Bach, Not in the Subways

It was almost five years ago when I stepped out of a subway car at 96th St. and Broadway, near the apartment I was living in while on sabbatical, and there was Dale Henderson, playing Bach, quite beautifully. I’d read about Dale, the Bach in the Subways guy, had wanted to meet him, and there he was, at my stop! Serendipity.

I’d told Dale I wanted to join in, too, and together we organized nine string players (that’s my memory) playing Bach on March 21, 2011, Bach’s birthday. It was, as I understand it, the first annual “Bach in the Subways Day,” which has now grown into a worldwide movement.

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William Chapman Nyaho and Dale Henderson (photo by Tomek Berezinski)

This past Friday night, I walked from my hotel on 57th St. up to 69th St. to hear Dale perform all three of the Bach Sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Keyboard at Christ and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church with a truly remarkable pianist, William Chapman Nyaho. (Dale substituted his cello for a viola da gamba; these works have become staples of the cello/piano repertoire).

 

Dale played with total commitment, a warm sound, lyrical musicality, and virtually flawless intonation (that left me quite admirous.) His playing has a deep intensity that comes from his core. Nyaho is a marvel of imaginative yet unexaggerated phrasing and nuance, and plays with an effortless (or so it seems) technical facility. They spoke with the audience about each of the sonatas, pointing out that they are actually

They spoke with the audience about each of the sonatas, pointing out that they are actually trios–two voices in the keyboard, the third the cello, and invited us to listen to the interplay of the counterpoint and the jazz-like dialogue.

The distinguished-looking husband of one of Dale’s adult students served as the host of the event, introducing each half. He spoke about how Dale “owns “the Bach Suites, and compared him favorably to many better-known cellists. He,and Nyaho, play the Gamba Sonatas with a genuinely engaging sense of ownership and commitment.

One of my mottos, and the motto of the summer festival I organize, is “friends making music for friends.” The musical and personal friendship between the two performers, and between them and so many in the audience, was amply evident. It was a great energy to be a part of–and it reminded me a bit of home.

 

 

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Do You Practice? (Bach G Major Allemande)

In Central Park a few days ago, I was playing the Bach G Major Allemande. 

  

Several people stopped to listen for a while. These two women, and a baby, stayed for the entire movement and perhaps a few more, taking photos and video. When I was done, I walked over to say hi and give them a flyer. 

  
“May I ask you a question,” asked the lady on the left (mother of the lady on the right). “Of course,” I replied. 

“Do you practice?”

I laughed a bit. “Of course!” She asked how much, and I explained that with concerts coming up 3-4 hours a day at minimum. 

“I’m a music teacher in Alaska. I will be able to show my students the video of you playing this beautiful music in Central Park and explain that even someone like you has to practice.” 

We had a lovely conversation and went out ways. 

And if she and her students find this, I have one thing to say: practice! 

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Thank You Note from a NYPD Counterterrorism Officer

IMG_6765I wrote Thursday about my encounter with three NYPD Counterterrorism officers who were on duty that day at Columbus Circle. Mr. Photographer and I were headed into Central Park to take some #celloeverywhere photos when the desire to play Bach for these men suddenly hit me. When I approached to ask them, I got too close. Their supervisor yelled “STAND BACK!” I ended up playing, one of them asked if they could see the photos, and we gave them a flyer.

That night, I received an email from one of the officers, who had also found and liked the photos we posted on Instagram. He’s given me permission to post it here:

Subject: Counterterrorism NYPD

Sir,

If we startled you with our request to keep back, I am sorry. New Yorkers are notorious for a lack of personal space and with the long weapons out, it is a safety issue that we must prompt people to keep their distance–frequently abruptly. However I thoroughly enjoyed your music as we stood our post. To me, it was a serendipitous New York moment where clashing images seamlessly coexist as residents and tourists alike go on with their agenda, enjoying your music and shooting us concerned looks.

. . . I had our handler officer get the information from you because I loved hearing it, loved that moment that shows all the quirky things one can see on a New York City street. Please keep doing what your doing, and be safe.

Respectfully,
[name]

PS, please feel free to ask for photos with the officers who do not have a rifle out, most are usually more than happy to oblige!

This was, of course, a delightful surprise. And it helped me realize that  #celloeverywhere isn’t just a photo shoot. It is about playing for and with people, about connecting, just as all live music is.

