As a member of Third Wheel, I pay a lot of attention to other chamber music ensembles. Especially the groups that are inspiring and really pushing the boundaries of chamber music — just like we aspire to do in Third Wheel.
Edmund Welles is one of those ensembles. Yes, that’s the name of the group and not the name of one of the members! It’s a bass clarinet quartet and they have been on my radar for quite some time — and not just because I love bass clarinet! These four musicians really are changing the perception of what chamber music is and what it could be, and they make chamber music relevant to a new audience.
They have even created a name for the genre of music they play — heavy chamber music. It’s clearly influenced by heavy metal and rock bands, but all four players are incredibly talented and highly trained classical musicians in their own right.
I have heard Edmund Welles perform live several times, and it was a special treat to hear them perform in Italy last month when I was attending ClarinetFest. Here’s a video from that performance:
Edmund Welles started gaining popularity a number of years ago after performing this cover of Radiohead’s Creep. It’s an incredible cover.
To me, the most genre-bending aspect of Edmund Welles is not their unusual instrumentation, nor their penchant for utilizing a wide array of extending techniques. It’s the fact that the vast majority of music in their repertoire is music that they have written themselves. This is, of course, not unusual for many famous rock bands, but the model for classical musicians seems to be playing music written by other people. It’s unique to hear musicians performing music that they wrote themselves, and adds to the personal, unique sound of the ensemble itself.