On Saturday night, Sudler Hall was filled with the rich vibratos and colorful tones of the undergraduate cello ensemble Low Strung.
Calling themselves the “largest all-cello rock group in the world,” Low Strung has been performing since its inception in 2005. The pieces played at the concert included rousing renditions of American classics by such artists as Queen, Guns N’ Roses and Aretha Franklin, as well as more contemporary pop pieces. The concert was the culmination of a semester’s worth of practice, and left the crowd of almost 200 — which included a mix of families, New Haven residents and students — humming and content.
From a chillingly beautiful arrangement of Adele’s “When We Were Young” to a powerful finale of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer,” attendees were constantly drawn in by the music.
“Part of the preparation [for the concert] is getting freshman ready for a new style of playing that’s high energy, cooperative and emotive,” said Harry Doernberg ’19, the group’s music director. “I’ve really come to appreciate the incredible rhythm of a lot of the musicians we play, and we have to be able to copy that rhythm in a way that’s flexible.”
According to Doernberg, cellos are unique in their musical spectrum. Beyond the instrument’s ability to produce a wide range of dynamics, the cello can effectively embody different genres and colors, ranging from the mellow tones of jazz music to the powerful notes of heavy metal.
Experimentation with these different modes by cellists in the Saybrook College Orchestra led to the group’s founding.
Doernberg said that all of the pieces performed by the group are arranged by its members. He added that Low Strung founder David Rector ’07 wrote more than half of the group’s current performance pieces, noting that contributions from recent members are steadily rising.
Since its inception, the ensemble has become more “musically serious,” Doernberg said, and expanded its international reach with a recent tour to Costa Rica and an upcoming tour to Singapore. The group also has plans to play at the upcoming grand opening of the MGM National Harbor, a resort casino in National Harbor, Maryland.
Chloe Zhou ’20, a new member of the group, was featured in the energetic opener, Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” She said that she heard about Low Strung before coming to Yale, and it seemed to her a fun alternative to a traditional orchestra in a more intimate group setting.
“My favorite parts are when you really get into the music and everybody is just rocking out together,” Zhou said. “When you look around, everybody is into it. Everyone gets along really well. One of the older members of the group, Emily [Cornett ’19], tells me that sometimes she forgets we all play cello — in the end we’re just a group of friends.”
Charles Comiter ’20, who attended the concert, said that he loved every second of the performance.
Brad Wasserman, a postdoctoral associate at the Yale School of Medicine who also attended the concert, said the cello is uniquely able to bring an elegiac and sentimental tinge to whatever music it plays. Even “Rock Around the Clock” could sound like a piece created for posterity if played on numerous cellos, he said.
“If grown ups were doing it, they wouldn’t be as into it,” said New Haven resident Lawrence Dressler. “These kids brought it to life; they were really excited and having a good time up there.”
Low Strung comprises 12 cellists.