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Classical 101

New Recording By UCelli Honors 'Four Women' Who Fought For Social Justice

The new Four Women album by Columbus cello quartet UCelli
The new Four Women album by Columbus cello quartet UCelli

A new recording for the Columbus-based cello quartet UCelli spotlights the accomplishments of four historic women. 

UCelli's new album Four Women is Mark Lomax II's musical biography of four black women who fought for social justice and equal rights. It pays tribute Nzinga, Queen of Angola (1583-1663) Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862-1931) Angela Davis (born 1944) and Cimada Ngozi Adichie.

Back in the (far off) day, a good way to annoy your parents was to sport any number of buttons on your coat along the lines of "Impeach Nixon" or "Free Angela Davis." Annoying your parents was a lot safer in those long ago pre- cell phone and pre- internet days.

Davis, a fiery political scientist in California is part of a celebration of Four Women, composed by Mark Lomax II, and played by the Columbus Cello Quartet UCelli on their new recording.

UCelli, The Columbus Cello Quartet makes thrilling music with four accomplised musicians. Each of these artists, Pei-An Chao, Mary Davis, Cora Kuyvenhoven and Wendy Morton contribute greatly to the musical quality of life in central Ohio.  
The quartet maintains a busy schedule of performance, teaching and recording. They are part of Classical 101’s Music in Mid-Ohio family, which airs Sundays at 1pm.

I was happy to learn that UCelli convenes an annual summer camp for cellist at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Upper Arlington.  As a quartet, UCelli is cultivating significant new music, teaching kids and proving themselves vastly entertaining.

Of those four women featured on this new  recording, it was Davis I heard speak in Boston back in the early 1970s (sorry Mom and Dad).  She was at that time a fiery political scientist who had embraced Communism, the Soledad Brothers, the Black Power Movement, and who had gone to prison.

Lomax’s portrait of Davis gives the rage subtly and skillfully combines discontent with lyricism. It is music you want to keep on keeping on, as Dr. Davis does today.


Lomax's Portrait of Wells Barnett had me scurrying to Wikipedia to find out more about her. There’s a playfulness to this music, a syncopation that only highlights the determination of this pre Rosa Parks freedom fighter.

If you want to push you’re your own musical envelope of listening, I can think of no better recording than this, with music by the supremely gifted Lomax, and Refractions by Jazz Royalty, the late David Baker.

Baker founded the Jazz Program at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. An auto accident in 1953 ended Baker’s career as a trombonist. He switched to cello, composition, conducting and teaching. Baker was active in the forefront of the jazz world until his death at 85 in 2016.

UCelli offers a work by Baker called Refractions, originally intended for Janos Starker. Baker went on to adapt this work for string orchestra, for cello octet and finally for UCelli.

In the notes accompanying this recording, David Baker writes, “Like all of my large classical works, Refractions is romantic in nature, yet influenced by my background as an African-American and a jazz musician. Both the title and the titles of the three movements, Crescent, Crepuscule, and Convergence…are intended to be descriptive as well as euphonious.”

I ready for UCelli’s next recordings, and further concerts. If I could play the cello-or anything, I’d go to UCelli camp. Send your kids! 

For more information about UCelli, and to purchase this recording, go to ucelli.org