Ravel and the Moon

Although I can’t see it through the opaque winter sky I can feel it:  the moon is full.

With the able help of cellists Carol Mulder and Sibylle Ruppert my excellent mom and I performed David Popper’s Requiem for three celli and piano for our Industrial Ancestors yesterday evening.  Folk came out to witness as we played to a photo of two-term Mayor of Owen Sound, Matthew Kennedy Sr, my Great-great Grandfather, and the man who ran the shop at Kennedy Foundries, where 90 % of the propellers for the Merchant Marine were made during the wars.  Matthew didn’t believe in libraries or higher education, just in hard work. He died from the cancer one gets from spending long hours in a big foundry.

This event was the final of Tom Thomson Art Gallery’s ‘The Wave Passes’ series, which Gallery Director Virginia Eichorn describes thus:

…an ongoing project involving art installations, video and performance that connect the stories of Owen Sound’s past with the present. Tonight, from 6:15 to 7pm, outside of Council Chambers on the 2nd floor, there will be a concert honouring two of cellist Keira McArthur’s ancestors, one who was a former Mayor of Owen Sound (Matthew Kennedy), and another who served many years on City Council (David John Kennedy, who also ran Kennedy Foundries through the depression years). The quartet will perform the Popper Requiem for 3 cellos and piano in their honour, as well as seasonal songs everyone can sing to. All are welcome; bring your voices. Admission is free.

So we played Popper and Bach for Matthew and his sons & daughter (who was brilliant), for their sons and daughters, for my Grandfather and the woman he married, whose family came here from Pennsylvania.  I never met Lois Keebler, but I have her watch, which still works.  In photographs she is beautiful.

Here’s a YouTube version of the Popper.  It’s worth listening to.

I went straight from that lovely event to play with the Georgian Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra – a short program since we are in a re-building year, but deeply satisfying, nonetheless.  In talk afterwards, the GBSYO String Quartet decided to take on a new challenge for the spring….


This morning at 5am I wake to messages from 3am until now about Ravel String Quartet in F, including pdfs of the cello part.  It’s been playing on loop since then :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNVVONYkivM

While Ravel played on, and without much forethought I wrote and sent a window-rattling note to a dear friend of mine …. This is full-moon permission – to shine an uncomfortable light in dark places.  Not all is harmony, which Popper and Ravel knew.   Sharp edges and tender places will always co-exist, as will the learned ability to disengage and fortify against both.   Playing music well requires that all of these things are conscious, and revealed in a way that makes it good and right to feel human.

one of Sibylle Ruppert's cellos, made from tulip wood.  She is an excellent luthier..
one of Sibylle Ruppert’s cellos, made from tulip wood. She is an excellent luthier..

To my ancestors:  rest in peace.  It was an honour to play for you.

To my Friend:  … with great love, always.

To the moon:  thanks for the light in the dark.

God I love music and what it does.

old girl, new girl


dear friend of mine, literally coming apart at the seams, on her way to cello hospital in Paisley

Lupercalia was a great success this past weekend – it’s safe to say that the little local music festival that filled the streets and packed ten venues in Owen Sound is the first of many – also safe to say that it will grow. Thanks Josh R, your promoter skills are much appreciated.

I played twice – three times if you include the 3.5 hour recording session with Tyler Wagler on Sunday morning. The other 2 were 6pm with Willi Henry & Patrick Dorfmann @ The Ginger Press, then at midnight crammed in with Tyler and Joel Morelli.

I was not playing my friend, the last cello made by Edouard Bartlett, the one I’ve played every morning these past 2 months – she hates the winter cold/hot/dry of this place, and has come apart on her shoulders. Her voice squeaks where it always sang – so I took her to Sibylle Ruppert, a fine luthier and friend from Paisley, who let me borrow this new girl….:

tulip wood back, maple ribs, BC spruce belly, no corners.


Tiny, lightweight, little imp of a cello, with a shockingly big voice
Definitely female. I've never seen or played a sexier looking cello.

I miss my friend – we have grown into each other these past 10 years.  It will be a while before she comes back to me here.  In the meantime, I play this sleek little otter-girl, and we get to know one another.  It’s exciting and sad and weird, and unsettling and challenging all the time. Will I get along with otter-girl?  Will she work with me, will her voice grow even bigger and mellower than it already is?  Will I find a way to keep her?  Are we meant to work together?  hmmm.

I know I’ll never sell Ed’s cello, though I might rent her to a student I trust.  Could I have two?

Somebody should do a study on the complex, intense bond between a musician and his instrument.