FMU PAC hosts first concert of the year with Hultgren


Photo by: Morgan Zastawnik

Cellist Craig Hultgren performs several pieces on the cello for the audience of FMU PAC.

To kick off the 2023 concert season, FMU welcomed cellist Craig Hultgren to the Performing Arts Center Blackbox Theater on Jan. 25 for its first concert of the year.    

Hultgren performed several songs on both the acoustic and electric cello. The pieces performed were from a variety of genres and composers, several of which were written specifically for Hultgren to perform.   

Due to a misprint of programs, Hultgren introduced and explained each piece to the audience before playing them.  

“The unpredictability of performance still inspires me to play after more than 40-some years on the instrument,” Hultgren said. “Like last night, when we had the wrong program printed. I just can’t predict what’s gonna happen when I walk out on stage.”   

The night opened with Hultgren performing “Secret Cities” by composer Hong-Da Chin. He then progressed into two pieces by David Durant and others that were written for and inspired by Hultgren himself, his music and his life. One such song was “Driftless,” composed by James Romig and inspired by Hultgren’s home in the American Midwest.    

After a brief intermission, Hultgren returned to the stage to perform a rock-infused piece called “Delta Shake” by FMU’s own Brandon Goff, a music industry professor. Goff was also present at the performance and explained how the composition originated following a frightening flight on a Delta Airlines plane. Hultgren followed it up with another song on the electric cello titled “Snakeskin (Verso),” composed by Holland Hopson.    

Hultgren then played three short pieces from a larger work called “15 Minutes of Fame,” a collection of 15 one-minute compositions. The three selected songs included “Only 4 easy payments of $19.95!” by Jasmine Thomasian, “2:09 Central” by Michael Coleman and “The Elevated Moon” by Aine E. Nakamura.    

His final song of the evening was titled “root” by Baljinder Sekhon, II. This song, unlike the others, involved percussion along with the cello. To incorporate the percussion, Hultgren used several tools to tap on his cello to produce the sounds.   

“I hope to create a provocative experience for the audience,” Hultgren said. “I want to challenge the audience to listen, and sometimes it’s not necessary that they like a work, but maybe talk about it later with someone who else was at the concert.”   

Hultgren is a renowned cellist, recently performing as a part of the Alabama Symphony. He has played at many venues, including Carnegie Hall, and has debuted many pieces over time. Hultgren is also a founder of Luna Nova, a music ensemble with 18 performances under its belt to date.    

“There are times where one achieves a special moment of timelessness when performing that I love,” Hultgren said. “It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s great.”   

More information about Hultgren, his music and future performances may be found on his Instagram: @craig_hultgren.