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6/11 | Isthmus Jazz Festival: Five Points Jazz Collective CD Release + Live Art!

Tues, 6/11, 9p-12a no cover @ The Mason Lounge
416 S Park St, Madison, WI 53715, USA
Isthmus Jazz Festival presents the
Five Points Jazz Collective CD Release show with Live Art!

“Don’t Worry About It” CDs $10

Entering Madison’s Mason Lounge for the first time, one immediately notices the quirks. The stuffed chicken in a henhouse in the wall, complete with straw. The action figures dangling from string, rigged up to move when someone opens the door to the restroom. The collection of neckties and paint can lids on the walls. Every element is so out of place, it somehow fits.

Like the décor, the Five Points Jazz Collective is quirky and disparate. Serving as the house band since the Mason opened in 2010, the Collective is an extended family of local musicians from varied backgrounds. Playing a mixture of jazz old and new, the group has evolved over the years from an open jam into a stable sextet with an increasingly large repertoire.

In its current incarnation, the group consists of Rin Ribble (violin), Eric Shackelford (drums), band leader Charlie Painter (guitar), Trey Grimm (keyboard), Kyle Rightley (trombone and euphonium), and Brian Grimm (bass and contracello). As Tuesday night regulars will attest, no two shows are ever alike. Listeners can expect to hear many subgenres of Jazz including swing standards, modal jazz, latin jazz, pop arrangements, blues, and funk.

Five Points at the Mason’s frozen back patio on set break – photo by Matthew Norman

About the CD Release

In collaboration with the Isthmus Jazz Festival, the Five Points Jazz Collective will be celebrating its first official album release! For 5 years the sextet version of this collective has played nearly 50 shows a year and decided it was time to lay down favorite selections of our vast catalogue. When listening to this debut album, you’ll feel the energy and spontaneity of the Five Points live sound with the buzzing atmosphere created by our regular fans. CDs and download cards will be available for sale at the show. Come grab your very own copy of this special recording captured live at the Mason Lounge!

Our CD Release will be made extra special with live visual artist contributions. Watch along as one of our most regular supporters John Ribble, plus special guest Jim McKiernan, create portraits of band members in real time to our music!

Live Drawing of me on bass at the Mason by John Ribble!

June 5th-9th, the 2019 LunART Festival is here!

The mission of LunART Festival is to support, inspire, promote, and celebrate women in the arts through public performances, exhibitions, workshops, and interdisciplinary collaboration; thus enriching our community and creating a welcoming space for learning and experimentation. This international art festival features engaging and accessible events and concerts in Madison, an educational program for emerging composers, as well as community building events for artists. LunART interweaves art forms throughout events, offering diverse and exciting programming, where creativity is queen!

Wed June 5, 6pm free | Overture Center for the Arts
Women Against Hate United By Love Gallery Reception

Join us for a Playhouse Gallery Reception from 6 PM – 8 PM!
Art Discussion with Kelly Parks Snider starts at 6:30 PM!

We are women united against hate. We are mothers, sisters, grandmother and caretakers. We are joined together purposely to shine a light, capture attention, and push back against injustice.

A collective effort of artists and activists, “Women Against Hate United by Love” is a platform, an entry point for a female-led anti-hate campaign united against bigotry, intolerance and racism. The creative building blocks for our artwork and messaging are women’s stories—powerful, tough, revealing stories of injustice, tragedy, strength, and amazingly, hope.


Thr June 6th, 9am free @ First United Methodist Church
From Page to Stage: Emerging Composers Masterclass

Free and open to the public!

The goal of “From Page to Stage” is to support emerging women composers in gaining a clearer understanding of not only expressing their creativity, but also creating clear scores, cultivating relationships with performers, and the art of collaboration. The master class with festival composer-in-residence Valerie Coleman will explore works submitted by participants, while talks about collaboration and the role of the independent composer will offer participants a well-rounded approach to growing their own careers.

Thr June 6th, 7pm $20 @ Maiahaus (402 E Mifflin St)
Only The Words Themselves – Opening Gala Concert

Join the LunART Festival in celebrating women in the arts with our opening gala concert. Featuring chamber music, poetry, monologues and aerial dancing, this concert will be a spectacular showcase of creativity by women artists!

Program:
Kirsten Volness little tiny stone, full of blue fire for flute/alto, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin & cello

Valerie Coleman, Tzigane for woodwind quintet

Barbara Strozzi, L’Astratto, Opus 8.04
Che si può fare, Opus 8.06

Hilary Tann, The Walls of Morlais Castle for oboe, viola & cello

Kate Soper, Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say for flute & soprano

Special guests:
Andrea Musher – poet
Deborah Hearst – theatre artist
Linda DiRaimondo – aerial dancer + BC Grimm guqin zither


Fri June 7th, 6pm free @ Overture Center for the Arts
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

What does it mean to create art as a woman in the 21st century, and how do our experiences shape what we produce and perform? Join us to hear stories of modern women and their unique personal journeys that led them to lives and careers in the arts.

