UCelli, a cello quartet consisting of four female virtuosos, including adjunct cello professor and co-director of chamber music, Cora Kuyvenhoven, will perform TenSCORE, ten original works by ten Ohio composers, on the Short North Stage in Columbus.
Two of the ten composers, Ching-chu Hu and Hye Kyung Lee, both music faculty at Denison, have compositions featured in this evening performance. Cora Kuyvenhoven, founding member of UCelli, shared, “Hu and Lee really go back to their roots for their music and it is a really nice contrast to the other pieces.”
Kuyvenhoven has had a long career as a cellist. “I started cello when I was 9 in Michigan,” she said, “and then we moved to Canada where I played in the Toronto Symphony from 1990-97, so I’ve played the cello for over 50 years.” Kuyvenhoven was also a national finalist in the Canadian Music Competition.
She found a passion for chamber music and finds playing and performing with four cellists is a truly unique and awesome experience. “[In chamber music] every note counts,” she said. “Yet you’re not on your own, your back is covered.”
Based in Columbus, UCelli consists of cellists Pei-An Chao, Mary Davis, Cora Kuyvenhoven and Wendy Morton. They formed UCelli some eight years ago, and also play with the Columbus Symphony and ProMusica Chamber Orchestras. During summers they offer cello camps for cellists of all ages. “We’re four very powerful women, and four of the best cellists in town,” Kuyvenhoven says.
The quartet has been busy practicing for this one-night-only performance. This performance is special because these pieces are all world premieres, and it represents a true collaboration of art as the cellists and composers have practiced together to put on the best show possible. “The audience is going to get an incredible palette of musical sounds, musical ideas, musical gestures. The cello has one of the biggest pitch ranges of instruments,” Kuyvenhoven explains.
The Johnstone Fund for New Music, an organization created by Jack and Zoe Johnstone to support the growth of contemporary concert music, commissioned these pieces. They hand selected 10 Ohio composers to create new pieces specifically for UCelli to perform.
Kuyvenhoven tells the story of being given these pieces: “The Johnstones reached out to us and said, ‘You have been chosen—we are commissioning 10 pieces for you.’ So it was a gift and it’s a lot of pieces.”
Indeed, Kuyvenhoven is thrilled with the compositions that resulted from the commission. “They are such varied pieces,” she says. “I think it will be such a fascinating program. To have this many pieces in one sitting is quite remarkable, and will be quite the event.”
She then adds, jokingly, “I always tell people, if you don’t like one piece, just wait five minutes and there will be a completely different one.”