Cellist Maya Beiser captivates at Big Ears Festival

Maya Beiser embodied the avant-garde spirit of the festival in a breathtaking show at the Bijou Theatre Saturday morning. The world-renowned “cello diva” came on stage about 15 minutes late, but to no avail drew the nearly full-house audience to complete silence. Wearing all black leather and heels, she took a seat on the stage and began churning out an original piece. The acoustics of the Bijou alone could have made the show worthwhile, but as her set progressed, so did its appeal.

The second piece began with a call for Beiser’s backing band. The screen behind her lit up with six different videos of herself playing different parts of the next piece while she played along live in front of them. The piece itself seemed to jump time signatures with every measure.

Following that was one of my favorite pieces at Big Ears all together. Beiser composed an original cello cover of “Heroin,” arguably one of the best songs by The Velvet Underground. Juxtaposed with the original or any demos of the song, the chorus beginning with “I guess I just don’t know” was drawn out, giving an even darker tone to the piece, which I didn’t think was possible. As the crowd thinned out to head to other shows, the performance became increasingly intimate and this song solidified the experimental side of musical intelligence captured at Big Ears.

Maya Beiser performs at The Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee, during Big Ears Festival, April 2, 2016.

Maya Beiser performs at The Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee, during Big Ears Festival, April 2, 2016.

 

Beiser finished up and seemed irritated by people leaving the theatre, but still continued her set gracefully.

Another notable piece from the set was a rendition of a three-part movement based loosely on space. The first concept was based on telescope being installed into The Vatican, the second was about planetary alignment in conjunction with musical harmony and the third about a 1903 film about the Resurrection of Christ.

The movement began slow and crescendo-ed into an emotive and taxing piece. The three concepts were displayed through old film on the screen behind Beiser. Her body movements and the music she played synced perfectly with the moving images of planets and people.

Safe to say, this was one of my favorite performances at Big Ears. Though the crowd was about half the size it was at the beginning, the set was not too lengthy that it diminished its artistic value. This is an artist I never would have peaked an interest in unless experiencing this performance in such an impactful manner.

Maya Beiser performs at The Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee, during Big Ears Festival, April 2, 2016.

Maya Beiser performs at The Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee, during Big Ears Festival, April 2, 2016.

 

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To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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