This is a free pre-concert lecture that is open to the public. Stick around for the 7 PM concert Portraits of Josephine featuring an evening of music and dance.

Fri June 7th, 7pm $20 @ Overture Center for the Arts
Portraits of Josephine – Friday Gala Concert

Join us for a night of music and dance! Featuring a percussive string quintet by composer Edna Alejandra Longoria and a choreographed exploration of rhythm by dancer Liz Sexe & Kimi Evelyn, this concert will have you moving in your seat throughout the evening.

Program:

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Concerto for trumpet and five players

Valerie Coleman, Portraits of Josephine wind quintet

Edna Alejandra Longoria, Danzas Cautivas for string quintet & piano

Liz Sexe, Lone Sum: Part II (choreographed dance)

Stacy Garrop, My Dearest Ruth for soprano, violin, cello, clarinet & piano

Kimi Evelyn, She (choreographed dance)

Missy Mazzoli, The Sound of the Light for flute, violin, trumpet, trombone & piano

Fri June 7th, 9pm $7/$10 @ Robinia Courtyard
Holding Court – All Women Comedy Show

This lineup of amazing comedians is gonna be a stunner! Featuring local comics from the Midwest who are blazing a trail of funny that will leave you gasping in their wake. Come to the Robinia courtyard where these Queens will be “Holding Court.”

Featuring Vanessa Tortolano, Chastity Washington, Vickie Lynn, Samara Suomi & Cynthia Marie!


Sat June 8th, 10am free @ Madison Public Library
The Multi-Faceted Artist – Panel Discussion

This engaging panel discussion is for anyone interested in the ongoing trend and need for artists to wear multiple hats to succeed and thrive.

This panel will be held in the Bubbler Room of Madison Public Library Central. Free and open to the public.

Led by Valerie Coleman-Page Flutist & Composer, Linda DiRaimondo & Katrin Talbot

Sat June 8th, 2pm free @ Capitol Lakes
From Page to Stage: Emerging Composers Concert

We are extremely excited to welcome our 2019 participants to LunART’s educational program “From Page to Stage: Emerging Composers!” After attending masterclasses and workshops, these 6 talented composers will have their compositions performed by Madison musicians during this free concert at Capitol Lakes.

Program:

Emily Joy Sullivan – Dangerous Curves Ahead for violin, cello & piano

Claudia Sofía Alvarez Cuba – Nada queda (Nothing Left) for soprano & marimba

Shelby Scott – Going Thoughts for piano solo

Veronica Cator – Direction for string quartet

Anna Marcus-Hecht – Transfiguration for mezzo-soprano & piano

Nikea Randolph – Underground for wind quintet

Sat June 8th, 7pm $20 @ Furst Unitarian Society
Gaia – Closing Gala Concert

Join us for our final gala concert of the festival! This program will feature a wickedly upbeat clarinet & piano duo by Eunike Tanzil (who will be here to perform the piece herself!), Clara Schumann’s classic Piano Trio in G minor, and Valerie Coleman’s groundbreaking Afro-Cuban Concerto for wind quintet.

The ARTemis Women’s Choir returns for a second year and we’ll be featuring the artwork of women artists from Studio 84, Inc. and ARTWORKING, two nonprofit organizations that support artists with disabilities.

Full program:

ARTemis Women’s Choir:
Joan Szymko, Eli Eli
Meg Huskin, Oblivion
​Jocelyn Hagen, Moon Goddess
Alexandra Olsavsky, What Happens When a Woman?

Eunike Tanzil, Catching Time! for clarinet & piano

Clara Schumann, Piano Trio in G minor for violin, cello & piano

Valerie Coleman-Page Flutist & Composer, Afro-Cuban Concerto for wind quintet

Andrea Clearfield, Gaia for soprano, oboe & piano


Sun June 9th, 10am free @ Common Ground Middleton
Mooning Around – Poetry Reading and Artist Mixer

“Mooning Around” Poetry Reading and Artist Mixer – no better way to close our 2019 season! Join us for a performance of “One for Mileva Maric (Einstein)” by Andrea Musher, with special guests Sarah Whelan and Jackie Bradley, and poetry readings by The Line-Breakers: Andrea Potos, Eve Robillard, Rosemary Zurlo-Cuva & Katrin Talbot.

Enjoy your morning coffee and brunch while making creative connections with other artists. Open the public and all artists – bring your portfolios, business cards, and get creative!


6/2 | Uncle Valentine (Philly) + BC Grimm, Tarek Sabbar, Raj’r Taim @ Art In

Sun, 6/2 | 7:30pm, $7 @ Art In, Madison WI
1444 E Washington Ave, Madison, Wisconsin 53703

Two electric cellists Uncle Valentine and BC Grimm come head to head for a duo set at Art In + sound scaping analog electronic sets from Madison’s own Raj’r Taim and Tarek Sabbar!

