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Ocotillo: Music that makes any occasion special


Posted on June 4, 2018 at


The soothing yet lively music of Robert and Cindy Leger feels like therapy you didn’t know you needed. The title of their debut album says it all: “Enchantment.”

Their music is a marriage of instruments: Cindy on cello and Robert on guitar or on mandolin as a striking foil for the cello.

The Legers will soon celebrate their 33rd anniversary, and they have been playing together in various settings for the whole time. They founded their duo, Ocotillo, in 2010, focusing on weddings, and now they are playing for an array of occasions, private and public.

The Legers live in Phoenix, where Cindy plays in the MusicaNova Orchestra. Before Phoenix, they were long-time Springfield residents (Cindy is a native). You may have heard her in the cello section of the Springfield Symphony, and you may have seen Robert’s editorials in the News-Leader.

Now they are taking their show on the road, performing classical, pop, folk and originals. Their first stop is Springfield, 7 p.m. Friday, June 8, Historic Washington Avenue Baptist Church, 803 N. Washington Ave.

“We won’t play ‘Here Comes the Bride,’ but there’s a chance that we’ll play a fast version of the “Canon in D,” just because we like to play it fast,” Robert said about the show. “And we may play some songs that would never be appropriate at a wedding — breakup songs,” such as “Diamonds and Rust” or “Norwegian Wood.”

Among their originals, Robert has dusted off the piece he wrote for their wedding, “Faith, Hope and Love.” He has revised the piece for its second performance, here on June 8 — which just so happens to be the Legers’ anniversary.

Over the years of playing as a duo, they have found that neither historical nor contemporary models of their instrumentation are easy to find.

“We were playing these instruments before we met, and we brought them into the marriage with us. I do know of folks who pair up guitar and cello. I haven’t found anybody who pairs mandolin and cello in a duo,” Robert said.

That may be due to the strikingly contrasted textures, the sonorous cello and the bright mandolin. “We had to figure out our own way of making it work,” he said.

Cindy elaborated: “Most of the songs that pair the cello and the mandolin are conversations. We each take a turn with the melody or the accompaniment. A vital part of playing any kind of music is listening, but it’s even more important when there are just two of you.

“It’s like when we’re talking about what we want to do this weekend. We have to hear what each other is saying to make it work.”

For instance, “Over the Rainbow” (on their website), Robert’s intro of mandolin notes resonating — yearning to be harp-like — sets up Cindy’s counterpoint and embellishes it with strums and trills: sublime.

“Anna Suite” (from Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach), an ambitious piece recorded on “Enchantment,” demonstrates the cello-mandolin dialogue that Cindy described.

Of course, they take a similar approach when Robert plays guitar, as on “Girl from Ipanema” or “Music of the Night.” So, within a performance or on the album, listen for another dyad, that of mandolin and guitar, from song to song.

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