Last week my parents and I went on an adventure to see The Piano Guys in concert. The concert was in Buffalo (nothing in my neck of the woods in South-Western Ontario this year) so the adventure consisted of crossing the border and venturing into unknown territory. In the dark. While it was raining. Dark, rainy navigation is always so much more difficult when you’re headed to a completely new place in a different country. But we successfully made it to our destination in plenty of time for the start of the concert. We also made it home again. But let’s get on to the concert (since that was, after all the point of the trip).
The concert was fantastic. It was better even than I thought it would be. The music was, as expected, brilliant and the “other stuff” (explanations of songs, commentary/interaction in between songs etc.) was also fantastic. They did a really good job interacting with the audience and explaining some of the stories behind their formation and different songs. I think one of my favourite parts of the “other stuff” was when Steve Nelson introduced us to the three cellos he’d brought along with him (out of the 15 that he owns).
Now, if you’ve never heard of The Piano Guys you’re probably wondering why there were cellos. The Piano Guys is not a group of piano players. The group consists of one pianist/songwriter, one cellist/songwriter, one music producer/songwriter, and one producer/videographer. The name came from the name of the store one of the guys owned before Steve Nelson joined in with cello. For a little bit more background, the group got it’s start making YouTube music videos and they became a YouTube sensation and then were given a record deal. They make beautiful music, often composed of mash ups between classical music and pop hits, and they pair them with amazing videos. (One video includes a piano being air lifted to the filming location, for instance). They also play straight arrangements of some pop songs that become even more amazing when you hear them played on cello and piano. <Megra12 Note: The Pianist is every bit as amazing of a musician as the cellist and I loved every part of his performance, but I focus more on the cellist in this post because Cello has long been one of my favourite instruments. I just wanted to make this point clear – the pianist is probably one of the best I’ve ever heard and he deserves just as much praise.>
One of the unique things about the group is, since they began by making music videos, they can layer up parts. By this I mean that, though there is one cellist, sometimes he plays multiple cello lines that are then layered over one another (In one video he plays a song that was written for 12 cellists and a kickdrum and he plays it all by himself). I was really curious how they were going to deal with this complication in the live show (he may be good but even he can only play one cello at a time). This is where the audio and sound guys deserve props because when necessary they had background tracks of the other cello lines playing at the same time as the Nelson and Jon Schmidt (the pianist) were playing their parts live. For some songs they even played the music videos in the background. Every time they were perfectly in sync with the live performance.
Remember how I said that you can’t play more than one cello line at a time. Yeah, I was wrong. Nelson has an electric cello and a loop pedal. For one song he laid down about 7-10 tracks before they really got started playing (don’t get me wrong this part was still beautiful to listen to) and then they played with all the other tracks in the background. It was pretty amazing. They are both fantastic players and it is obvious that they absolutely love playing. As a side note – did I mention that Nelson names all of his cellos and gives them a bit of a back-story (favourite colours, marital status, musical influences, hobbies etc)? I mean, really, how could you not enjoy a cellist who has makes up stories for his cellos? Fantastic.
If you haven’t heard of The Piano Guys before, you should definitely check them out (I’ve include links to a couple of my favourites but there are so many other amazing pieces). If you have heard of them, let me know your favourite song they play in the comments!
(This last one they didn’t actually play at the concert, but it’s lots of fun and one of my faves.)
“The artist must forget the audience,
forget the critics, forget the technique, forget everything but love for the music.
Then, the music speaks through the performance,
and the performer and the listener will walk together
with the soul of the composer, and with
God.” — Mstislav Rosropovich