Skip von Kuske has spent many days and nights on the road this summer so The Portland Playlist was extremely grateful that he had a brief overnight in Portland which allowed him to come on the show. Skip is a multi-faceted musician skilled at several string instruments. While he’s adept at guitar, bass, and mandolin, it’s the cello that has been his primary instrument since he was 8 years old.
By age 19, he performed in Michigan symphonies, and since then has performed with The Portland Cello Project, Vagabond Opera, Groovy Wallpaper, Will West & The Friendly Strangers, and his solo project, Cellotronik, as well as providing music for countless other bands and films. “His open-mindedness, musical sensibility, technical ability, piercing emotion, and improvisational skills have made him one of the most sought after cellists in the Northwest.” Oregon Arts Watch referred to him as “one of Oregon’s finest and most adventurous musicians.”
His solo project is “Cellotronik”, in which he incorporates the cello, guitar, mandolin, vocals, software instruments and live looping. In this project, he performs his original material as well as some terrific renditions of well known covers, like the popular one to Zeppelin’s, “Kashmir.” This rendition is so well liked that the Facebook Live video taken in the studio has been viewed just under 1600 times since Wednesday’s show.
The first hour covered Skip’s music influences which spanned his childhood to adulthood and included America, Moody Blues, the Beatles, Poolside, Pink Floyd, Yo-Yo Ma, Rush, and Georgio by Moroder. America’s “Horse with No Name” evokes childhood memories of the horses he grew up with and and rode from the age of 3, and it was the first song he learned to play on the guitar. The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” was the first one he remembers for that “in your face, here’s the cello,” part and its vivid storytelling. He bought Poolside’s “Harvest Moon” as soon as he heard it and love how they combined their trance-like, hypnotic beat with the folky one of Neil Young’s.
The second hour covered the recorded music off his latest album, “Malheur: Seasons of Change,” and live performance. The documentary, by filmmakers Diantha and Jan Knott, was made over the course of 10 years to showcase the natural beauty of the Malheur refuge, set against Skip’s music score. He feels “it captures my work as an improviser and demonstrates the possibilities of looping, while also capturing the vast array of bird song and natural sounds of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.” The CD and DVD of the music and film is available at Music Millenium. The album covers the four seasons beginning with Winter. It is a beautiful body of work, one that completely captures a sense of the four seasons. Watching the DVD gives you more of an appreciation for Skip’s ability to capture the sounds and beauty of this wildlife refuge.
In July, Skip organized a CD release and screening of the Malheur film at Alberta Rose Theatre, with a new purpose. During the film screening, he created “live accompaniment to the majestic wide open spaces of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the sights and sounds of its landscape and fauna.” It was a solid hour of reflection with an entirely new music soundtrack for it called Requiem of Solace. This special evening was dedicated to his friend, Portland’s beloved local promoter, Lisa Lepine, who passed away unexpectedly after a short battle with cancer. Proceeds went to the newly created, Lisa Lepine Musicians Relief Fund, which will provide grants to Jeremy Wilson Foundation recipients who also want to enhance their recovery with additional healing practices and methods such as massage, reiki, acupuncture and sound healing. There is another event, Songs for Lisa, to benefit the fund on August 11, 7-9 p.m. at McMenamins Edgefield’s, the Little Red Shed.
Since 2005, Skip has performed every Monday night, 7-9 p.m., at the Edgefield Winery and Tasting Room, a gig launched for him by Lisa Lepine. This Monday, 8/8, he will be joined by acclaimed violinist, Kathryn Claire. September brings the Juniper Jam, a tour and show with the Portland Cello Project and MarchFourth in Wisconsin.
Whether he is on an orchestral stage, venue like the Doug Fir, or an intimate setting like that at Edgefield Winery, Skip von Kuske will charm you with the classics and captivate you with rock tunes, in his own personal style, changing your opinion of what a cello should sound like. You will leave the show thankful to have been there to witness such a unique talent.
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