Cellorimbian Flights

for cello and marimba

premiered January 9, 2006

Roger Lebow, cello, David Johnson, marimba, Xtet
Monday Evening Concert series
Bing Theater, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

"Easygoing was the premiere of Tom Flaherty's "Cellorimbian Flights," for cello (Roger Lebow) and marimba (David Johnson). Cello and marimba are not easily matched, and instead of joining in friendly interplay, they joined in friendly spotlight-sharing. When the cello sang, the marimba faded into the background. When the marimba clattered, the cello became faint. But the score — with its pleasant melodies, hints of tango and mariachi, and rhythmic liveliness — did much to please.“ [Xtet]
–  Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times
" — an exceptionally appealing duo for cello and marimba “ [Xtet]
– Alan Rich, L. A. Weekly

Click here for recording of cello-piano version

The combination of cello and marimba is one that has long interested me. The similar range and complementary sonic blend balance the obvious possibilities for contrast. When Roger Lebow requested a piece for cello and percussion, cello and marimba were all I needed. The resulting Cellorimbian Flights is in three movements: Tangoid, Recollections, and Marchuet. The piece might be heard as a song surrounded by dances.

Tangoid never uses the specific rhythms associated with the tango, but is infused with its sensual insinuations. Syncopations constantly challenge the steady pulse, playfully at first, with more determination as time passes. From sly, laid back beginnings the music moves forward in ever-increasing anxious tension, accelerating to a final explosive release.

Recollections reflects on regrets, reconciliations, and inevitability. Inward improvisatory solos interspersed with flashes of light ultimately lead to a searching melody in the cello, which gives way to the marimba’s reassuringly steady conclusion.

Marchuet combines aspects of the march, the minuet, and even a little mariachi in an increasingly giddy entanglement, bringing the piece to a rousing if slightly loopy close.

Cellorimbian Flights was written for Roger Lebow, David Johnson, and Xtet, all bright lights in the Los Angeles musical landscape. It is a pleasure to have the piece premiered in this decades-long Monday Evening Concerts series, though it is a tragedy to consider that tonight’s concert may be one of the last.

Tangoid score excerpt
Recollections score excerpt
Marchuet score excerpt