Celebrating the 25th Annual

New Directions Cello Festival

Berklee College of Music
Boston, MA
June 21 – 23, 2019

The guest artists were:
Stephan Braun & Deep Strings, Helen Gillet, Matthieu Saglio, Stephen Katz, Eric Wright with Mairi Rankin, Vincent Courtois & Love of Life Trio and Rufus Cappadocia

“Exploring the current state of non-classical cello music.”


The End of an Era. After starting the New Directions Cello Association & Festival in 1995, Chris White continued to run the ship annually for a quarter century. He now feels that his “baby” is all grown up and it’s time to let it go out into the world. Also joining him in sailing off into the sunset are two of his long-time collaborators – Sera Smolen and Corbin Keep.

Can the grownup New Directions Cello Festival learn to survive without Chris at the helm? That is one of the questions of the day (year). Will Berklee decide to take it on as part of its annual summer program offerings? Will an enthusiastic group of new directions cellists choose to put in the time to keep NDCF going independently? Will our friend in Cologne, Germany, Gunther Tiedemann, decide to hold it again (and again) in his hometown?

For now, there are no definite plans for and NDCF 2020. But let’s reflect on this year’s festival with lots of great photos by our long-standing house photographer, Bill Staffeld, who, with his wife Andrea (who designed this year’s poster), came from Ithaca to be part of this historic 25th festival.

Photographs by Bill Staffeld


deep-strings-stephbraunStephan Braun & Deep Strings

Deep Strings is a duo featuring Anne-Christin Schwarz and Stephan Braun. They both hail from East Germany and met each other at the Musikgymnasium Belvedere in Weimar. They have been developing their own unique sound since 2000. With brilliant timing, amazing virtuosity, a beautiful voice and stunning new cello techniques, they astonish audiences.

The music of deep strings offers an outstanding mix of rhythm, melody and text in lyric pop-chansons, virtuoso jazz improvisations and Latin folk music. Their sources of inspiration are life, love and the love of life! While travelling with various ensembles through different countries and musical styles, they develop their musical ideas. Dive into a colorful cello world created by loops, sounds and percussive elements. In their concerts deep strings surprise with spontaneity and improvisation. Every show is a new journey.

deep strings are 1st prize winners of the Jazz and Blues Award Berlin 2004. They have performed at jazz and classical music festivals such as Drumcliffe Music Festival in Ireland, Festival Vivacello in Russia, Ostsee Jazz Festival, Jazzrallye Duesseldorf and Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany and they have worked together with different artists and ensembles, such as Rhani Krija (Sting), Camerata Hamburg, Gewandhauschor Leipzig, Vogler Quartet and the Amaryllis Quartet. They published their Debut-CD “Façon” in 2012 (NRW records).  www.deepstrings.com

Eric Wright & Mairi Rankin 

Eric&MairiEric Wright is a 2017 JUNO Award-winning cellist. Raised on pure Vermont air and inspired by his love for American Old Time and Irish music, he sets out to incorporate cello into new and traditional music in ways that haven’t been done before. Taking his innovative bowing techniques, chording styles, and ‘the chop’, to new levels, Eric has become a highly sought-after performer, accompanist, producer, session musician, and arranger for all types of folk styles.

Eric has performed and recorded with numerous bands including Ruth Moody, Trey Anastasio, Natalie MacMaster, The Fretless, John Reischman and many others.

Eric Wright joins Cape Breton fiddler Mairi Rankin in an inspired pairing. The duo has been collaborating on several music projects – the most recent being their critically acclaimed album “The Cabin Sessions,” recorded in Vermont and debuted at Celtic Colours in Cape Breton. Eric attended the Berklee College of Music where he studied folk styles, focusing on Old Time and Irish cello performance. Eric has since joined forces with the multi-award winning group, The Fretless, a contemporary traditional fusion group, and has been touring all over the world. https://ericwrightsound.com/

Mairi Rankin is one of the hugely influential Rankin Family – legends on the Canadian music scene . Born in Mabou, Nova Scotia, Mairi has been influenced by some of the best Cape Breton traditional musicians and instructors on the island. She has developed her own unique style by being immersed in such a rich musical culture. She has toured nationally and internationally as a solo artist, a sideman and is a member of the Cape Breton Celtic super group Beolach. She has performed with the Rankin Sisters, Unusual Suspects and Bruce Guthro to name but a few.

