Cello there

Cello Springs Festival’s Yellow Springs homecoming

Cellist (l-r) Alicia Randisi-Hooker, David Skrill, David Smith, and Miriam Liske-Doorandish performing at Emporium Wines

By Joyell Nevins

For a musical generation, the people who participated in Friends Music Camp (FMC) through Olney Friends School experienced a symbiosis between teacher and learner, professional and amateur.

“There was a special magic to that camp’s culture,” says Lisa Liske-Doorandish, who taught there for decades. “There was a valued spirit of music-making, a mutual affection and dignity.”

As her daughter Miriam Liske-Doorandish put it, “The friendships were as important as the music.”

Even though the camp has changed locations and changed leadership, that magical spirit lives on locally. Cello Springs, a festival happening this week in Yellow Springs, grew out of that concept.

When the camp was run by Yellow Springs resident, Peg Champney, it always included a bus trip to the Springs for a benefit concert. Yellow Springs continued to be a town where the Champney family and FMC family would come together for a visit during the holiday break.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to good friends when you see them so seldom,” Miriam said. “We wanted to continue this connection.”

The idea of a musical festival percolated for several years, until the summer of 2016. That’s when it went from a hypothetical to a reality. Lisa, Miriam, and one of Miriam’s best friends, Chiara Enderle, brainstormed and worked together to make it happen.

Miriam and Chiara grew up together through FMC. Chiara’s parents, professional musicians Matthias Enderle and Wendy Champney (Peg’s daughter), were faculty at FMC along with Lisa. All five of them are cello players. Even Miriam’s sister, Eleanor, plays the cello. Both girls pushed for their own instruments as toddlers—their mom taught classes at home, and they didn’t want to be left out!

“The cello has such a human voice,” Lisa said. “There’s a deep accord with our soul’s longing for expression.”

Miriam is now studying cello performance at Oberlin University. Chiara runs a chamber music program in Zurich, Switzerland. They both still have a great love for the cello, as well as for each other.

It was important for the trio that the festival include several concerts and educational programs, with retreat space sprinkled throughout. Although each evening includes some type of program, the mornings are free for personal connections and playing.

“We prioritized community and the space we create,” Miriam explained.

Yellow Springs responded in kind to that sense of community. The women were overwhelmed by the amount of audience members and support each event received.

“It was very inspiring,” Lisa said. “The reciprocity is just lovely. They appreciate what we have to give, and give back to us. It is a place where we are valued.”

And it was also a place where the musicians felt free to experiment. While there were still many traditional compositions, Miriam noted that there were times of exploration as well. One of the events even included poets and visual artists, with cellists responding to the art presented with their own musical improvisation.

Although it was a special time of classical collaboration, the Cello Springs festival took a massive amount of time and energy to execute. When the founders stepped back to evaluate if they wanted to do another festival, it was the community’s response that encouraged them to do it again. Lisa noted one resident came up to them on the street last year and suggested with a smile that Yellow Springs’s name be changed to “Cello Springs!”

So, the festival is back on. This year, there is one less concert, but there are more lessons and workshops. Along with Lisa, Miriam, and Chiara, the core members are cellists Joshua Dent, Malina Rauschenfels, David Skrill, Charlie Reed, and David Smith.

Chiara’s parents will be playing as well, along with Shirley Mullins, former Yellow Springs High School orchestra director. Lisa described Mullins’ talent and inspirational teaching style as a “luminous presence.”

The final concert, held on Saturday, Jan. 13, is a call to all local cellists. Last year, there were 23 different performers who came together to play on one stage. The festival directors are also looking for sponsors to help make the concert sustainable, private donors to help with crowdfunding, and even community members willing to host a visiting cellist for dinner.

“We want to celebrate the cello and music together,” Lisa said. “We can all speak that heart language of music.”

The public concerts of Cello Springs are Wednesday, Jan. 10 at the Vernet Room in the Glen Helen Nature Preserve; Thursday, Jan. 11 at the Herndon Gallery in Antioch College; and Saturday, Jan. 13 at the Foundry Theater in Antioch College. All concerts are free and start at 7:30 p.m.

For more information on the Cello Springs Festival or other events, visit CelloSpringsFestival.Weebly.com. To get involved with the final concert or become a sponsor, email cellospringsfestival@gmail.com.

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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