About The Global Cello

After playing a wonderful recital with my friend and wonderful pianist and colleague, Dr. Pamela Haynes, I started imagining how I could start a recital series that could be just as wonderfully diverse and inclusive as the one we did. This was during a week long residency with the Manchester Symphony Orchestra in May 2023 where I was the featured composer and was commissioned to write for the group. The second work I wrote, Homrong Isaan (“Isaan Overture”), included a number of themes that I would use in composing my Two Thai Songs for solo cello for the Cello

As I planned the 2023-2024 Season for my intercultural ensemble, Saw Peep, I decided to make a solo cello recital one of our main seasonal events and in July 2023 I made our season announcement and The Global Cello was born and was performed on February 18, 2024 at the Ogle Center in New Albany, Indiana.

Since 2024 I’ve expanded the Global Cello idea to include many of my string and cello resource pages I’ve been publishing at Mae Mai, my research blog, as a form of Public Musicology. These resources pages are also a way for me to make public works I’ve been consulting as I work on a diverse and inclusive cello method book series that I first publicly mentioned in 2020, and have been detailing in (and adding to) a very long twitter thread since 2021.

This is the homepage for The Global Cello and related activities.

The Global Cello Resource Pages

The Global Cello Recital Series

The Global Cello: Diaspora Voices

Jon Silpayamanant, cellist and founder/artistic director of Saw Peep Intercultural Ensemble, takes a musical journey to hear diasporic composers drawing inspiration from stories and music styles and traditions from their ancestral homelands.

Works by Ezra Escobar, Reena Esmail, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Siti binti Saad, Nathalie Joachim, Kian Soltani, and Jon Silpayamanant. See program and program notes below.

Past Global Cello Events

PROGRAM: Diaspora Voices

Ezra Escobar – itulak (2020)

itulak was conceived as a result of improvisation. I was playing around with my instrument and seeing what I liked. The title means “push” or “impel” in Tagalog. It seems like the piece is constantly trying to get somewhere, but never really succeeds. The music keeps pushing forwards, but something is pushing it back.

Reena Esmail – Varsha वर्षा (2019)

Varsha was written for the Haydn Seven Last Words project, for Juilliard415. The project commissioned seven composers (including Nico Muhly, Paola Prestini, Jessica Meyer, Tania Leon, Caroline Shaw and Colin Jacobsen) to write interludes between each of the Haydn quartets.

This piece, Varsha, serves as an interlude between Sonata V (Sitio – “I Thirst”) and Sonata VI (Consummatum Est – “It is finished”) of Haydn’s Seven Last Words. The combination of Hindustani raags used in this piece are from the Malhaar family, which are sung to beckon rain.

I imagined an interlude between these two sonatas: Christ thirsts. Rain comes from the distance (Megh Malhaar). There is a downpour around him (Miyan ki Malhaar), but he grows slowly weaker. His next words make clear that even the rain is not enough: his thirst is of another sort, which cannot be quenched by water. And so, it is finished.

Mary Kouyoumdjian – The Revolt of the Stars (2018)

The Revolt of the Stars is inspired by the Armenian fable by the same name, in which the stars unite in an attempt to outshine the sun and the moon. The fable questions the effectiveness of ‘strength in numbers’ when a group that lacks strength in spirit rises up against those in positions of power.

Pre-recorded cello part by Caitlyn Sullivan

Siti binti Saad – Muhogo Wa Jangombe (1930)

A Taarab song titled after a dish, which literally translates as “beef cassava.” The cassava is a woody shrub with edible roots. The lyrics of the song is filled with metaphors and proverbs that discuss relationships with people while ostensibly talking about how to prepare the dish and etiquette of eating.

Jon Silpayamanant – Thawarawadi (2023) from Two Thai Tunes for solo cello

Thawarawadi, the first movement of Two Thai Tunes for solo cello, is an old name for Central Thailand (7th – 11th centuries BCE) and is loosely based on Thai Classical Music forms and style. The string style is reminiscent of the Thai Saw Sam Sai, which is a type of three-stringed spike fiddle that resembles other Southeast Asian rebabs like those found in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Cambodian Tro Khmer.

Commissioned by the Cello Teaching Repertoire Consortium*

Nathalie Joachim – Dam Mwen Yo (2016)

Dam mwen yo in Haitian Creole simply translates to “they are my ladies.” In Haiti, the cultural image of women is one of strength. They are pillars of their homes and communities, and are both fearless and loving, all while carrying the weight of their families and children on their backs. As a first generation Haitian-American, these women—my mother, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins—were central to my upbringing and my understanding of what it means to be a woman. In Dantan, Haiti-Sud, where my family is from, it is rare to walk down the countryside roads without hearing the voices of women—in the fields, cooking for their loved ones, gathering water at the wells with their babies. This piece and the voices within it are representative of these ladies—my ladies. And the cello sings their song—one of strength, beauty, pain and simplicity in a familiar landscape.

Commissioned by Amanda Gookin for The Forward Music Project.

Kian Soltani – Persian Fire Dance (2012)

Soltani’s “Persian Fire Dance” is influenced by his Persian roots and is filled with asymmetrical meters, drones, an improvisatory section, and percussive effects which mimic the tonbak (a Persian goblet drum). Having a family with traditional Persian musicians in Iran, these are sounds and styles he grew up hearing in in Bregenz, Austria where he was born.

Notes and Links

* Support for this commission was provided by Summer@Eastman of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, and by Cello Teaching Repertoire Consortium, including:

Co-Directors Lisa Caravan, Daniel Ketter 

Lead Commissioners Miranora Frisch, Kathleen Kemp, Laura Usiskin Co-Commissioners Hannah Collins, Rosemary Elliott, Hilary Glen, Cora Swenson Lee, James Nackley, Adriana Ransom, Jeffrey Solow, Caleb van der Swaagh, Benjamin Swartz, Zachary Sweet, James Waldo 

Ezra Escobarwww.ezraescobarcello.com

Reena Esmailwww.reenaesmail.com

Mary Kouyoumdjianwww.marykouyoumdjian.com

Siti Binti Saadhistoryheroines.com/2020/02/14/siti-binti-saad

Jon Silpayamanantwww.silpayamanant.com

Nathalie Joachimwww.nathaliejoachim.com

Kian Soltaniwww.kiansoltani.com