I was shocked this afternoon (Monday, June 15th) to get a forwarded email saying Larry Granger had died. For a few minutes I was hoping the message might turn out to be a gruesome hoax, but a couple of phone calls to mutual friends confirmed it.

For those who didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, Larry was the unofficial “Mr. Cello” of the Livermore-Amador Valley. He grew up in Pleasanton and lived there most of his life. He played in the Oakland Symphony for a while. After the demise of that organization he jumped across the Bay and joined the SF Symphony, where he played for many years.

He was very active in community music, whenever his schedule permitted. He was a regular member of the Pleasanton Chamber Players, taught cello at Cal State East Bay, and loved playing as a soloist with various community orchestras. Last year he played the Elgar concerto with the Livermore-Amador Symphony. This fall he was scheduled to play the Saint-Saens with the Silicon Valley Symphony, a very good group that he got me involved in. He liked to call himself “a professional cellist, and an amateur soloist.” By playing concertos with local orchestras, he got to embrace the whole of the literature for the cello while sharing his love of the instrument with audiences around the Bay Area.

Larry will be sorely, sorely missed.

We didn’t know one another when we were students, though we both studied with the same teacher for a short period. When we met (in 2002), he encouraged me to get more involved in the local music scene. I was lucky enough to play chamber music with him on a number of occasions. He was the quintessential people person — always doing favors for other musicians, and not shy about asking them to do favors for him in return. Overall, though, I’m sure he gave far more than he ever received.

Before he played a concerto with a local orchestra, he liked to give it a “dry run” in front of a few listeners — an informal recital. Two months ago, as he was preparing the Kabalevsky concerto (I don’t even know who he performed it with), he phoned and asked if my living room would be available on a Monday afternoon for such a recital. Fortuitously, one of my students had just sprained a wrist, so I had a free block of time. Just as fortuitously, my piano had just been tuned.

I invited three of my students to be the audience. Larry and his wife Priscilla arrived with a younger cellist named Aaron Urton. Priscilla played the piano accompaniment while Larry and Aaron played the Vivaldi concerto for two cellos, and then Larry and Priscilla played the Kabalevsky. It was a fantastic treat for us all — and afterward, far from thinking he had done us a favor, Larry thanked me. “I owe you big-time for this,” he said.

No, you didn’t, Larry. We owed you big-time. We all did. Thanks, guy. Damn, what a loss.

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2 thoughts on “Larry Granger

  1. I’ve only known Larry for a few years beginning when Owen Lee (Conductor and music director for the Diablo Valley College Philharmonic) got a call from him asking if he could help out the Orchestra. When he came to rehearsal he was the nicest guy in the world and the entire cello section learned more in an hour than many of us had learned from years of private lessons. Although he no longer taught privately, aside from the college, he took the time to give me directions on practicing and performing introducing me to David Popper’s etudes and Jim Aikin as a private teacher. He believed in me and came back to the DVC Orchestra just to play the Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto with me. I am proud to have been able to call him my friend for the short time I knew him and I am deeply saddened by his loss.

  2. Larry and Priscilla played the first written movement of what became my Mass for Friends in 1993, he recorded the final version of the whole work in 2004 and it is now available on Centaur Records. In addition, he and I played my husband Jim McManus’ Duo for cello and piano years ago. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him as a composer and performer, I cannot believe he is gone. What a beautiful player. Thinking of you Priscilla…

    Janis

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