Uncle Valentine (Philly, on tour) + BC Grimm duo set
The solo project of Rachel Icenogle, a versatile cellist based in Philadelphia with a mind for new and interesting sounds. Uncle Valentine thrives in the scratchy, creaky, whirly sounds the cello can make, layering diverse musical textures in a lush groundwork for wild fables about insects and impressionistic stories about human batteries.

Rachel also composes music for puppet shows with Company Aiello, and is also a member of the Philadelphia band Upholstery.  Rachel has performed improvisation with Roscoe Mitchell and has collaborated as a musician with several independent theater and dance groups in Philadelphia (BRAT Productions, Ombelico Mask Ensemble, Transmissions Theater, SWARM, and Birds on a Wire). She also often records cello for other bands, including in the last year on new albums from both Eric Slick and Hop Along.  With a passion for the unique and unexpected, Rachel sets herself apart as a performer, always seeking opportunities to diversify and discover new artistic expression.


Raj’r Taim (Mad)
Live P.A. All analog electronic soundscape. Unique rhythms and catchy synth melodies bring otherworldly yet familiar moods that coax the listener to contemplate the complexities and texture of sound.


Tarek Sabbar (Mad)
Austere electronic music combining motorik drums, bleak ambience, and angular synthesis.


4/28 | Sound Out Loud @ Fort Atkinson Club

Sun, 4/28 | 4-5pm Free @ Fort Atkinson Club
211 S. Water Street East, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538
Chamber Series Concert featuring Sound Out Loud

From Fort Atkinson Club: Join us on Sunday, April 28 2019 from 4-5pm for the second 2019 Chamber Series Concert. Stay after the concert for a complimentary wine and appetizer reception. This is a great opportunity to meet the performers! This event is FREE and open to the public.

The Sound Out Loud Collective is a contemporary music ensemble based in Madison. While the specific instrumentation of the group fluctuates with each program, the core ensemble is comprised of flute (Iva Ugrcic), violin (Aaron Yarmel), cello (Brian Grimm), and two pianists (Satoko Hayami and Kyle Johnson). Sound Out Loud specializes in engaging works from the early 20th century–present and commissions new pieces from composers around the world. April’s concert will feature a diverse program of National Styles. Bryce Dessner’s “Murder Ballades” features intense, rhythmical arrangements of American ballads, while Arnold Schoenberg’s “Chamber Symphony” offers a mix of high modernism with popular European styles.

While these concerts are open and free to the public, many dedicated patrons and sponsors are to be thanked for their generosity and support of the Chamber Series Concerts.


Features on the Program, notes by Brian Grimm

I am thrilled to be joined by Todd Hammes (tabla) for a performance of compositions and variations in Drut Ektaal (fast 12 beat cycle) on Raga Bageshree. These theme and variations were given to me by my guruji pandit Sugato Nag, a sitar master based out of Kolkata, India. Sugato’s style of playing is highly melodic and vocal, which has been one of the great advantages as he has helped me to adapt this music on my ‘sarangicello’. Todd studied under Pandit Sharda Sahai and for a period of time, was my brother AJ’s tabla teacher. I’ve had a lot of fun rehearsing with Todd and can’t wait to perform more Indian Classical with him in the future! Here is a performance of my guruji Sugato Da and his son Snehesh Nag performing the same main compositions, with different variations:


Ravi Shankar, one of the greatest musicians of all time has remained a favorite inspiration of mine throughout my life. Only in the last year did I stumble upon one of his masterpieces for dance and theater, Ghanashyam: A Broken Branch (1989). Back in college, I found a CD of Indian ensemble music featuring a concerto for two sitars and ensemble music highlighting bansuri flute that Ravi had composed – I’ve always kept my eye out for more of that sound. Most people in the Western World have come to know of Ravi Shankar via his influence on the Beatles, being that he was George Harrison’s guru. Ravi became one of the first Global Musicians to help spread and educate on the deep joyful experience of Indian Classical and Folk music. I first heard the Overture of Ghanashyam on a compilation disc I found years ago at a Half Priced Books, and was blown away! This was exactly what I was looking for and what an exciting piece to kick off any album or production! I couldn’t find any more info on this piece and for a couple of years, I simply enjoyed it and stopped looking further. Then, curious again last year I happened upon the good news that the entire project was remastered and re-released in 2017! I immediately ordered a copy and it has become one of my favorite albums of all time.


Ravi of course was know also as one of the greatest sitar soloists of his time, but few Westerners know of his ensemble compositions that he did for film, radio, and dance. Shankar grew up performing traditional Indian dance and music, so he was the perfect person to create this dance and theater piece about the ultimate death of a dancer due to drug abuse, and the effect on those around him. If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that the Brothers Grimm have composed many scores for dance and theater, so this is kind of an ultimate geek out album for me.

