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Meet the Musician – Yuri Hooker

News 2021-02-10

Meet the Musician – Yuri Hooker

WSO Principal Cellist Yuri Hooker has made a name for himself as both an extraordinary performer and teacher. His frequent solo appearances have met with critical and audience acclaim.

See him featured as a soloist this coming Saturday (Feb 13/2021) in the WSO’s Tchaikovsky & Dvořák livestream concert. Get all the details HERE.

Photo by Mark Rash

 

As we all continue to navigate this pandemic, what have you discovered about yourself?

That I enjoy being alone far more than is good for me.

 

Can you tell us about your cello?

My cello was specially made for me 16 years ago by Chris Dungey, a luthier in Colorado who even selected and cut down the spruce tree he used to build it. (He has only had to cut down 2 trees in his long career!)

 

What other instrument do you think you might have fallen in love with if it wasn’t for the cello?

 I love so many different instruments, and my teacher always encouraged his students never to try and make a “cello” sound, but rather always to attempt to imitate other instruments (and of course, singers) – so that’s what I try to do. But if I was pressed, I’d say I am especially drawn to the oboe and English horn.

 

Is there a particular piece of music or artist that cemented the cello for you?

I gravitate towards the great, though lesser known, 20th giants of the cello like Leonard Rose (who I heard live when I was five, a performance which inspired me to choose the cello) & Gregor Piatigorsky.

 

Teaching cello is a very large part of your life. Your students are regularly recognized locally and nationally with awards and scholarships. You’re also a part of the Rosamunde Summer Music Academy for young string players. What does this aspect bring to your playing and love of music?

I have been very fortunate to have had some excellent teachers, who inspired me not only to play my best, but also to follow in their footsteps and to teach others. Still, after having taught seriously now for over 20 years, I believe that I have learned at least as much about how to play well from teaching as I have from my own formal teachers, though I will be forever grateful for the considerable knowledge that they shared with me. I see my teaching as inseparable from my playing: I could not perform if I didn’t teach (although I hope I will still have something to offer as a teacher even after I stop playing!)

 

Can you tell us a bit about the works you’ll be performing in the February 13 Tchaikovsky & Dvorak concert?

I have always dearly loved Tchaikovsky’s noble and tender Andante cantabile when I’ve played it in in its original version for string quartet, and have been dying to play this arrangement of it, so I am grateful for the opportunity. Taneyev’s Canzone is a new discovery for me, and it has become one of my new favourites! It has a world-weary elegance that reminds me a lot of the mood of shows like Downton Abbey. There’s something about how it looks backward with eager longing and forward with regret that deeply resonates with me. Thank you, Maestro Raiskin, for making the introduction!

 

What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

Although I have never tackled anyone, been able to throw a spiral, or played on any kind of organized team, when I was in elementary school I was convinced that I was going to play professional football for the BC Lions.

 

Background Check:

Principal cellist of the WSO, Yuri Hooker is well-known for his passionate and soulful interpretations of a wide range of repertoire. His frequent solo appearances have met with critical and audience acclaim. An avid chamber musician, Yuri also appears regularly with the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society and Groundswell. Yuri holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Brandon University, which he followed with graduate studies under Janos Starker at Indiana University.

 

Hometown:

Calgary, AB (but I always feel a lump in my throat whenever I’m in the Kootenays, near my birthplace of Nelson, BC.)

 

Favourite thing about Winnipeg:

The gracious, down-to-earth people.

 

Your go to snack:

This time of year, I adore the big, juicy navel oranges that we get in the grocery store. Meredith Johnson and I will often commiserate over one in my dressing room (obviously, pre-COVID), indulging our inner J. Alfred Prufrock (“…do I dare to eat a peach?”)

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