of the orchestra played supportive parts underneath. I had no real reference point for the music, but I thought his playing was also fantastic. I was instantly a fan of both Tim and this cellist (and the orchestra in its entirety).
Fast forward about 4 years. I met a bassist named Zac Carson who played in FSO. I told him about my dream of doing an all acoustic album. The album would be based around my songs with acoustic guitar and my voice, but with a string quartet and solo cello and violin on certain songs. It was an inspiring venture, and Zac agreed to do the arranging for the quartet. We got to work after the acoustic guitar and vocals had already been written and recorded. I had written some melodies with certain string instruments in mind and Zac helped me bring them to life by writing out the parts in sheet music and filling out the rest for the other instruments. Where I didn’t have ideas or know what to do, Zac always did. We worked well together and I was so psyched that I had found a friend and unique collaborative music partner.
Once the music was written, Zac mentioned that he had a couple violinists and a violist in mind, but not a cellist. My mind went back to that concert in 2012. Telling him about my experience at that show, I asked if he could ask that special cellist to see if he would be into playing in our quartet for the album. He let me know about a week later that he had said yes. I was ecstatic.
The whole experience of working with the quartet was really a dream come true. Hearing my melodies played by a cello, viola and violin was a pretty visceral experience. I also was able to hear Zac’s ideas come to life and understand his vision when he talked to the players about what he wanted to hear from them.
From that experience with the quartet, I got to know Andrew Hamby (that elusive cellist.) I was not only impressed with his playing, but with his calm confidence in his abilities and humbleness. He was the anchor in a room full of inexperience and nervousness. I could sing him a melody and he’d play it back right the way I wanted to hear it, pitch and phrasing! His playing was soulful and rich and it felt so good to hear what I had only heard in my head come to a reality so beautifully. This relationship between him and I eventually soon grew to playing duo gigs together, where I would play songs off the album we were working on, older songs off of my older albums, and covers. He followed me every step of the way. In my experience, most strings players either read sheet music, or learn by ear and can improvise. Andrew does both of these very well. The fact that he was as excited about this collaboration between the two of us as I was just made it all the more better (and unexpected to say the least!)
Which brings us to now. Andrew and I plan on continuing playing together. We’ve been working on new music that I’m incredibly excited about and patiently awaiting the moment to get it out there into the world. The concept is an instrumental album based around electric guitar and cello. We plan to for this music to be the soundtrack for yoga classes and beyond. I fell in love with yoga five years ago and am excited about the possibilities of this music moving people and adding to people’s inspiration and wellbeing. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. If you would like to listen to a song from the album with the quartet (In Color), hit the play button below! That’s Andrew that comes in with that first string melody!
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