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Bach and Beer - cellist Steuart Pincombe


Cellist Steuart Pincombe aims to brew love for tradition with new 'Bach and Beer' program
by Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
July 08, 2014

Catchy name notwithstanding, "Bach and Beer" isn't actually about Bach or beer. It's about history.

Yes, he'll play Bach, and yes, there will be beer. But when baroque cellist Steuart Pincombe takes the stage Tuesday, July 15 at the BottleHouse in Cleveland Heights, his real aim will be to instill a love of tradition.

"The idea is to get people thinking," said Pincombe, by phone from Oberlin, where he studied and now teaches at the Credo music camp.

"I want people to think about the brew they're drinking and the music they're listening to, and to value the past."

As Pincombe himself is quick to point out, he's no expert on beer. Don't come to him for a lecture on brewing techniques or a dissertation on hops.

He is, however, an expert in the area of 17th- and 18th-century string music, and in interpreting scores whose composers have long since passed away.

Therein lies the foundation of "Bach and Beer," an hour-long chat with music. Just as craft brewers apply modern technology and methods to recipes centuries old, so will he demonstrate how performers today pass the music they play through contemporary filters.

"Some things aren't helpful, or even harmful," said Pincombe, noting bizarre ingredients in old beer and historical performance techniques that invite injury. "But there's also a lot that's really wonderful, if we just spend enough time sifting through."

There are, of course, more straightforward links between Bach and beer. Namely, the fact that Bach was paid at times in beer, and that in 18th-century Europe, beer was often safer to drink than water.

Both Bach and beer will be in ample supply at Pincombe's show, too. Throughout the program, patrons will be invited to taste beers (for purchase) illustrating the artist's message or related in taste to selections from Bach's six suites for solo cello.

A Hefeweisen, for instance, would go nicely with the Third Suite, Pincombe said, while an amber ale and light beer would best accompany Suites Two and Three.

"It really should feel like a casual environment," said Pincombe, a resident of The Hague. "With so many craft breweries popping up in the U.S., it's a lot easier to do this type of program now."

Brewing beer and playing Bach are pastimes literally hundreds of years old. So, too, the notion of combining them is far from new. Especially here in Northeast Ohio, where groups like Ensemble HD, Classical Revolution Cleveland, and ChamberFest Cleveland have scored huge hits doing exactly that.

Still, with "Bach and Beer," Pincombe may be on to something. As craft beers gain in popularity, so may a kind of chamber musical Renaissance be brewing.

With traditional concerts, "I don't like the lack of connection with an audience," Pincombe said. "I don't want to just fill up a bunch of seats. I want to play for people, where they already are. That's my whole approach in general."

Steuart Pincombe
Quickly establishing himself as one of the leading early/new music performers in The Netherlands, Steuart performs regularly as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral performer across North America and Europe.
Steuart Pincombe, holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he studied modern cello with Darrett Adkins and baroque cello and viola da gamba with Catharina Meints. Mr. Pincombe has appeared in solo and chamber music performances at leading American and European venues and festivals, including Boston Early Music Festival, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, MAfestival - Bruges, Utrecht Oudemuziek, Bach Festival Dordrecht, Mozart Festival Augsburg, and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.

His appearances as soloist with orchestra include repeated performances with such orchestras as the Springfield Missouri Symphony, The Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble, Apollo's Fire: The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, and most recently the Wallfisch Band (UK). He has independently released two CDs of the complete Bach suites for solo cello and has recorded for the Centaur label and Channel Classics. In addition to his many solo projects, he is currently a baroque cellist in the Holland Baroque Society (NL), Ensemble Philidor (FR), Ensemble Ausonia (BE), Apollo's Fire (US), The Wallfisch Band (UK), and modern cellist of Oerknal! - a contemporary music ensemble based in The Netherlands.

As a teacher, Mr. Pincombe has given technique classes and master classes at such American institutions as Biola University, Gordon College, University of California Domingez Hills, Missouri State University (MSU) and the Westchester Conservatory; and guest lectures at MSU, Oral Roberts University, and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He has been on the cello and chamber music faculty at the Credo Chamber Music Festival since 2009.

Mr. Pincombe plays a rare, original Carlo Antonio Testore baroque cello from 1727 on loan from the Jumpstart Jr. Foundation in Amsterdam and an anonymous, 18th century Flemish cello on loan from the collection of The Netherlands Musical Instrument Foundation. He and his wife Michelle reside in The Hague, The Netherlands.