John Catchings: The top cello session player makes a solo album

Tuesday 1st May 1990

JOHN CATCHINGS' pride and joy shows that the cello need not be a second-fiddle. Drew Kelleher explains why...

John Catchings
John Catchings

The cello, that instrument you have to sit strangely to play, has been confined to theatres and chambers where its cousins, the violin and double bass, have been out meeting the people. "When I get behind the cello, the one thing I want to say to those listening is 'love God with all your heart'."

And say it John Catchings does on his new release "Joy In The Journey", the cellist's long-desired statement about his faith.

His collection is a rather soothing arrangement of hymns and sacred songs. Somewhat ironically the title track is the only non-hymn on the album, although it is fellow artist, Michael Card's, most popular song, and the song they like most to perform together.

Catchings sees "Joy In The Journey" as a tribute to the friend with whom he has played for the past eight years. When he heard of Card he wasn't interested in touring with a Christian artist but, on talking with Michael, something in Card's voice changed his mind.

Through touring with Card, Catchings came to the attention of a very large audience - as well as Sparrow records. Following public demand for a recording Sparrow decided to allow the cellist to step forward and showcase his gifts.

"The record has been like a dream come true. I put mostly hymns on the album," he says, "because the words and melodies have always meant so much to me."

Included on the record are tunes to some of the greatest hymns ever written including "Sweet Hour of Prayer", "It is Well With My Soul", "Holy, Holy, Holy", "Blessed Assurance", and "O Sacred Head".

In the smooth lines and proportionate dimensions of John's aural sculptures he shows his instrument's great capacity for spiritual expression.

Yet he wants the cello to speak in contemporary terms and not be consigned to symphonic or classical genres simply because of tradition.

He feels that the poor relation of the violin and the double bass (both of which are seen in the hands of popular musicians) has been undersold when it should be brought out into the light in all its shining glory.

He decided to begin playing the cello at the age of 10 when he heard the name of the instrument mentioned. "I didn't even really know what it was," recalls Catchings. Practising hard and learning to use his musical gifts, he excelled with his chosen instrument all through his public school years.

After his schooling Catchings attended Peabody Conservatory with a scholarship from the Ford Foundation. There he received an award for a prominent television performance, which was broadcast live.

Upon completion of his bachelor's degree at Peabody in 1969 Catchings was awarded the prestigious Alumni Award as the outstanding musical student in the graduating class.

At the end of three years in Washington DC's US Army Band (a result of his post-college drafting) Catchings tried to lay down his cello. "I tried to walk away from music, but I couldn't," he said. Fortunately for connoisseurs of finely rendered cello music he couldn't because in 1976 he accepted an offer, to play principal cello in the Nashville Symphony.

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Reader Comments

Posted by irisa piziks in east kingsford,MI @ 22:17 on Mar 29 2017

hello old friend..i have a recording of you..miriam heard it and said THATS JOHN!! i would love to hear from teaching quite a favorite thing to do..ive been playing along with your cool

Posted by Madonna Weaver in Morven Queensland in Australia @ 03:04 on Jun 8 2014

To John Catchings
Many years ago I wrote a song for my mum and sang it at her funeral. The song was to your song with cello I think it was Sacred Head Now Wounded. I sang it to the tape of Joy in The Journey (I have since lost in shifting) I realised later that I was not supposed to sing with a tape like that due to copyright. Hoping to record my song in future and like the cello song you played I sang to but probably can't use it due to copyright if my song sold in future on CD. Have you heard of Diamond Garden Music in Nashville and Troy Martin. He accepted my song and some payment for them do a record or CD of an artist singing the song but would have another tune. I don't think it will be the same. Is it possible to be able to record my song words with your cello music live to Sacred Head now Wounded. I can send you the words. Are you in Nashville or elsewhere in America. I also sing and have written other songs and some music. My husband and I are Christian. It would be good to come to America and never know what God wants to do in the future in whatever part of our life. How is your music writing going and cello?

With Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.
Regards Madonna Weaver

Posted by David Leslie Forbes in Nassau, The Bahamas @ 17:06 on Jan 17 2014

I would like an email contact for Mr. John Catchings. I would love to include him on my album project.

Posted by John Catchings in Nashville TN USA @ 19:46 on Sep 17 2010

A friend of mine forwarded this site and your message to me today! Sorry for the delay. Great to hear from you and I am anxious to get caught up.
It has been quite a while since the old pot of hot tea days!

Reply by Vince Abler in Nashville, Tennessee @ 03:39 on Feb 6 2012

I loved the music on "Joy in the Journey." I had the CD which I loaned to a very good friend, who sadly passed away. The CD was passed on to his family, never to be seen again. Do any CDs of this beautiful music exist today and where might one find it?

[report abuse]

Posted by Thomas G. Marabella in United States @ 17:16 on Sep 13 2009

John and I were students at the Peabody.
I have been trying to get in touch with him with no success.

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