Unusual steel cello, viola at Oasis of Music

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LEWISTON — A musical improvisation between viola and steel cello will be featured Wednesday at the Oasis of Music presentation at Trinity Church, 247 Bates St.
 
The performance is scheduled for 12:30 to 1 p.m.
 
The steel cello is the invention of Bob Rutman, who developed the instrument in Cambridge, Mass., in the 1970s, shortly before he moved to his current home in Germany.
 
Intrigued by its sound and look, Michael Libby, an artist, clown, hot-air balloonist and addictions counselor living in Lewiston, made his steel cello after studying pictures of examples found on the Internet. He regularly features its sounds and striking presence at many of his showings and artist talks.
 
Violist Greg Boardman, in his search for the strongest natural resonance in the steel cello, tunes his viola down considerably into an open tuning to maximize on the overtones the bowed cable on the cello may produce in the vibrant space of Trinity Church.
 
The ensuing improvisation, Boardman said, “will depend on many unforeseeable factors, including what fancies from my interests in classical and world folk music are stimulated by the unpredictable sounds of the steel cello’s drone, not to mention the energy the musicians and concert attendees bring with them.”
 
Admission to the Oasis of Music is free.

Greg Boardman, left, and Michael Libby.

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