I have arranged the overture for Sound Out Loud to play at this Fort Atkinson performance. One brilliant idea executed in this overture is that no matter how that each musical theme presents it self later on in the production (4, 6, 7, 12, 16, etc beat cycles), they are all stitched together and made one by fitting each theme to an 11 beat cycle within the overture.

The remaster sounds amazing, they really did a great job cleaning up the mix and opening up space and definition around each instrument, bringing out the color in each instrument voice. You can pick up your physical copy here: East Meets West Shop

From East Meets West, Ravi’s legacy record label:
Nine Decades Vol. 5 is a special re-mastered recording of the music-theater piece entitled, Ghanashyam: A Broken Branch, originally commissioned by he Birmingham Touring Opera Company and premiering in 1989. Created out of his deep concern over the youth culture’s preoccupation with drugs as an “easy escape from the sadhana found in disciplined hard work,” Ravi Shankar wrote this outstanding piece of music in the folk tale tradition. It is an examination of the forces that can dilute the world-changing potential of the artist. The music is lush, featuring Shankar’s usual proclivity to combine Eastern and Western orchestral instrumentations to great effect. Featuring dance music in the North Indian Kathak style, as well as the South Indian Bharatanatyam and Kathakali styles, Ghanashyam is a dynamic work of unearthly beauty and one that is very much influenced by Shankar’s eight years of dancing in his brother Uday Shankar’s troupe. Originally released on CD in the early 1990s at a truncated 60 minutes, East Meets West has re-mastered the original reels and restored a full twenty more minutes to the music, making this recording a more faithful to the audio that accompanied the original theater production.

Behind the scenes footage of the production!

Murder Ballads

Sound Out Loud will close the program with a performance of Murder Ballads (2013) by Bryce Dessner. Dessner is famously known in popular music circles as the guitarist for the National and the Clogs. Murder Ballads (recording below by Eighth Blackbird, in Chicago) explores a wide range of folk styles converted to 21st century Classical chamber music. This piece is a set of seven instrumental ballads, the piece was inspired by the tunes, stories and playing styles from the great American folk music tradition. The ballads include pieces loosely based on classic tunes, plus Dessner’s original compositions which were informed by the many months he spent inhabiting the seductive music and violent stories of these murder ballads. It has been super fun and challenging to learn this piece, there are a number of movements which require very accurate bow technique. However difficult individual technique gets, it always remains melodic and easy on the ears. No matter how dark the murderous folk lore subject matter may be, we find it to be quite an enjoyable ride and a nice way to close out the concert.


4/5 | Lovely Socialite @ Central Library for InDIGenous Jazz Series


Lovely Socialite is excited to debut a lot of new material at the InDIGenous Jazz Series this week. These new tunes will be recorded on our 4th studio album this summer with Landon Arkens (engineer for Registers Her Delight [2012], Toxic Consonance [2015]) at Blast House Studios!

Fri, 4/5 | Free! 7:30 PM – 10 PM @ Central Library, Madison Public Library
201 E Mifflin St, Madison, Wisconsin 53703

Presented by The Madison Music Collective and The Greater Madison Jazz Consortium, the inDIGenous Jazz series continues with a return performance from the Lovely Socialite.

Lovely Socialite is a Madison/Milwaukee-based six-piece that combines the aesthetics of modern jazz with contemporary classical, driving rock, and hip hop. Lauded for their bold and intricate compositions, the group often draws comparisons to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. The band’s original music combines strict notation with moments of improvisation and maintains a healthy balance of dark and heavy rock grooves with quirky jazz obscurities. The group will perform original jazz/rock fusion compositions composed by its members since our inception in 2010. Musicians with Lovely Socialite: Ben Willis-Double Bass, Electronics; Pat Reinholz-Electric Cello, Electonics; Brian Grimm-Pipa (琵琶), Gaohu (高胡), Cello, Electronics; Corey Murphy-Trombone, Electronics; Abe Sorber-Vibraphone, Drums; Mike Koszewski-Drums, Percussion

All InDIGenous shows are free and start at 7:30pm on the 3rd floor of the Madison Central Library 201 W. Mifflin St

We would like to thank our series sponsors who help us make these concerts possible:

Madison Public Library, John and Carolyn Peterson Charitable Foundation, Dane Arts (with additional funds from the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation), Wisconsin Arts Board, WORT-FM, Wisconsin Public Radio, Bear Sound, Janus Galleries, and Presenting Organizations: Madison Music Collective and The Greater Madison Jazz Consortium

Please visit jazzinmadison.org for more information on our local jazz scene

New to Lovely Socialite’s music? Catch up on our previous albums!

