Travels With My Cello

  • Back in the USA! Cellospeak 2011

    I was sitting in my dorm room at Bryn Mawr college, feeling not a little like a giant doofus.   Chris and my kids had just laid scratch out of the parking lot, heading for the King-of-Prussia mall, and I was left in a 8x10 monkish cell at an elite women’s college with a bag of clothes and a cello.  I knew absolutely nobody, and while I am not normally a shy person, I was feeling a little… wrong footed.  I was at cello camp.  For a whole week.  With 100 people I had never met before.  Who does that?  Was...

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  • Lost in Translation

      Lost in Translation After about two weeks of lessons, I took inventory:  near as I could tell, Misha had about 20 or so usable words of English.  By “usable,” I mean words that could reasonably be used in the context of a cello lesson.  I mean, I knew he knew the word “cancer” but it’s hard to imagine how that particular word might apply in a music lesson.  I had a few more words of usable Russian, but he tended to speak too quickly for me to understand his answer.  Weirdly, we filled holes with German, another language I...

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  • The Russian Way

    And so it went.  Week after week, I made the trip down the hill to the conservatory for my cello lessons with Misha.  He sat facing me, knee to knee, while I played open strings;  we weren't moving on to actual notes until my bow and my strings formed a perfect 90 degree angle, and I released my crazy death grip on the frog.   Sometimes he would hold my bowing hand and the tip and move the bow back and forth across the strings with me.  For an hour.   Misha gave me an old exercise book to take home, the bottom of...

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  • What Love Sounds Like....

     This is a piece called "Nocturne" by Georgian composer, Vazha Azarashvili.  Georgians know it of course, but I had never heard it until my friend Manana Chanturishvili played it for me.  Her husband, Paata, plays violin in this recording.  My teacher, Misha, plays the cello part on an exquisite 1865 Giuseppe Baldantoni cello.   Enjoy!

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  • Misha

      It was a beautiful, brisk October morning in Tbilisi, the kind of day that makes you think of apple cider, bonfires, and Halloween.   I strapped my cello to my back, and made my way down five flights of stairs, and out onto Kotetishvili Street where I lived.  My neighborhood was an interesting mix of new apartment buildings and 19th century houses, now crumbling to bits.  Picking my way across the cobblestones, I began the slog down the hill to the Tbilisi State Conservatory.  I was going to meet my Georgian cello teacher for the first time and we were...

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  • Everybody Knows Boris!

     Marianne Ide So how exactly does one move a cello from Yemen to the Republic of Georgia…without a flight case?  I spent quite a while pondering that question, because it appeared I had two fairly awful choices.  One:  somehow, get a flight case shipped to Yemen and take the cello home with me for a month.  Two:  ship it straight to Georgia in the box it came in.  The first option quickly became impractical and horribly expensive.  Option two scared the crap out of me, but since I couldn't think of another solution, Yemeni shipping would have to work.  In retrospect, I...

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  • From Sana'a to Stalin: Moving to Georgia

      There was no doubt about, Yemen was falling apart.  In the days and weeks after Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze in Tunis, Yemen would succumb to the rage that dominated the Arab world throughout 2010 and 2011.  Leaving just seemed like a good idea. Christopher and I had applied for and received a transfer to another school, in the Republic of Georgia.  We began the long, tedious and very painful process of packing our traveling circus of belongings and saying goodbye to all of our friends and students.   Tanya tried to put a bright...

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  • Concerto for Al Qaeda

    Marianne Ide It was always hard to know what to do with the Warden’s security messages that passed through our email in boxes every so often.  The State Department took its job of warning Americans of potential danger quite seriously, and in Yemen, danger was part of the collective conscience, to varying degrees.  The Yemen Post would report such exciting tidbits like “Al Qaeda Franchising into Southern Yemen” and “Yemen Proves Attractive Breeding Ground for Al Qaeda.”  But what did that mean exactly?  9/11 proved that you can’t turn a rock over in the sands of Arabia and not find someone waving...

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  • The Cello Whore

      It was spring and I had been playing for almost a year when my friend Tanya came to me with the most amazing news, as well as a proposition.  She had been asked to play her violin at a Yemeni wedding—10 minutes of playing for $100!  However, she did not want to go alone so she asked me if I would be willing to go along and accompany her on the cello, for the very same fee.  I was completely dumbstruck.  10 minutes of playing for $100?  Of course I would do it.  Then I began to ponder the...

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  • A Christmas Carol

      Marianne Ide December in Yemen can be a strangely disconcerting experience for Westerners.  Not that it’s a regular experience the other eleven months, but December can be a little surreal.  In the west, Christmas madness begins before the Thanksgiving leftovers have even started to pick up refrigerator chill, and continues relentlessly until well into the new year.  Now, imagine if you will, a world where none of glitz and tinsel of the Yuletide exists, and you will have a pretty good idea of what Sana’a feels like in December.  I didn't mind; it’s not like I didn't know that I was living in...

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