courtesy photoMaya Beiser presents the world premiere of “All Vows” in San Francisco this week.

courtesy photoMaya Beiser presents the world premiere of “All Vows” in San Francisco this week.

Cellist Maya Beiser finds spirituality in music

Part musician, part shaman, incomparable cellist Maya Beiser explores the dichotomy between the physical, external world and humans’ secret selves.

Joined by Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, bassist Jherek Bischoff and experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison, she premieres her newest production, “All Vows,” at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this week.

“It’s a big-themed concert about all these things that matter to me,” she says. “I always try to construct my concerts around what I find most relevant in this time and moment, and then take my listeners with me on that journey. What it’s ultimately about is that music allows us the ability to express ourselves and be real.”

“All Vows” is also another step in a life journey of a woman who was raised in a small Israeli kibbutz by Argentine and French parents dedicated to changing the world. Everyone in the kibbutz played an instrument; little Maya soon fell in love with the human quality of the cello’s voice. Equally important to her was the fact that it was big and served as a “kind of protective device from the world.”

Surrounded by all kinds of music — from classical and Jacques Brel to Arabic — Beiser soon found herself uneasy with the strictness of classical culture.

“I remember the first time that I heard Janis Joplin on record, and it blew my mind away,” she says. “I just couldn’t get over the raw emotion, and the way she put herself out there. I became obsessed with her, and started to listen to all of her music. That led me to blues and rock, and the realization that music for me is not just the classical music of the past. I wanted to do something different with my cello, and find the way to connect all these dots for me and my audience … by reinventing the whole concert experience.”

Some of Beiser’s influences will surface in the first half of the evening, which she calls a “carefully curated collection of ‘uncovers’” crafted by Evan Ziporyn. The lineup includes Beiser’s original take on Joplin’s “Summertime” and other rock tunes; post-classical composer David T. Little’s “Hellhound,” based on the blues of Robert Johnson; another “uncover” of music by Howlin’ Wolf; and original compositions.

The second half includes Muslim Arab-American Mohammed Fairouz’s original “Kol Nidrei” for cello and prerecorded sounds (which Beiser calls “a potent statement on why people have to stop shooting at each other and make music together”), and Michael Gordon’s “All Vows,” supported by Morrison’s film.

“The evening goes deep into my spiritual life and the idea that a concert is a spiritual experience,” Beiser says. “The cliche, ‘Music is my religion,’ is actually true for me.”


Maya Beiser’s All Vows

Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, 701 Mission St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Tickets: $25 to $35

Contact: (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.orgAll VowsartscelloClassical Music & OperaMaya Beiser

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Organizer Jas Florentino, left, explains the figures which represent 350 kidnapped Africans first sold as slaves in the United States in 1619 in sculptor Dana King’s “Monumental Reckoning.” The installation is in the space of the former Francis Scott Key monument in Golden Gate Park. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What a reparations program would look like in The City

‘If there’s any place we can do it, it’s San Francisco’

Officer Joel Babbs at a protest outside the Hall of Justice in 2017 (Bay City News file photo)
The strange and troubling story of Joel Babbs: What it tells us about the SFPD

The bizarre and troubling career of a whistle-blowing San Francisco police officer… Continue reading

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a COVID-19 update at the City College of San Francisco mass vaccination site in April. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Gavin Newsom under COVID: The governor dishes on his pandemic life

By Emily Hoeven CalMatters It was strange, after 15 months of watching… Continue reading

People fish at a dock at Islais Creek Park on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Islais Creek tells us about rising sea levels in San Francisco

Islais Creek is an unassuming waterway along San Francisco’s eastern industrial shoreline,… Continue reading

Deputy public defender Chris Garcia outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
As pandemic wanes, SF public defender hopes clients will get ‘their day in court’

Like other attorneys in San Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Chris Garcia has… Continue reading

Most Read