On Tuesday 27 September, SOLO returns with an intimate concert from cellist Kate Ellis. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with her to chat about how she came to play the cello, her interest in new music and her close collaboration with composer and performer Laura Cannell.
First up, could you tell us a bit about how you came to play the cello and what it was that drew you to it?
The radio was always on in the house growing up. My dad was a huge fan of jazz and my mum leaned more towards the soothing sounds of Radio 3 alongside regular news updates and the obligatory daily episode of The Archers. I dabbled with various instruments for a few years until I had the opportunity to try the cello and that was that, I was hooked. The connection between the cello and the human voice was the thing that resonated with me the most I think and something that still draws me in.
For SOLO 09, you’ve put together a setlist that takes in a wide range of music including pieces by Linda Buckley, Judith Ring, Donnacha Dennehy and Steve Reich. A lot of your work revolves around new and contemporary music, what draws you most to the music of today?
Mostly because it’s good fun! I love being able to pull the notes from the page in new ways. I love the collaborative aspect to playing new music too, it’s such an important part of the process to really get under the skin of the music.
You’ve collaborated a lot with composers and musicians from a variety of backgrounds. I wondered if you have any advice for composers writing for the cello for the first time or looking to kickstart collaborations with performers?
I think the key to kickstarting any collaboration is to jump in! There are always people willing and very, very happy to collaborate and share their time.
Your gig features a SOLO commission written for you by Laura Cannell called ‘Inhabited: The Last Wild Wolf in Ireland’ which was the start of a long-term collaboration with Laura. Could you give us an little insight into your collaborative process – what are your inspirations, how do you create together and what’ve you got planned for the future?
Firstly, thank you Alex for the introduction! Laura is a brilliant artist and it’s been such an inspiration collaborating with her. In 2021, we wrote, recorded and produced 12 EP’s from our respective lockdown locations, which we released monthly on Laura’s label, Brawl Records.
The collaborative process was quick! We would spend a week or so each month exchanging musical ideas, some fully formed, some recorded ‘together’ (over the phone) and some exchanged in real time. We definitely found some very novel ways of working together.
I’ve moved back to Dublin now and Laura has started to work more on her solo projects but there is plenty more to come in 2023!
Finally, what tracks have you currently got on repeat?
I tend to listen to the music that I’m currently playing or about to play so it becomes second nature. My SOLO playlist is top of the list at the moment. I also have album mixes of a project with Martin Hayes on my playlist alongside music that I’ve programmed for Crash Ensemble and other projects for later in the year on a (long) loop.
If you want to join us at SOLO 09, pick up your ticket today and head to St Ethelburga’s on Tuesday 27 September to hear Kate perform music by Linda Buckley, Steve Reich and Donnacha Dennehy, as well as premières from Laura Cannell and Alex Groves.