I answered him with my thanks and an offer to play for him and his colleagues at a time and place when they aren’t on duty. He’s passed the offer along to his superiors.

I’ve deduced he’s about my son’s age (mid-twenties). As I go about the city, I keep noticing how young so many of the NYPD officers on duty in the subways and on the streets are. Of course, they are grown men and women, doing serious work, but they also could be my sons and daughters. I’m acutely aware that, unlike my own grown children, each is a potential target for terrorists, or isolated people who think they are terrorists, as was the case that same night in Philadelphia.

I worry about a lot of things. Too many and too much. “Generalized anxiety disorder.” Therapy, medication, meditation, it all helps some, but at times it is still paralyzing. I’m not alone in this, I know. Seems like half or more of the people I know have issues with anxiety and/or depression.

For some reason, though, I’m completely comfortable playing for people in these seemingly random encounters on the street. A new friend told me yesterday that this may be one of my “superpowers.” (We all have them, she says.)

Superpower or not, I’m pretty sure no one is going to shoot me because I’m playing the cello, so I haven’t invested in any Kevlar for this aspect of my work. I’m grateful to everyone in the NYPD and in law enforcement everywhere for their work keeping the rest of us safe.

Thanks again, guys.

 

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Bach Minuet in G with Lauren and Michael

Mr. Photographer and I, along with my daughter, went back to Columbus Circle tonight. The plan was to get some #celloeverywhere shots with night-time traffic, which we did (one is below; he wants to try some different settings on another outing). As we were taking those, Michael and Lauren, wonderful dancers with TheRideNYC.com, asked if we would like to do something with them. I played the Minuet from the Bach Suite No. 1 in G Major, and they danced:

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They’d just finished their shift. As I understand it, they hide behind the monument, and then when the tour bus approaches, they dance to music played simultaneously on the bus and through their in-ear monitors. (It’s evidently quite a show.)

We’d met Michael with a different partner yesterday. I’d seen them dancing, just after I played for the NYPD counterterrorism officers, and assumed they were professional dancers having some fun. I’d asked them if they’d like some music, and they explained they already had music. Tonight, Michael spotted us across the street and he and Lauren came over.

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And so we went over to the monument. I played Bach, and they danced.

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And danced.

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Thanks, you two! (Email me if you’d like the full set of photos.)

It was actually more fun than sitting in the midst of the roaring traffic’s boom. Although that was cool, too.

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STAND BACK!

“STAND BACK!” the young man in a black uniform shouted at me.

Our first #celloeverywhere photos didn’t show any interaction with people. Of course, this is New York, and it’s not really surprising to anyone that there’s some guy playing an instrument on the street. Even a sleek and shiny carbon fiber cello.

But I really wanted to play for people.

We headed up to Central Park, and at Columbus Circle we noticed these counter-terrorism guys.

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They looked like they could use some Bach. Why not?

So I walked up and got a little too close and the guy on the right was quite assertive with me. “Stand back!” he shouted at me.

“No problem,” I was quick to reply as I very quickly moved away. “Can I play some music for you guys?”

“Sure.”

“Can I sit over here? I really do not want to invade your personal space.”

That was alright. As was taking photos. So I played the first three movements of the Bach G Major suite for them.

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They didn’t look over at me, but pretty clearly they had other things to be looking at or for. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t even a smile (I found one later in one of the other photos).

When I was done, the guy who had yelled at me asked Mr. Photographer if they could get a copy of the pictures. They did like it! So we gave him a flyer with the Twitter and Instagram hashtag, Facebook address, etc. (If you’ve found this, guys, thanks–it was fun to play for you. And thanks for doing your jobs.)

A man who was trying to sell people tour packages had been listening, too, walking over and smiling. (Another job I’m glad someone else is doing.) “What was that?” he asked. Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major, I told him. I assumed he’d say he’d heard Yo-Yo Ma’s recording. Nope. “Sounded kind of like Vivaldi to me,” he said. We gave him a flyer.

“Sounded kind of like Vivaldi to me,” he said. We gave him a flyer.

This couple had listened for quite a while. They came over to thank me and we took a photo together. He’s visiting from Europe, she lives in D.C. “That was so beautiful,” they said. “It made our day.”

