"FRIDAYS with FRIENDS"

Cynthia Black
Cynthia Black, who performs with ABS as both a violinist and a violist, made her ABS debut in May 2015 when she shared the stage with Elizabeth Blumenstock in sparkling performances of Bach’s rousing Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor. She had recently come to ABS through our Academy, and had already performed with leading American Baroque ensembles, but as ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas recalls, “after Cynthia and Elizabeth really lit up the stage in those concerts, it was clear to all of us that Cynthia is a terrifically talented performer, able to bring astonishing bravura to all of her performances.”

She has since returned to ABS in several Gala and “ABS Exclusives” concerts, multiple performances of “ Messiah in Grace Cathedral,” two ABS recordings (Bach’s Orchestral Suites and Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen’s solo CD), and in both Bach Passion settings. More recently, she was a soloist in our 30th Anniversary Season’s program of Bach’s Brandenburgs and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins.
After completing undergraduate and graduate studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, she completed a D.M.A. at Case Western Reserve University where her doctoral theses focused on the practices of ornamentation and improvisation in Classical string chamber music and the exploration of unknown scordatura practices of late 17th-century Italy. (You'll read and hear more about that below!) The recipient of honors as well as acclamations, she was granted the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Alumni Association award, the Robert Vernon Prize in Viola, and the Young Master Award from the Texas Commission on the Arts.

An avid fan of canoeing and cooking, Cynthia shares with us her recent forays into home remodeling and a special synthesis of her performance of a transcribed lute sonata superimposed over a thoughtfully meticulous (even quite Zen-like) preparation of roasted green tea ice cream!

Get started by clicking on the video:
Q: Would you tell us something about your pre-ABS life that most of us don’t know?

Despite my lack of an accent, I was born and raised in Texas!

Q: How have you coped with sheltering-in-place?

It’s been a tough couple of months, and I am anxious about what the future holds for all of us. I normally measure the passing of time with my weekly concert schedule which is typically very busy during the spring and into the summer. I am continually astounded by how much time has already passed and that it is already July. It will be a truly joyful moment to share and make music with my friends again.

Like so many other people, my heart is heavy with sadness for how our country has treated our fellow Black Americans. This time has given me a real opportunity to think about who I am and how I can help put an end to what continues to be a shameful part of our country’s history. I should have reflected on this sooner and hope that real change is imminent. 

Beside all of that, I feel lucky to have a small studio of students that I continue to teach online. Learning how to be an effective teacher through our computer screens is certainly a challenge, but these kiddos make me laugh and smile. My husband Dominic, also seen playing trumpet with ABS, and I have been keeping ourselves busy with a long list of home improvement projects as well. Since the middle of March, we have refinished and hung seven doors throughout the house, built raised garden beds outside, and updated a linen closet. Dominic has built some beautiful furniture for the house as well, including a bookcase that he made to fit all of our oversized scores!

Q: So many musical performances have been canceled recently, but have you been able to take on any new musical projects? Have you delved into repertory that you hadn’t had time to work on before?

Like many of my colleagues, I fantasize about what it would be like to play a different instrument. For me, I often admired the lute for its intimate quality and ability to both play a melody and accompaniment. I have long enjoyed and listened to the dozens of lute sonatas by Sylvius Leopold Weiss. During this time, I “turned” my viola into a lute by retuning the strings to Bb-F-D-G and have been slowly transcribing one of them into a reimagined piece for scordatura viola.
Q: You have many other strong interests. Have the past months given you a chance to enjoy those other pursuits?

As my friends know, I love cooking and eating! I have hand-wrapped a few hundred gyoza and churned several batches of ice cream, among other things. I made a little video of myself making hojicha (roasted green tea) ice cream with a recording of the opening movements of Weiss’s lute sonata I have been practicing. It is purposely not a recreation of the concert experience, nor a CD. It is intimate and personal without the formality of a concert hall— it’s how I’ve been enjoying music these days. I love practicing while Dominic is hammering and planing away in the workshop, or vice versa, being in the kitchen while he practices trumpet. I hope you feel as though you’re in the kitchen with me enjoying both music and food!

Q: Our audiences love you and your performances. And we’re so happy that you love to be with us at ABS. Are there any standout reasons why you look forward to your future projects with ABS?

It is my colleagues and the commitment to the music at ABS that I always look forward to. Jeffrey’s engagement with the music is genuine, and I have a tremendous respect for that and how it shows in every ABS performance. 
The priority lies in communicating with listeners, and while it sounds simple, it is the core of what we all aim to do as performers. This is what brings music to life.
Making Hojicha with Cynthia Black and Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1687–1750) 

I. Prelude and II. Entrée from Sonata 23 in B-Flat Major
Cynthia Black, baroque viola
Arranged for scordatura viola by Cynthia Black
Be well and stay well!
from all of us at ABS
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