3/9 | Michael Zerang (Chi) and Biliana Vouchkova (US Tour) support from Louise Bock Drone Orch. @ ALL

Sat, 3/9 | 8pm $15adv, $20door @ Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL)
2021 Winnebago St, Madison, WI 53704

Michael Zerang (Chi) and Biliana Vouchkova (US Tour)
support from Louise Bock Drone Orchestra

TICKETS

[from ALLJazz]

” ALLJazz presents renowned Chicago jazz improviser Michael Zerang with internationally acclaimed violinist Biliana Vouchkova for an evening of creative improvisation on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 8:00PM. A Drone Orchestra directed by Taralie Petersen will open the show.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. College/university/high school students receive a $5 discount on either price (valid student ID must be presented at the door – no exceptions). Advance tickets are available online until one hour before the performance. Doors open at 7:30PM.

The ALLJazz Series is sponsored in part by Alchemy and Dobhan Restaurants. Student discount made possible by Grant Samuelsen Real Estate.

About the Musicians

Michael Zerang has been a active musician, composer, and producer since 1976, focusing extensively on improvised music, free jazz, contemporary composition, puppet theater, experimental theater, and international musical forms. He has been a long-standing member of The Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, Friction Brothers, Brötzmann/McPhee/Kessler/Zerang Quartet, and Survival Unit III with Joe McPhee and Fred Lonberg-Holm. 

Biliana Voutchkova is a thoroughly engaged artist, violinist, composer-performer and improvisor who combines regular performances of major solo violin/ensemble works, new music by contemporary composers often written for her, and her own work with performative, long length formats, real time composition and improvisation. Her constant research as a creative artist spans the widest possible range of sound and movement and extends her sonic, technical and physical capacities evolving into the development of a highly individual artistic language.

Opening will be another installment of the Drone Orchestra hosted by Louise Bock. Featuring guest players Brennan Connors, Brian Grimm, Nadia Chana, Michael Groome, Erik Kramer, Patrick Best, Tracy Peterson, Taralie Peterson, Wendy Maland, and special guest….

1/24 | I, Resolve 2019: DAIS Fundraiser

On Thursday, 1/24 from 5:30-7:30pm in Boardman & Clark Law Offices at the US Bank Building; the annual fundraiser to fight domestic abuse against women “I, RESOLVE” will be held.  Suggested donation is $20 and the event includes silent auction, live music (provided by yours truly), hor d’oeuvres, and drinks.  Hosted by Legal Association for Women to benefit Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DIAS) Legal Program.  Please RSVP to Jennifer Luther at jluther@axley.com.

Hope to see you there,
Brian

CelloZone! Pirastro Eudoxa & Oliv String Review: for first time buyers (Part 2)

(Part 1)

Part 2: ONE YEAR LATER…

…and I am still using all gut set ups on both my concert cello and “sarangi-cello” (more on that cello in a future post).  I have spent a lot of time thinking about strings, calculating gauges for tension schemes, experimenting with different combos of various brands and string makers. I have a much better idea now of what I like, don’t like, and need from a gut string. Almost a year before I had purchased any gut strings, I had reached out to a couple of viola da gamba playing friends for advice on the subject. Niccolo Seligmann, a fantastic gambist and early music super-nerd, gave me some advice, which I followed: “Start with getting a couple different gauges of each string from Gamut, which is probably the best for its price. Once you’ve figured out what weights (diameter and tension) to use, then you may want to switch over to something more expensive and longer lasting, like Aquila or La Folia… the try-out process is expensive, but you can keep all the not-quite-right strings as spares. It’s always wise to have at least one spare of the top two strings and at least two spares of the top string.” 

This advice was for open gut strings, but it applied to the wound gut audition process as well. For instance, getting all three gauges of a Eudoxa a-string is expense, but now I know what works and I was able to re-purpose or keep settled-in spares of the gauges which weren’t right for my instrument or the music I was making at that time.

I have found that I spend more time caring for my cello, making sure the tailpiece, bridge, nut, and peg set up are all staying “healthy”. As a result of learning to play on gut strings, I have made huge strides in my bow technique and left hand precision.  Gut set ups have helped me understand how interact with the strings on a much deeper level. There is a greater subtly required when drawing the sound, as a result a wider range of tone and expression. It has taught me how to open up my articulation palate and push through to a next level of playing. Of course, it might not be the right fit for all types of music, instruments, or aesthetics: that comes down to (1) taste & importantly (2) the conditions of performance. I have used wound and open gut string combos for classical, traditional/world, contemporary, jazz, experimental, etc and have found these set-ups chameleon their way through all of these genres very well!