HelenGilletHelen Gillet

“Taking the Cello on a joy ride.”

Belgian-born Helen Gillet is both a singer-songwriter and a surrealist-archeologist focused on the worlds of synthesized sound and acoustic cello. Though Gillet had already begun to experiment with improvisational music prior to her arrival in New Orleans, she’s since flourished into one of the most unique, talented, and beloved artists in the Crescent City. She’s known for her eclectic palette – which includes avant-garde jazz, French chansons, funk, alternative rock, and the bohemian flair of the Velvet Underground. Gillet’s solo performance is known for its enigmatic quality as she fabricates each song with a true mastery of live looping technology.

Her training as an improviser began with North Indian Hindustani cellist Nancy Lesh (Kulkarni) in 1998, launching her into the worlds of free improvisation, jazz, funk, rock and song writing. Gillet has performed at a wide array of venues all over the world including New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Voodoo Festival, Copenhagen Jazz Festival and Hindsgavl Festival in Denmark, Nikodemuskirche Festival in Berlin, Mirano Oltre Festival in Italy, the Kennedy Center Center in Washington D.C. and MONA Mofo festival in Hobart, Tasmania and Darwin Music Festival in Australia.

Gillet has also recorded several film soundtracks and for musicians such as Wardell Querzergue, Arcade Fire, Kid Koala, Fermin, Cassandra Wilson, Dr. John, Marianne Faithful, Harold Brown and Bill Summers. Gillet has an extensive catalogue of self-produced albums over the past 10 years ranging from French Chansons to progressive jazz. Her latest release, Helkiase, premieres her latest songs. In addition to singing and playing cello w/ live loops, Gillet uses moog synthesizer, E.V.I., sampling of a 7” of General de Gaule, and TR-9 Roland drum machine on a few tracks. www.helengillet.com


Matthieu Saglio  

Matthieu SaglioIn his show “Cello Solo,” with his cello as his only means of expression, Matthieu Saglio creates a universe inhabited by an artistic vision that is rich and sensitive, as if dealing with musical northern lights. Cello Solo is the result of a long maturity; an accumulation of the multiple experiences of the musician. Matthieu Saglio combines classical tradition where Cello Solo’s roots are buried, with sounds and rhythms brought from his encounters across the world. In his compositions, you can hear resonating echoes from Western cathedrals and the souks of the Maghreb, to Latin-American tango and Iberian flamenco.

With an instantly recognizable sound and an original technique, Matthieu Saglio is one of the most exciting cellists of his generation. Classically trained (Conservatory of Rennes), Matthieu is one of the pioneers of the cello in flamenco with his trio Jerez-Texas, which has been touring around the world since 2002 (500 concerts in almost 30 countries). Saglio has many projects: solo, duo and numerous collaborations with other formations.

He has written scores for theater and television. Experimentation guides all of his projects, in a constant melding his instrument, his style and the musical traditions of other cultures. Matthieu is also an ambassador of the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation. http://www.matsag.com/

Rufus Cappadocia

rufusCellist Rufus Cappadocia is a multi-lingual musician, performer, composer and recording artist of incredible range and diversity. From the modalities of Middle Eastern, West African and pan-European folk forms to blues, rock and jazz along the way, adding elements American roots, Mediterranean textures, and Caribbean percussion for good measure, Cappadocia naturally embraces all music. “I’ve studied a lot of different musical vocabularies,” Rufus Cappadocia explains. “And I’ve played with musicians literally from around the world. But, in the end, music all comes down to a single source. “I guess you could say my whole life has been an attempt at getting to that place.”

