Mar 26, 2021

Behind our Bach Cello Suite Musik in Motion Video

Musik in Motion is a free series of collaborative videos, featuring local artists of diverse art forms, and produced by Tafelmusik and Puncture Design.

In keeping with Tafelmusik’s commitment to exploring “baroque and beyond,” we invited five creative partners to interpret music that is an essential part of Tafelmusik’s signature repertoire. The second video in this series features Tafelmusik’s very own Keiran Campbell, performing Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prelude, at our home base of Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

In this interview, get to know a little bit more about Keiran’s relationship with this project, and this piece of music.

A close of cellist Keiran Campbell performing on a stage, wearing a black suite and white shirt.
Cellist Keiran Campbell performing with Tafelmusik, February 2020. Photo by Dahlia Katz

Our Musik in Motion series invited five local, creative artists of multiple disciplines to interpret music that is an essential part of Tafelmusik’s signature repertoire. How did it feel to be involved in a video project like this? Have you participated in a filmed project like this before?

It was extremely enjoyable, and I was happy to be included in this lineup of interesting and inspiring artists. I’ve done quite a few videos with multiple camera angles and that sort of thing (especially this past season, with our digital concerts), but I’d have to say that playing while a camera person zoomed around me on a Segway was definitely a first.

In this video, you are shown performing Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1 in G Major, Prelude—colloquially known as “that famous cello piece”.  What is your relationship with this piece, your feelings about it? Can you speak a little about other times, or scenarios, in which you’ve performed it?

The G Major Prelude is one of my favourite pieces to perform, and it is one of those rare pieces that is just as rewarding to play for an audience as it is to play alone in my practice space.  

I begged my first teacher to let me start learning it when I was around 10, and I still have the music she gave me somewhere—it’s completely full of markings, and the page corners are absolutely filthy from years of page-turning. I’ve since played it many, many times, and in many places: from a park bench in Central Park where I used to busk for extra cash as an undergrad at Juilliard; to a medieval town jail cell in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Bavaria; to a gorgeous church in Bolivia that could only be reached by driving one hundred miles on an extremely bumpy dirt road.

It’s a piece that grows with you, and I always hope that I play it differently the next time around!

You are no stranger to our main stage, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre—but how did it feel to perform solo, to an empty hall, for this project? Was it cathartic, emotional, something else?

Maybe this is strange for a musician to say, but I absolutely adore playing in empty halls. There’s something really beautiful about playing in a church or concert hall that is absolutely still and quiet, and sometimes I like to think about all the people who have performed there before me. And, to be totally honest, it’s also really fun to play loudly, and to try to fill up the space with sound.  I would say it was a cathartic experience!

You’ve been performing with Tafelmusik throughout the pandemic and our adaptations, including our first concert series Tafelmusik at Home, and our Fall and Winter Digital Seasons. How else have you been keeping busy and performing throughout this? Are you performing online, teaching remotely?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I did quite a few online concerts. Actually, one of the first organizations to move online was the wonderful Pocket Concerts series, run by Rory McLeod and Emily Rho in Toronto. I had been scheduled to perform the second and third Bach Suites on their series in March 2020, and suddenly I found myself playing them on a laptop for a very warm and supportive online audience.

After this, I played a lot of concerts with my fiancée, Chloe, a fantastic violinist who usually lives in New York but was here with me in Toronto for most of the pandemic last year. Once the fall and winter came, I was able to record two short solo recitals in halls: one as a guest at Phoebe Carrai’s Baroque Cello Bootcamp, and another for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in California.

Besides this, I’ve been able to do some online teaching and masterclasses, and I’ve also been carving a lot of violin scrolls as practice for the violin I’m building under the tutelage of the maker of my cello, Timothy Johnson. (I think I’ve finally got one that looks halfway decent!)

Our Spring Digital Season is about to start, featuring two concerts: Bach Brandenburg Concertos and Spotlight 15. Of these concerts, what repertoire are you most excited to perform, and most excited for our audience to hear?

Definitely the Bach! Both programs feature wonderful repertoire, and Spotlight 15 has many pieces that might be fairly new to our audience.  

However, the Brandenburg Concerti have a special place in my heart, and I don’t think I’ve ever performed nos. 4 or 6 before. Bach’s Brandenburgs and Orchestral Suites contain some of the most joyful music he ever wrote, so I am very excited to record these soon!

Our Musik in Motion series is multi-disciplinary, and reflects visual art, dance, and more. What artists—musical or otherwise—are you inspired by?

One of the best things about life is having so many different kinds of art (and so many personalities within those art forms) available to appreciate and enjoy.

I love Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie for their unstoppable energy, endless creativity, and ability to always get me out of a bad mood; violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja for her totally unique, deeply thought out, and sometimes completely zany interpretations of classical music; Pablo Neruda for his striking poetry that, for me, often creates such vivid images of nature; and Nicolo Amati, whose violins are some of the most stunningly balanced and geometrically perfect instruments ever created.

Do you have any non-Tafelmusik projects or concerts coming up, which we should know about?

After having almost all of my work outside of Tafelmusik cancelled last year, I’m happy to say that it seems like things are slowly coming back. While I can’t give any details yet because most seasons haven’t been announced, I’m looking forward to playing at a few summer festivals in the United States, as well as a concerto appearance in California next fall—pending whatever happens with this virus, of course!

Watch Bach Cello Suite no. 1 in G Major, Prelude with Keiran Campbell: Musik in Motion below.

Musik in Motion
Keiran Campbell
Cello Suites
J.S Bach