Yo-Yo Ma and Joe Johnson premiere Matt Walker’s “Yo-Yo Joe” as encore in Toronto Symphony concert

Thursday, May 31, 2012 – Toronto, ON

About six weeks ago, Joe Johnson, principal cellist of the Toronto Symphony, suggested to Matt that he write a piece for two cellos. The occasion? “Yo-Yo Ma is playing Elgar concerto with Toronto at the end of May,” Joe said. “He and I like to play an encore together, some kind of interesting, fun cello duo.”

Matt got to work and produced “Yo-Yo Joe” within a week or so, and sent it to Joe. It’s a Latin jazz set interspersed with blues and swing, something that infuses most of Matt’s music.

[See the video HERE]

Afterwards, Joe provided a blow-by-blow account of the performance. “We launched into the opening, super slow and rubato, very fun. When the Latin section started, the audience started cheering and clapping with the beat for a while. When we got to the Swing section, there were more hoots; we were both stomping our feet on the ground, just having a blast. On the final note, the audience started going nuts, and then when we finished it was like bedlam. People loved it.”

Joe added that it was a thrill to perform with Yo-Yo Ma: “Getting to play this piece with my idol in front of 2100 people was incredible.”

Matt was similarly humbled: “It is a privilege to have my piece premiered by such fantastic musicians. Everyone knows how great Yo-Yo Ma is; and Joe is one of the very finest cellists in the business right now, both as an orchestral leader and as a solo artist.” (Johnson recently released a CD of sonatas by Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich with pianist Victor Asuncion.)

“I wrote ‘Yo-Yo Joe’ for these specific cellists, as the name implies,” Matt added. “And I can’t think of a better pair of cellists to play this work, and I’m a cellist myself.”