Two longtime Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra principals, Yuri Hooker and Meredith Johnson, are part of the backbone of the orchestra.  

Cello and double bass are foundational elements in the symphony’s sound though it isn’t often that we hear just the two without their colleagues, and certainly rarer still to hear them without any of their smaller string siblings.  


“It’s not unique but it’s rare,” says double bassist Meredith Johnson about the pairing of instruments.  

Having been involved with several commissions and projects spearheading new works for his instrument, this latest initiative has Johnson performing alongside his WSO colleague and dear friend, Yuri Hooker.  

“I knew I wanted Michael (Oesterle) to write the piece... It was Yuri’s idea to say ‘how do you feel about having him write a cello/bass duo?’” says Johnson.  

“Purely for selfish reasons,” adds a joking Hooker, who has admired Oesterle’s for years.  

The music is often familiar on first blush yet fresh, according to Hooker noting the composer’s “imagination and the conception of rhythm.”  

“He’s really one of my favourite composers, ever” he says.  

A title evocative of nineteenth century Victorian living rooms, the resulting Parlour Games – a series of 12 miniatures for cello and double bass – is anything but drab and dark. On the contrary, they are works filled with play and excitement. Not unlike a box of chocolates or a deck of cards: you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.  

“It’s extraordinarily creative,” says Johnson. “Even some of the simplest sounding music, there’s so much there.”  

First performed at the Cornish Library in early January, the duo will share the work with a wider audience as part of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Winnipeg New Music Festival “Music for Airports” concert at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada on Sunday, January 29.

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