About the Visual Artist
Pursuing a life-long interest in visual arts, Christopher Rex has produced many fine drawings and watercolors, some of which have been used by the Atlanta Symphony for Christmas cards and sold as note cards. He later expanded his interest to graphics on his Apple computer and, most recently, to his eCard offerings presented at DoReMeow.com.
In addition to his duties as Principal Cellist with the Atlanta Symphony, Rex was a full time degree student at the Atlanta College of Art from 1997 to 1999. That is where he began sketching cats. “The first one I did was because, while I was practicing, one of the cats looked at the tip of my bow and started attacking it,” he recalls. “I thought it was really funny and decided to make a cartoon out of it. Then I realized that cats are always using music and instruments to their own advantages… having observed cats around musicians and musical instruments for years – a cat falling asleep in a violin case or on drums, a cat at the piano, a cat tapping the tip of a cello bow.” The inspiration for his eCard, “Symphony Mewsic,” came from an actual chance-encounter in the mid-70s when a cat walked onto the stage as the Atlanta Symphony was performing! Cats also made excellent subjects for his gesture drawings in which he had 5 to 10 seconds to capture the subject’s main movement and sketch it.
About the Cat Lover
Love at First Meow
Cute cats and kittens have always been a vital and vibrant part of Rex’s life and family. As a toddler, he was quite familiar with cats by age 3. He remembers his first cat, Rusty, a very small, “ toy” sized cat. As an adult, he has always identified with the independent and aloof nature of the feline personality. Several significant cats have shared their lives with Rex and his family, including the two tuxedo cats, Zuzu and Zazu, who became popular subjects for sketching during their life-times. Another significant feline, Kiri, part-Siamese and named after the renowned soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, was a favorite subject to paint as well as his home repair partner, “…if I were being Mr. Handy-man around the house… Kiri would just hang on my shoulder as I walked around.”
Family of Cat Lovers
His wife, Dr. Martha Wilkins, is a pediatric anesthesiologist at Atlanta’s Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. She too has been a life-long cat lover and has also always had cats in the home. Her one-eyed cat, Tafffy, was often sketched when the couple was first married. His daughter, Caroline Bethea Rex, who arrived in December, l994, and his son Christopher Austell, who was born August 21, 1998, have always grown up with family members of the feline-kind, enjoying them as entertainers and constant home-companions.
About the Cellist
Christopher Rex joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as Principal Cello in 1979, the same year in which he became the first cellist ever to win the string prize in the biennial Young Artists Competition of the National Federation of Music Clubs. Since then he has appeared as recitalist and chamber musician across the nation. He took up the cello at age eight, completing a family string quartet in his hometown of Winter Park, Florida, and studied at the Curtis Institute of Music with Orlando Cole and at The Juilliard School with Leonard Rose.
At the age of 21, Mr. Rex became the youngest member of the Philadelphia Orchestra under the great director Eugene Ormandy and remained with the orchestra for seven seasons. He was also part of the historic diplomatic mission undertaken by the PO during the Nixon administration as the first American orchestra to travel to China. Upon meeting and shaking hands with Madame Mao, she said to Ormandy through the translator, “He’s just a baby.” Ormandy replied, “To me, they’re all babies!”
Concerto For Two Brothers
In the summer of 1988, Christopher Rex shared Acting Principal duties for the New York Philharmonic’s European tour, replacing Lorne Munrow. In 1994, alongside his brother, Charles Rex, Associate Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, he premiered a new double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra by Stephen Paulus at four concerts in Lincoln Center with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic, and with three concerts with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Joel Levi. The Rex brothers presented a program in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall in February 2001, as a tribute to their father, Charles Gordon Rex, Sr. At this recital, only music that was composed by their father was performed. Christopher Rex also performed in Carnegie Hall as soloist with the Manhattan Philharmonic – again with his brother Charles – in the “Poet and the Muse” by Camille Saint-Saens which they also recorded on a CD entitled Music for Doubles with the Zlin Philharmonic in the Czech Republic. Concerto for Two Brothers, a feature-length documentary, chronicles the traumatic childhood the brothers endured and the healing power they found in music and each other through their collaborative efforts. https://www.concertofortwobrothers.org/
Solo Works with the ASO
Christopher Rex’s solo appearances with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra have included performances of the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1, Tchaikowsky Rococo Variations, Strauss’ Don Quixote, the Victor Herbert Concerto #2, and the cello concertos of Elgar, Schumann, Dvorak, Saint-Saens, Hindemith, Prokovief, and most recently Samuel Barber. In May 2009 Rex performed Mariel, a work for cello and orchestra by Osvaldo Golijov, with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. In October of 2011 Rex performed the Brahms Double Concerto with the new Concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony, David Coucheron, under the baton of composer/conductor Oliver Knussen. In the 2012-13 Atlanta Symphony Orchestra season Mr. Rex was featured with Robert Spano, Music Director of the ASO, on piano and David Coucheron in a performance of the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Donald Runnicles conducting. Rex was soloist with the ASO in the 2013-14 season performing “Schelomo” the beautiful and deeply moving Hebraic Rhapsody by Ernest Bloch for cello and orchestra. For the ASO’s 2016-2017 season, Mr. Rex, along with David Coucheron, will perform the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Cello and Orchestra by the Hungarian-born film composer Miklós Rózsa.
Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival
May of 2015 will mark the 14th Season of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival on Amelia Island Florida of which Christopher Rex is Founder, General and Artistic Director. Over the years guest artists with whom he has performed at the festival have included Lynn Harrell, Hillary Hahn, the Eroica Trio, the Guarneri, Tokyo, Takacs, and Emerson String Quartets, pianists Horatio Guttierez, Garrick Ohlsson, Andre Watts, Anton Nel, Claude Frank, Anne Marie MacDermiit, and Christopher O’Riley, violinists Robert MacDuffie, Cho Liang Lin, Elmar Oliveira, Sarah Chiang, Rachel Barton Pine,Anne Akiko Meyers, Chee Yun, and the American and Ying String Quartets. In June of 2009 the Guarneri String Quartet chose to play their final concert as a quartet at the Amelia Festival asking Mr. Rex to join them in a performance of the Schubert Two Cello Quintet. The Festival runs from late May through the first two weeks of June and consists of traditional chamber music performances in historic venues on Amelia Island as well as more experimental chamber music experiences developed by Rex, such as the “Candlelight Tour and Concerts” at Ft. Clinch, a Civil War period fort on the island, and the “Beer and G-String” series at the Palace Saloon—the oldest working saloon in Florida.
Madison Chamber Music Festival
In addition, June 2015 will see the 13th season of the Madison Chamber Music Festival, in Madison, Georgia, for which Christopher Rex serves as Artistic Director. Many of the Artists from the Amelia Festival perform in the historic cultural center and beautiful antebellum homes in downtown Madison as well as the Stephan Thomas Museum and the Burge Plantation in Mansfield, Georgia.
Georgian Chamber Players
Along with renowned violinist William Preucil and ASO Principal Violist Reed Harris, Rex founded the Georgian Chamber Players over 30 years ago. In 2002, Rex performed in Weill Hall in the New York debut of the Georgian Chamber Players. Today, the original viola and cello members remain with the violinist position currently held by ASO Concertmaster David Coucheron. Since its inception, the Georgian Chamber Players has always invited professionals performing in Atlanta to join them for concerts. Guest performers have included Emanuel Ax, Andras Schiff, Misha Dichter, Yefim Bronfman, Robert McDuffie, Lynn Harrell, Ruth Laredo, Lee Luvisi, and Janos Starker.
Christiania Piano Trio
Together with David Coucheron, Concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and David’s sister, pianist Julie Coucheron, Christopher Rex has formed the Christiania Piano Trio (named for what was until 1926 the name of Oslo, Norway, the country of the Coucherons’ birth) with scheduled performances in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Norway.
Music Festivals and Administrative Positions
Christopher Rex is a regular performer at the Highlands Chamber Music Festival and has been Principal Cellist of the orchestras at the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, Colorado and the Grand Tetons Music Festival in Jackson Wyoming. He has performed as soloist at the Brevard Music Festival and Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina and the Chautauqua Festival in New York. In May 2007 Mr. Rex was invited to play at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival and in the summer of 2013, he performed at the Kon-Tiki Classical Music Fest in Oslo, Norway.
As a result of his chamber music activities and performances, Rex was named to the national Board of Directors of Chamber Music America, an organization dedicated to the support and promotion of professional chamber music artists and ensembles.
Teaching and Pedagogy
Rex has taught at Gettysburg College, the New School of Music in Philadelphia and the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina. From the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2011 Rex served as the Cello Chair of the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, where he currently teaches pedagogy, string literature and gives master classes in chamber music. In the fall of 2012 Rex became Adjunct Professor and Head of the Cello Department of Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.