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Later on, the counter-terrorism guys were putting their gear into an SUV. There was banter going on, just like any group of people getting off work. It was clear how wonderfully ordinary and human they are. Fearsome and a bit (or a lot) afraid, doing their jobs and then blowing off a bit of steam. I almost asked if I could get a photo with them. But one was still holding his big gun, and I’d already gotten too close once.

 

 

 

 

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#celloeverywhere: from the Smoky Mountains to Indiana to New York

A couple of years ago the idea came to me: do a series of photos of me playing the cello. In all sorts of different locations. Like the Smoky Mountains:

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(This was actually quite a difficult spot to reach, which I’ll explain in another post.)

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Getting to this spot was an adventure, too. It’s easier said than done, but luckily I connected with a wonderful photographer, Jiawei Fang, who has joined me in this project. This would not work as selfies! We have set up the #celloeverywhere tag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

We did a shoot at the DePauw Nature Park, which encompasses an old limestone quarry, just after Christmas.

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Now we are in New York as I attend the Chamber Music America conference and prepare for my concerts on January 15 and 19. Last night we went for a walk down Sixth Avenue, and discovered there are plenty of Christmas decorations still up. In front of one office building there was quite a pile of ornaments:

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And many lighted evergreens in front of another:

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This building also has an American flag suspended. We wanted a shot with the flag, and got it, but we also got the attention of a security guy, who politely told me I had to leave. No photos while seated, he said. (This made me wish I had a Blockstrap, which enables one to play standing up, with me.)

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So we went on our way, patriotic salute made. And there was Radio City Music Hall on the other side of the street.

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Mr. Photographer was working to get shots uncluttered by people, but there were plenty!

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Some friends on Facebook have asked for video. It was so cold that night that I can promise you should be glad you can’t hear me! My left fingers could hardly move.

We walked over to Fifth Avenue, where the Tiffany store was blasting Christmas music as fuller-than-full volume. I had fun trying to play along (there was a big crowd, some of whom took photos of me).

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And then we ended up in with a great shot of the Christmas tree behind me. We had to wait quite a while to get a shot without other folks in the background.

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More to come!

 

 

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New York, I’ll Be There Soon!

I’ve been in love with New York City for since my first visit when I was 16 or 17 years old.

Fortune smiled on me and I lived at 64th St. and Broadway while I attended Juilliard. And five years ago I spent five months on the Upper West Side while on sabbatical, exploring alternative venues, helping create and organize the first Bach in the Subways Day, and doing some unusual performances with the International Street Cannibals.

I’ll be back in New York from January 3-21, 2016, on a honeymoon (getting married tomorrow to my partner Nate), and doing a lot of playing.

On Friday, January 15, the fabulous pianist and composer Fernando Otero and I are playing music from our new album Dual.

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Eric Edberg and Fernando Otero. Photo (c) by Jiawei Fang

(click for a sample). It’s the first recording of arrangements for cello and piano of Fernando’s sensuous, exciting, and tender contemporary classical music, and I’m so excited about helping expand the cello repertoire in this way (published arrangements will be forthcoming). We are doing a release event at 7:30 PM at the Consulate General of Argentina. Contact me for more information and an invitation to this short free concert, which is also a showcase for the Association of Performers and Presenters (APAP) conference.

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Taka Kigawa and Eric Edberg at the Greencastle Summer Music Festival photo (c) by Bernard Gordillo.

Tuesday, January 19 brings a 7:30 PM recital at SpectrumNYC, one of the cool Greenwich Village venues where you can sit in a comfortable chair and sip a glass of wine, with my friend the amazing pianist Taka Kigawa. We met back in 2011 and have played a number of concerts in Indiana since then. We’ll be performing music by Bach, Debussy, Prokofiev, and Schnittke. Admission is $15 ($10 students and seniors) at the door. SpectrumNYC 121 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002.

And it’s also going to be Cello Everywhere month in NYC. “Cello Everywhere” is my new photo/video project of me playing the cello in as many visually interesting and unusual places as possible. Inspired by fellow cellists Matt Haimovitz and Yo-Yo Ma, each of whom do lots pop-up concerts as part of their musical lives, and Dale Henderson‘s Bach in the Subways project. I’ll be posting locations and times as we know them. And I’m definitely open to invitations to play at schools, assisted living facilities, and, well, everywhere. Here are a few pre-New York photos by Jiawei Fang; three on the campus of DePauw University, and one in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

 

 

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