Catherine Campion felt the connection to music early on as a child. Starting with playing the flute, it was her single mother that somehow afforded a deal on a piano that pushed her forward in her relationship with music. Self-teaching for years on the piano, she then moved to the cello at the age of 18. Eventually, that turned into lessons at MacPhail Center For Music and playing in local bands right around 2000.
“I used to call myself the working-ist mediocre pop cellist in the Twin Cities,” confesses Catherine.
Never trained as a classical cellist, her skill set is more improvisation and writing her own parts by ear. This path led to a ton of hiring for studio work because people didn’t want to hire an orchestral cellist because a.) they can be intimidating, b.) they want more money, and c.) they only know how to read sheet music, which is problematic since many bands don’t even know how to write their own sheet music.
Her move to LA expanded her experience with some amazingly gifted friends like Michelle Kinney, one of the top pop-jazz cellists. She found a place in the folk-pop music genre, working with banjos, violins, and mandolin players.
In the Absence of Live Music
Catherine is an old-school radio gal. She doesn’t own hardly any music and although her partner has Spotify, she loves radio because of the discovery element of listening. Paul Harding (KFAI) hosts Foreign Currency, which she adores due to the international focus. Jazz 88FM and KMOJ 89.9FM are both stations that she’s listened to since the eighties.
“I’ve never been into mainstream pop music, even when pre-teen girls were supposed to be into Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. You could then see the other kids that weren’t into that stuff. It was more about what tingles your tummy and what stirs your heart.”
Catherine confesses that live streaming doesn’t do it for her. She doesn’t participate in streaming live music and doesn’t like watching concert footage, because no matter what they do, the sound quality is never going to be as good as being in the same room with someone. She admits she’s a snob for good sound and with finely tuned ears from all of the years of playing, live recorded music doesn’t equate.
The OK Factor One-On-One
When Catherine saw the contest, she started to google each of the groups. In seeing The OK Factor’s page, she was instantly intrigued that they were string players with hardly any vocals. In noticing the different variations of styles that cellist Olivia Diercks and violinist Karla Colahan played, she connected to the fiddly, folky style most. The potential to hear string instruments in a live music setting appealed the most to Catherine.
The Baroque Room is designed to maximize the timbre, tone, and volume of a group like The OK Factor. From the first strike of their instruments, you could hear all the details and energy in their playing. “Love Song for Lucy” brightened the room up by kicking off the set. The performance of “Switchback”, written when they were college students down in Decorah, Iowa, really exemplified the power of live music. So much of a performance is hearing the intonation of each other and the dynamic playing to compliment each others’ parts. Hearing the violin and cello weaved together and watching Olivia and Karla frolic in their craft is the reason live music will never disappear.
In true live music fashion, The OK Factor shared stories and took a request. We learned how important it was for a child to push the garage remote control and how unique LA can be to new travelers. There was also a spontaneous request for something Irish. This sparked a special performance of two traditional Irish tunes, newly arranged. “Old Figary O'” and “Last Nights Fun” that had everyone swaying along.
It was their arrangement of the traditional hymn “Beach Spring” that stood out the most. Starting out with the cello, a deliberate trod into the song, the violin slowly provides a melody. Halfway through the song the focus shifts and pace quickens. Hearing the violin take over and become the feature, while seeing smiles across Olivia and Karla’s faces, the song blossomed. You could hear the strings stretching, just like a grin. Richly resonating throughout the room, “Beach Spring” ends with a uniting of parts once again.
What Live Music Means
Never one for clubs or bars, Catherine remembers playing gigs in her 20’s and seeing 40, 50, 60 year olds at First Avenue.
“That’s going to be me when I’m older. I’m definitely going to be the cool middle-aged person that still goes to shows,” Catherine states.
Catherine used to run a cabaret at Theatre de la Jeune Lune on Monday nights. There would be a variety of different performances in an intimate setting. Places like Bryant Lake Bowl, where there isn’t much need for amplification are her favorite genres of a venue. Where you can hear the instruments and feel the presence of the performers at your feet. Getting out to witness a performance, dance, and variations of creativity is what live music is about for Catherine. It’s about finding real music in intimate settings.
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