A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Cappadocia picked up his first cello at the age of three, but to call him a prodigy is to miss the point. “I’ve always had a problematic relationship with my instrument,” he muses. “It’s been the essential means of expression for me, but the standard career paths it can lead you down left a lot to be desired for me.” Cappadocia realized early on that the strictures of classical music couldn’t come close to capturing the soaring sounds he heard in his head.

Cappadocia studied music in Montreal at McGill University. Leaving school, Cappadocia relocated to Europe, where his busking landed him in Southern France and, eventually, Spain, where he was first exposed to the mix of Romish and Arabic influences that reached their apotheosis in Flamenco. That search would subsequently lead him to New York where he has set up a more or less permanent base where he plays with as many different musicians as he can. Cappadocia played with Celtic pioneer Seamus Eagan; musical polymath Ross Daly, who was instrumental in introducing Cappadocia to Middle Eastern and Balkan music; guitarist David Fiuczynski, with whom he formed the Eastern Modal fusion group, Kif (which played at the New Directions Cello Festival in 1997). Add to this list such marquee names as Aretha Franklin, Odetta, Cheick Tidiane Seck, and Vernon Reid, former guitarist of Living Color – all of whom Cappadocia has worked with – and his reputation as a world-class artist with a world-spanning musical reach makes perfect sense. Cappadocia plays a five-string cello and an eight-string quartertone guitar, both of his own design. He performs regularly with the Bethany and Rufus Roots Quartet (USA/Niger/Haiti), Bonga Jean-Baptiste’s Vodou Drums of Haiti, Peter Bethany & Rufus (USA), Ilham featuring Gaida Hinawi (Syria), Vishal Vaid Ghazal Ensemble (India), Paradox Trio (USA/Macedonia) and Stellamara (USA) as well as his unaccompanied Solo Performances. 


Stephen Katz

Stephen KatzCellist and award-winning composer, Stephen Katz, has performed at Carnegie Hall and toured internationally as a soloist, and with the Paul Winter Consort and the Essex String Quartet. He has been featured on APM’s Performance Today broadcasts and is a NEA grant recipient. As co-founder of Seen & Heard with dancer/monologist BJ Goodwin, he literally danced with the cello while accompanying the dramas they played out on stage.

Katz has charted new territory for the rhythmic potential of the cello with the groundbreaking approach he calls Flying Pizzicato. The results are compositions that juggle two or three voices at a time, making music that lays grooves, weaves tunes, and lifts spirits. As a film composer, Katz has won a Jury Prize Gold Medal at the Park City Film Music Festival and scored films broadcast nationally on PBS/Independent Lens.

Stephen is also an improviser and composer in the Dance world. He plays regularly at New England dance jams, has collaborated and performed internationally with many Improvisational Dance luminaries, and has been a Visiting Artist at Amherst College Dept. of Theater & Dance. He has been a guest artist at the New Directions Cello Festival more times than anyone else. A native of San Francisco, Stephen received a Master of Music degree from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. www.stephenkatzmusic.com

Vincent Courtois

Vincent and LoL TrioVincent Courtois‘ classical training endowed him with technique, precision, and instrumental control. His curiosity and eclecticism led him to play with brilliant musicians from different backgrounds: Rita MitsoukoChristian EscoudéMichel PetruccianiMichel Portal, to name a few. With Sylvie CourvoisierDominique PifarelyJoëlle Léandreand Joachim Kühn, Courtois returns to his instrument’s classical aspect. His collaboration with Rabih Abou Kahlil frees him as a soloist. His collaboration with Louis Sclavis, with whom he shares a cinematic approach to music, endows him with a fine sense of melody.

Strengthened by his many experiences and influences, Vincent Courtois has developed a unique musical exploration. His creative process builds on musical relationships, the balance of personalities and energies, the impact of contrast, ideas of sound, images, incertitude and silence. Creating a musical form where freedom is paradoxically managed with utmost rigor and attentiveness, he gives collective creation a chance and each collaborator a unique position in a spirit of trust and mutual involvement.

Vincent will be performing with his Love of Life Trio which also features Robin Fincker, tenor sax and clarinet and Daniel Erdmann on tenor sax.