Bottom Line Duo brings class act to College Place

Husband and wife musicians Traci and Spencer Hoveskeland have performed together since they met in high school.

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Bottom Line Duo

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Traci Hoveskeland

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Spencer Hoveskeland

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Bottom Line Duo

Traci and Spencer Hoveskeland met in 1985 during their freshmen year at Port Angeles (Wash.) High School, when they discovered that they both played the cello. The two musicians have played together ever since, although they have undergone some transformations -- Spencer no longer has a mullet and primarily plays the double bass, and Traci traded her maiden name for Hoveskeland.

The Bottom Line Duo -- a humorous nod to the low notes of the cello and bass -- began touring in 1996 and haven't stopped yet.

The husband-wife duo will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Walla Walla University Fine Arts Auditorium, Fourth Street and College Avenue in College Place. The concert is a fundraiser for the Walla Walla Valley Academy Orchestra. Proceeds will help pay for the orchestra's trip in June to Vienna and Prague, where they will play in Adventist and baroque churches and perform for a children's school for the blind and an orphanage.

Ben Gish, director of the Walla Walla Valley Academy Orchestra, first heard of the Bottom Line Duo 10 years ago, when he saw their CD in a music shop in Seattle. He has students who are interested in the heavyweights of the stringed instruments listen to the lively and innovative duets for inspiration.

"I'm looking forward to hearing them play. It should be really pretty crazy, a really fun concert," Gish said. "(They perform) Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, the third movement, which has all sorts of fast notes, passed back and forth between the two of them."

The pair plays with extraordinary speed, probably best demonstrated in their rendition of "Flight of the Bumblebee," written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the turn of the 20th century. The cello and bass, in a storm of winged bows and flying fingers, race to simulate a bee in flight.

Spencer Hoveskeland called their performances "social chamber music," a study and exploration of classical music with a humorous and contemporary spin on the style.

"We want to impart humor and play a variety of sounds, so there is something there for the most sophisticated listeners and for the people who go listen to music just for the sheer joy of it," he said.

Chamber music was overly academic in the late 20th century, unlike prior centuries when famous composers like Beethoven also played contra dance music and Mozart wrote "vulgar" waltzes for the peasants, Spencer said.

"Which is our approach to it," he said. "I hope people will get from our performance the art form that originated in 1530 in Notre Dame."

But Spencer and Traci also want to reach out to people who like the music and melodies of current times.

Gish said the duo plays a wide variety -- from Latin music and tangos, to pop culture and rock and roll.

"This is not a formal recital with sonatas and concertos but a fun concert with show pieces," Gish said.

Their typical set list includes the jazz piece "Blue Moon," "Hungarian Rhapsody," Mexican folk dances, a Ventures-Bangles rock and roll medley, original pieces by Spencer Hoveskeland and a flamenco-style "Besame Mucho," for which Spencer trades in his bass for a ukulele to accompany Traci on the cello.

Traci and Spencer both attended Western Washington University to pursue music degrees and were married during their freshman year. Their first gigs were as a rock band. Spencer taught Traci to play bass guitar, and he played lead, although they both said that classical music won out.

Since then, the Bottom Line Duo has played aboard the Queen Elizabeth II, at Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, in Europe and across the U.S.

Traci braved the riots of the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999 to play for President Bill Clinton in downtown Seattle.

She and Spencer have performed many musicals as principal cellist and bassist at Seattle's Fifth Avenue theaters and the Paramount for productions of "White Christmas," "The Color Purple," "Chicago," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Titanic" and "The Lion King."

After two decades of marriage and music, the duo share an affection and friendly rivalry that makes their performances all the more intimate.

"The bass was built in 1735 and the cello in 1869. We offer a 'Green Program' recycling not only of the instruments but of jokes and anecdotes from over 1,063 consecutive weeks of marriage," Spencer wrote in an e-mail.

Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $8 for students. Tickets are available for purchase at Book & Game, the Walla Walla University bookstore, at the door or by calling 525-1050. Any further questions can be directed to Gish at 509-240-5704.

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