Over the course of this year, I have tried wound gut strings by Correlli (don’t waste your time), Damian Dlugolecki (Ni/Ag gut) and Pirastro’s Eudoxa, Oliv, and Gold (older wondertones) line strings.  I have also tried plain gut strings by Dan Larsen (Gamut), Damian Dlugolecki, Toro (venice and high twist), and Aquila & Pirastro’s Chorda (not impressed). Maybe in another post I will examine these comparisons further, however this post will remain focused on Eudoxa and Oliv strings. Again this is for the first time buyer.  I have certainly had some frustrating and expensive moments this year, my hope is to let you in on those insights so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

My current set up uses an Aquila plain gut a-string 1.20mm (I love this string!) with Pirastro Oliv light gauge d, G, C. I tied my loop on the a-string in the same style as Dan Larsen from Gamut does. I have made my own leather washers, modeled after the ones available from Gamut, though mine are a little thicker with larger diameter.  I am using three washers on each string to protect the knot, but not to thick as to dampen the vibration from the string to the tailpiece as much as Pirastro’s white a-string washer does. So far, I find this method to be the most resonant between the string and the tailpiece. I’ll probably go back to threading through the loop next time (as pictured on the tenor gamba) to compare for resonance once again.

SET UPS

Suggested Combos/Sets (no particular order):

Eudoxa medium a, d, G + Oliv light C

Eudoxa medium a, d + Oliv light G, C

Oliv light set

Oliv light d, G, C + Eudoxa heavy a

Tip:  I recommend ordering through Concord Music and Gabriela’s Baroque.

Bonus Tip: try out a number of different rosins to find out what works best with your various string combosEspecially important if you have a mix of plain and wound gut or a combo of different brands/makers.  

EUDOXA VS OLIV

I find the Eudoxa tone to be sweet and delightful, like dessert.  There is a joy and playfulness in my playing, especially when I’m using the a and d string.

Oliv has a hearty, deep, complex tone which feels more like the main course.  My playing is more serious and mature, especially when playing on a full set of Oliv.

I can’t get away with playing on a full set of Eudoxa, (as nice as that would be) unless maybe with medium a, d, G + a heavy gauge C; *but I haven’t tried that yet*…  In contrast, I am definitely satisfied when playing on a full set of Oliv.  In the last article, I gave a few examples of Steven Isserlis playing on his Eudoxa set up with Oliv C.  Here is a good example of the tone capabilities of an Oliv set from Gary Hoffman (with an Evah Pirazzi a-string, I believe).  A Hoffman is a very different player than Isserlis.  I think their personalities are well captured by the tonal differences of these string setups. 

Now that I’ve had a bit of experience practicing and performing on both Eudoxa and Oliv strings, I may choose to string up my cello with different combos that suit the circumstance of a recording session or performance. 

For example:

  • playing with piano or contemporary ensembles: Oliv set
  • playing with plucked strings (like Brothers Grimm): Eudoxa set
  • solo, unaccompanied: (1) Eudoxa a, d, G + Oliv C  (2) Oliv d, G, C + Aquila a  (3) Oliv G, C + Toro or Aquila a, d
  • Chamber music: (1) Eudoxa top a, d, G + Oliv bottom G, C  (2) full Oliv set

For a long time, I used to use Jargar a, d and Larsen G, C (which you can hear on The Brothers Grimm 2012 album Redolent Spires: bandcamp / spotify).  Often this set up was too powerful for violoncello + classical guitar.  If the Brothers Grimm were going out on tour, I would most likely use a Eudoxa medium set (in this case the quieter C string would be an advantage!).

The warm blend on the Eudoxas with other bowed string instruments is insane, they are perfect for chamber music.  If you need to blend inward, I’d go with Eudoxa.  If you need to cut through or project outward I’d go with Oliv.  For instance, during rehearsals with a pianist for a performance of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op.73 using a Eudoxa set up: I simply could not sing out above the piano without pushing the strings harder than I wished to.  For the performance later that week, I had switched to an Oliv set up and no longer had to fight to project.  I was able to float on top of the piano sound with out over playing the strings.

My cello projects better with Oliv, than Eudoxa.  If you really like the Eudoxa sound on your instrument, but know you need to more power… you may want to try a full set of heavy gauge strings.  It will have more tension, bigger tone and might just do the trick.  In general, don’t be afraid of the thicker gauges, just make sure that your instrument is set up to handle the width, and that the tension scheme makes sense from top to bottom (less of a problem with a set, more of a problem with mix and match).

Here is a great example of Oliv on C, G and Eudoxa a, with plain gut d from Lynn Harrell (with Orlando Cole).  Go for the string sound, stick around for the extended lesson on bow technique!

WHAT’S IN A GAUGE?

Thinner string gauges are lower in tension, with a sweet, reedy tone.  Thinner gauges have more treble tone and quicker bow response.

Thicker string gauges have more tension, with a raspy, husky, deep tone.  Thicker gauges have more bass tone and slower bow response.

