Arie’s Angels show the cello has a voice, too

Arie Lipsky conducts the Music School Festival Orchestra cello section in rehearsal at Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.
Photo by Adam Birkan.

Yemi Falodun | Staff Writer

Ten cellists and a singer transform into “Arie’s Angels” in the season-ending student recital from 2 to 3:30 p.m. today in McKnight Hall.

“It’s a cello party,” said chamber music chair Arie Lipsky.

The program features pieces from Heitor Villa-Lobos and Richard Strauss.

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 is Villa-Lobos’s way of giving Bach to Brazil.

“It’s an homage to Bach,” Lipsky said. “If Villa-Lobos has a cellphone, he’d probably have Bach as his ringtone.”

Villa-Lobos’ piece came as a wake-up call to instrumentalist-turned-singer Talya Lieberman, who was inspired on first listen.

“My mother came to play this piece with the cello section of the (Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra),” she said. “I remember very distinctly going to a rehearsal of it, and I was just blown away. I just loved the piece.”

For Lieberman, who studies privately with Michelle Johnson in Philadelphia, the whole summer has been a dream come true.

“I always wanted to sing it,” she said. “And I never imagined that I would.”

Following their help in Monday night’s demanding Der Rosenkavalier performance, the entire Music School Festival Orchestra’s cello section will again play select moments from the German comic opera.

To reconstruct the moments, Lipsky enlisted cellist Victor Huls’ help.

Huls, who studies under Richard Aaron at the University of Michigan, is not a polished arranger and quickly found out the difficulties in re-creating such surreal moments.

“I printed out the score out, and I thought it was going to be all perfect,” he said. “But I look at what actually comes out; all the bar things are messed up, the crescendos in the wrong place. And things like that you don’t expect to happen.”

In the process, Huls, who is a black belt in tae kwon do, relies on the discipline learned from his martial arts training.

“The ability to practice is based on your ability to focus,” he said.

And Huls’ commitment to finish will allow his fellow nine cellists the opportunity to let their cellos sing beautifully.

“There’s something about the cello that puts you in the right mood,” said Samuel Ericsson, who studies with Amir Eldan at Oberlin Conservatory. “It has a very sultry personality.”

But the cello’s seductive voice is nothing compared to the faces on the cellists, as they play through the pieces.

“There’s the tension face that every cellist has in his or her life,” cellist Mackenzie Holmberg said. “There’s also the musical bliss face. It’s the face of pure enjoyment.”

Holmberg, who will study with Eric Kim at Indiana University in the fall, is all about getting to that blissful face.

“I think one of the reasons why people play musical instruments is that moment you’re in an ensemble and you realize everybody is doing their job to make the music work,” he said.

And after seven intense weeks, the 10 cellists are feeling more in tune.

“In terms of growth, we’re really now a cello section,” said Sarah Bish, who studies with Merry Peckham at the Cleveland Institute of Music. “And that is great.”