The seven singing cellists who are the Massive Violins return to Dulwich this Christmas with another display of vocal and instrumental virtuosity. Last year they wowed the audience with their crazy and musically mind-blowing versions of iconic rock and pop songs and they even managed to show off with the odd operatic aria. And they are planning to wow this year’s audience even more if that’s possible.
Of course, there are no violins in the Massive Violins but seven glorious cellos, some of them made by the band’s founder, Ricky Chatto. He says that whenever he travels on buses and trains with his cello some joker will shout, “That’s a massive violin”, or, possibly, “That’s a bloody bastard big violin.” So that’s how they got their name.
Who are the band members, though, and how did they get together? Well, their story began about nine years ago when Ricky and his wife Ruth went to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performing their mad melange of musical masterpieces at Cecil Sharp House in Camden. Plucking fantastic, they thought. But wouldn’t it be a million times better with CELLOS? They mulled this thought over for a year or so, saw the Ukuleles again, plinketty-plonking away and getting world-famous, and thought it was really time for some action.
Ricky’s first recruit was easy: daughter Grace. She played the cello and, having just finished university, wasn’t really doing much apart from the odd gig with her band Clean Bandit. Well, that was never going to go any- where, was it? (NB It did go somewhere: international stardom with a Grammy, two Ivor Novello Awards, six Number One chart hits and about 20 million singles sales worldwide, but she still plays in her dad’s band which hasn’t had any chart hits yet. There’s still plenty of time.)
Then there was Saul, a homoeopathic doctor who played cello in the same orchestra as Ricky, followed by Matt, someone Grace had known at university who turned out to have an amazing singing voice and an astonishing ability to impersonate the angelic choirboy he once was.
Lovely Jess, who used to sit next to Grace in the Junior Royal Academy orchestra when they were young teenagers, was next. She did something mysterious in television and played the cello like a dream. Guido, who incidentally was brought up in Lewes, was the friend of a friend of Grace’s and stunned everyone with his Johnny Cash impression and his Elvis which is almost better than Elvis. Finally Grace’s old schoolfriend Camilla made up the seven, blowing everyone away with her vocal prowess and ability to sound just like her idol, Julie Andrews.
So the band was formed and they set out on their journey to world fame. Over the years they have played in dingy clubs, noisy pubs, draughty halls, sombre churches, swanky theatres and huge music venues where tickets sell like hot cakes. They have gone from strength to strength, building a loyal fan base in London and sometimes venturing further afield. Last year they joined the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain for a special charity performance at the Jazz Café in Camden. It was a blast and George Hinchliffe of the Ukes had this to say afterwards: “The MVs demonstrably have fiend- ish talents and, while producing the sound of angels vocally and instrumentally, are also dia- bolically entertaining… they have fun like a stampede of wild animals.”
Audiences love their musicality, their sense of fun and the feeling of pure joy that radiates from the Massive Violins. They will be at the beautiful MCT Theatre at Alleyn’s School on 8 December for a special child-friendly appearance and it looks set to becoming a regular seasonal fixture for the Massives. Come and share the joy.
The Massive Violins
MCT Alleyn’s School, Dulwich
Sunday 8 December at 5.30pm
Tickets at www.massiveviolins.com