Less tension results in more flex in the string and a quicker bow response.  But the more flexible the string is, the quicker it will bottom out when you push it with heavy dynamics.  If you often need to play loudly for your style of music, try the heavier gauge string – it can take more bow pressure and give you a bigger sound.  The caveat being that thicker gauges with more tension are slower to respond under the bow.

Set advantages – I really like how the full set feels in the left hand and under the bow.  It’s very nice to have the consistency of bow response, tension, thickness gradient/feel, tone etc across the whole instrument from top to bottom.  (~ with both the Eudoxa medium set and the Oliv light set)

The Eudoxa string response is quick and easy, I liked this for playing unaccompanied solos at events and concerts.  When you mix and match, the response is a bit different for the bow from each brand of string, so you have to change your technique a bit from string to string.  Olivs are stiffer under the bow than Eudoxa, but when using a full set Olivs, it feels very nice and consistent, I doesn’t really feel stiff anymore.

Here are some quick notes from each string gauge I’ve tried:

Eudoxa 

a –

light – didn’t even feel like a gut string because it is so thin / easy to play all the way up the fingerboard / you may consider this as an option if the rest of your strings are steel / less of an aluminum sound than the medium and heavy gauge

med – of the three gauges, this is my favorite thickness on my concert cello / great tone / easy to play all the way up the fingerboard / sometimes is a little sluggish to respond compared to the rest of the set

heavy – what I use on my Sarangi-cello / noticeably more tension than the medium gauge, especially up in thumb positions / more power yet it still retains the sweet tone of Eudoxa / very smooth left hand feel

d –

light – sweetest sounding, but didn’t pack enough punch for me

medium – really great d string, one of my favorites, very expressive / I love the mix of the aluminum and silver, and almost wish that’s what they did for the a-string too!

G –

medium – at first I was worried it wouldn’t be bass heavy enough, or feel too small in the hand going from the thicker Oliv C the to thinner Eudoxa G, but it really wasn’t a problem at all, and I enjoyed playing on this string very much / sometimes the sound didn’t project forward enough for certain styles – but created a really interesting inward-depth, kind of hard to describe, but was a really unique way to draw the listener in when playing solo

heavy – held up really well with the Oliv C / big warm bass tone, rich sound / but I felt like the thicker gauge contributed to the tension imbalances on the bridge and caused issues for the surrounding strings with settling in to pitch / projected outward well

C – 

medium – tone sounded great, very easy response, but just didn’t cut it when it came to power / very big volume and energy drop when I’d go from the medium G to the medium C string

Oliv

light set

I love this set up, the first time I strang up with all Olivs, I thought, “ahhh finally, a full set I can use!” / they are very expressive strings, which bring out a completely new mature sound from my instrument / I almost feel like a Character-Actor when I am playing things like Beethoven or Schumann / very bright for the first week, but then it mellows out, in a very warm way

d

heavy – I am using the heavy gauge d string on my Sarangi-cello and I’ve noticed with both the thicker Oliv (especially the heavy) d strings start to bring out the wolf tone on my cello more.  This is something to keep in mind when finding the right balance in gauge/tension for your instrument.  It hasn’t been enough of an issue to require a wolf-tone eliminator however.

C

light – when paired with Eudoxa med set, this over comes the volume/energy imbalance of the Eudoxa C / but response and tone are quite different / can get nice and growly when you push it

SETTLING IN

I can settle the string up to pitch in two days.  Meaning for the first two days, there is a lot of peg tuning consistently throughout the practice/restringing session.  On the third day, when I take the cello out of the case, it’s usually pretty close to pitch and I just have to give it one little turn at the peg and re-tune a couple of times after it adjusts to the room.  Most of these strings have fully settled into pitch after 1 week.  I play every day, which I think helps to quicken the breaking in process (maybe I am wrong).  

I perform 100+ shows/gigs per year, and often I found my self planning when to change a string by what type of performance was coming up the next week.  In most cases, I changed the string(s) at least 1 week in advance of a concert.  This was usually enough time to break in the string and not have any issues with stability during the show.  There were a couple of times that I had to change the string 1-2 days before a performance….  This wasn’t ideal, but I was able to perform successfully in all of those cases.  I carefully monitored if my pitch dropped, double checking my tuning quietly with a clip on tuner in between movements & pieces.  A number of times I performed with the clip on tuner, just to be sure I could lock in my tuning on the new strings; no one complained.

STABILITY

It seems like the Oliv set is more pitch stable than the Eudoxa set.  Maybe due to the higher tension or the winding?  Or because I have more experience now? I am not sure.

