How the cello and flugelhorn are the perfect match for Ofra Harnoy and Mike Herriott


The flugelhorn and the cello aren’t the most common pairing, but Mike Herriott and Ofra Harnoy say they blend well and make beautiful music together. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

In the repertoire of classical music, there aren’t many duos for the cello and the flugelhorn.

But that hasn’t stopped husband and wife musicians Mike Herriott and Ofra Harnoy from pairing them together.

“They’re both very vocal instruments, and I think they do blend,” says Herriott.

“Not a lot of people would really naturally think about combining these two instruments.”

And that’s exactly what Herriott and Harnoy did, breaking with tradition and performing a piece by German baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann together.

“There were six canonic sonatas written by Telemann, and he wrote them as educational pieces for his students. One voice starts, then the second instrument plays the exact same music but one bar later, and the idea was that it would be played by like instruments,” Herriott said.

“You’ll hear two violins playing it, two flutes playing it, two oboes playing it, whatever. But we recorded it with two cellos on the album and we had some concerts coming up and she thought she’d like to play that music and I said, ‘I could do the other part on the flugelhorn, we’ll see how that fits.'”

There’s no hard and fast rules about how music is supposed to sound.– Mike Herriott

The pair experimented with the instrumentation — Herriott playing flugelhorn and Harnoy playing cello — and were pleased with the results.

“It sounded kinda cool to have it on two different instruments,” Herriott said.

WATCH | Ofra Harnoy and Mike Herriott perform the first movement of Telemann’s Canonic Sonata No. 1 as part of the Parkway Sessions:

“There’s no hard and fast rules about how music is supposed to sound, if you can make it sound beautiful, then [do] whatever it takes.”

Technology opens up new possibilities

The recording of the same Telemann sonata was done in the couple’s home studio, with Harnoy using multi-track recording. She said using the technology to record multiple parts has opened up new possibilities for her music.

Harnoy says multi-track recording was a big discovery that opened up new possibilities for her music. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

“That was the first experiment … I did both cello parts of the Telemann and it was amazing for me to suddenly see the interplay between the two voices, because obviously, I’ve always played with other people,” said Harnoy.

“This was kind of the discovery, this really works well, and then we developed that further.”

Harnoy said she has since done recordings as many as nine cello parts layered on top of each other — all without having to leave the house.

“It’s great, we can stay in our pyjamas all day and record whenever we feel like it,” she laughed.

WATCH | Ofra Harnoy and Mike Herriott describe their latest video, a collaboration with singer Kelly-Ann Evans on Ron Hynes’s Sonny’s Dream: 

Renowned cellist Ofra Harnoy has teamed up with singer Kelly-Ann Evans for an especially poignant cover of the Ron Hynes tune 5:56

Parkway Sessions: Discover more music

The Parkway Sessions are recorded live in Studio F in St. John’s, at our studios off Prince Philip Drive — also known as “the Parkway.” 

Tune into more Parkway Sessions, and other performances of music from Newfoundland and Labrador on our YouTube channel.

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