Page last updated at 03:09 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 04:09 UK

Cello players reach new heights

By Huw Williams
BBC News

Jeremy Rees (Left), Jeremy Dawson (Centre) and Clare Wallace (Right)
The three cellists hope to raise money for charity by climbing the four peaks

"Extreme cellists" have scaled England's highest peak for charity - and played at the top.

The morning was fine and dry as we gathered at the Wasdale Head car park, in the western Lake District to make our ascent to the top of Scafell Pike where cellists - Jeremy Dawson, Clare Wallace and James Rees - would play a short recital at the summit.

The three self-styled extreme cellists have reached the peak of their art and not content with playing concerts in conventional venues, they have opted to try and climb the highest mountains in England, Scotland, Wales and the Irish Republic to raise money for charity.

They have played on the rooftops of every Anglican cathedral in England and just a few days ago scaled Ben Nevis, so they know all the hazards connected to an expedition of this kind.

Clare said: "The worst problem is being blown over.

"As soon as the wind gets up, because the top of the cello is quite high above your head, if the wind catches it basically I've got a good chance of just going straight over."

But she added that fortunately in training she had usually managed to fall on her front.

"Better for the cello, but not so good for me," she said.

The concept of extreme cello playing emerged about five years ago, when the three friends were watching a television documentary about extreme ironing.

"We thought it looked fantastic," said Claire. "But we thought anyone can iron, so we decided to add the skill of playing the cello to the whole idea."

Special challenges

Some two-and-a-half hours after setting off from Wasdale Head, they conquered the final ridge and strode enthusiastically up to the summit of Scafell Pike, where the three cellists set up their instruments and started to play.

Climb Every Mountain from the film The Sound of Music was of course part of the repertoire, as was an arrangement of Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains from Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah.

During the descent, Jeremy explained that playing on a mountain presented special challenges to cellists.

Jeremy Dawson, Clare Wallace and James Ress
Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music was a repertoire must

"Of course, getting the instruments up here in the first place is the hardest bit, but even on a relatively nice day like today there's quite a stiff wind so it gets cold. And your fingers, especially, get very cold very quickly," he said.

Every extreme cello challenge the team completes raises cash for charity. In this case it was the spinal injuries charity Aspire and local mountain rescue teams.

"Mountain rescue are fantastic," said Jeremy. "But we haven't had to use their services yet."

The three cellists plan to climb Snowdon in Wales on Sunday, and Carrauntoohil in County Kerry in the Irish Republic on Wednesday 30 July.


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