Having the right gauges and tension scheme actually contributed more than I initially thought to stability.  Having the bridge and nut properly widened is also important.  You don’t want the winding to get caught on the bridge or the nut, especially with all of that peg tuning you’ll be doing.  When I had the medium gauge Eudoxa a & d with the heavy gauge G and Oliv light C, I had a little trouble getting the low end to settle and stay in pitch.  The tension across the bridge was not balanced.  With complete set (medium Eudoxa set & light Oliv set) I felt the strings settle into pitch faster and hold their tuning better.  I have experienced some intense pitch swings on the low strings due to weather extremes. In August, when it was very humid, I pulled my cello out of the case and my low C was down to AA!  Sometimes I would put it away in the case, after having played in a’=440 and when I pulled it out of the case the next day, my cello would be perfectly in tune at a’=415!  Another time, during rehearsal there was a very hot and humid thunderstorm happening but with the air conditioning on full blast and during the finale my C string surprised me by drifting up to C# (luckily the section was in Db MJ…).  In my experience this year, if it is humid+hot the strings will drift flat, if it is dry+cold the strings will drift sharp.  If it is humid+cold… things get really weird and floppy, good luck.  On my cello the thicker lower strings are affected most by the humidity/temperature changes.    

SEPARATION ANXIETY

For as much as I love these strings and highly recommend them, I have had an unfortunate winding separation issue on both Eudoxa AND Oliv a-strings.  This has been the most expensive and frustrating part of the learning process.  I already voiced not being crazy about the aluminum edge to the sound of the a-string in Part 1.  There is a crunchy squeak sound on the surface if you don’t hit it just right with your bow.  I’ve had a rough go at it this past year with the a-string winding separating from the gut core.  From the very first string I installed, this happened, in fact some of the issues I ran into with the a-string going false (see Part 1) was actually the result of the winding separating from the gut core.

If you install the string and and the winding separates or goes false, even after taking the precautions of widening and lubricating the grooves at the nut and bridge and lifting the string occasionally at the bridge to reset the winding: contact Pirastro directly about getting a replacement string. I have been in contact with Pirastro about this issue and sent them my faulty strings to be analyzed. I have received replacements for all damaged strings, but I’d rather not have to do the international shipping dance over and over again…

Tip 1:  Make sure the groove at the nut has a wide enough channel so it doesn’t pinch the winding – especially at the center point of the nut, where the string is bending the most. You can take your instrument to a luthier with your set of strings to have this done.

For those who are DIY: I’ve been doing it carefully myself with 400 & 600 grit sand paper, strips of leather, blunt sewing needles, rasps, and graphite (maybe a luthier will comment suggesting otherwise – please do, we’ll all learn!).

Tip 2: Wrap the neck of the cello with a cushy cloth where the strap goes over the string (see pic below). I believe this strap-wear contributed to some of the separation around first position, which began the swift death of 3 of my a-strings.

Tip 3: Peg Dope – use a peg lubricant like Hill Peg Compound. Available at most string shops for $10, this really helped my friction peg tuning. The pegs no longer “stick and jump”: I am able to turn the peg slowly and smoothly in a controlled motion without excess force to achieve very small and accurate pitch changes, like when using a fine tuner. Using peg compound in combination with winding the string close to (but not touching) the peg box wall helps to prevent peg slips.

CURRENT SETUP

My current set up uses Oliv light gauge C, G, and d strings with an Aquila plain gut a-string (1.20mm), for a’=440Hz playing. I got to frustrated with the winding issues on the a-strings and needed a break from that.  So I’m going with an open gut a for now and am very happy with the sound! The Aquila a-string is fantastic, shout out to Curtis from Aquila USA for helping me find a diameter that would match the tension of my Oliv set. …I haven’t given up on the Oliv a string just yet, I do plan on using a full Oliv set for future projects, but I’d like to have a luthier look the nut before I install a new one.

Postludemortem

I switched back temporarily to the Oliv a, after the Aquila and Toro a-strings it sounded very smooth and creamy to me.  Shifting is obviously much easier on a wound string and I couldn’t help gliding pitches for expression.  In the future, when doing a concert of Chinese or Indian music, I’ll make sure to pop on an Oliv or Eudoxa a.  The Oliv a really sings in a powerful way, but one of the downfalls coming back to it after the plain gut was that I couldn’t help but play loud, loUD, LOUD!  I found myself unknowingly belting out, like an opera singer.  It’s good to know what these strings bring out in your playing, so you can use it to the greatest advantage.  I have switched back to a plain gut top string for my upcoming performances (a thicker string for scordatura tuning).  I found that I lost some subtly in my playing with the wound a, being that it was so fun to play loud.  For unaccompanied solo playing, the flexibility of the plain gut and Eudoxas is an advantage to me.  But!  I love the uniform color, tone, and response on my instrument with the full set of Olivs.

Which string combos have worked well for you with Eudoxa &/or Oliv? Are there other brands that you find pair well with these strings? Wound gut, plain gut, synthetic, steel core? Best rosin pairings? Please share your experiences, I’d love to hear about it! Also comment below if you have string care suggestions or helpful installation techniques.

I hope you found this review helpful! Thanks for reading & happy practicing!

Brian