Jan Vogler on Bill Murray and their 'New Worlds' collaboration

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Cellist Jan Vogler’s latest cross-arts collaboration has transported him into an exciting new realm. He talks to Pauline Harding about great American literature, music spanning three centuries, and a chance encounter that brought Hollywood star Bill Murray on to his stage

It’s 11am on a Sunday in June and I’m at the Dresden Music Festival, in the Kulturpalast, waiting for a concert to begin. Cellist Jan Vogler (the festival’s artistic director), violinist Mira Wang (his wife) and pianist Vanessa Perez are due to perform music with an unusual twist: it will be interwoven with readings by Hollywood actor Bill Murray. They are late. After some time the audience claps hopefully. Nothing. Are we to be subjected to the rock-star behaviour of the rich and famous, I wonder – will we be left sitting in suspense for hours? Will they turn up at all?

As I prepare myself for the worst, we are plunged into darkness. A voice booms down from a PA system, resonating in the hall’s clear acoustic like a message from God. ‘This is Jan Vogler,’ comes a suspiciously American drawl that most definitely sounds like Murray. ‘Now, everyone needs to know that you’d better turn your phones off, because Bill Murray is a crazy psychopath and if he hears any phones ringing during the performance, he’ll run into the audience to answer them. OK?’ A spotlight beam flashes on to an empty chair, then the piano. Now the entrance at the back of the stage lights up, and out of the yellow glow step Wang, Perez and Murray. The concert hall is packed and the excited audience thunders with applause.

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