Charae Krueger is principal cellist with The Atlanta Opera and the Atlanta Ballet orchestras, and a lecturer and artist-in-residence at Kennesaw State University. This summer, she’s playing in Atlanta’s Candlelight Concerts, The Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival and elsewhere.
Last summer, like everyone else, all the wonderful things I was expecting to do were canceled. It was a very quiet summer at home. I called it a sabbatical year, or the great pause or the intermission. It was interesting to not have something to prepare for in terms of practicing. I suppose I am a little bit lazy. I need the pressure of a performance to get me to work hard. Then I started getting inquiries for things this summer. I took everything, halfway expecting they wouldn’t happen, but they’ve all come through so far and I’m very busy. I always say yes to things, even if it’s scary or out of my wheelhouse or out of my comfort zone. I think that’s how you grow. I’m very grateful to be working again. It feels really special now, being with a roomful of happy audience members and musicians on stage. I have a new appreciation for that now.
I feel my relationship with Bach and Beethoven deepened because of the break. At the beginning of the pandemic I gravitated toward Beethoven. It was a way of expressing the worry, the pain, the fear, the suffering. Beethoven had many health challenges, but he had this ability to triumph over those challenges and find joy. To be able to write Ode to Joy! I have always found Bach to be a composer who expresses a sense of peaceful order, that everything is going to be all right. I played some of the Bach solo suites — it was like therapy. And then there was the inevitable Friday night Zoom girls’ night, for a drink, a complaint and a joke.
There’s an E.M. Forster book, Howard’s End. His theme is “only connect.” That really resonates with me. All the social unrest and the problems we have in this country — he addressed similar themes. Music can cross all those barriers. For me, live music is an opportunity to connect with the audience in a special way without using words. Anything done live with a high level of commitment and energy is powerful for any listener.