Thank You, Sandy Spencer

                                                                                                          Photo courtesy of Carol Knox.

Sandy Spencer touched the lives of many. I knew her as a cellist: she played in the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra for many years, and she taught cello to young and older at the Cape Cod Conservatory. She was particularly warm and supporting of adult beginners, helping them to overcome some of the many challenges of playing this difficult instrument. She would tell her students to hug their cellos, an act that would not only reaffirm their commitment to the cello, but would help to release tension and help improve their playing position.

I met Sandy in 2004, when I began taking cello quartet classes in the conservatory’s Summer Strings program. She coached several quartets, and I started out in the beginning group, but what a joy it was to play with other cellists! Eventually the conservatory offered year-round quartet classes with Sandy, and I attended for several years. We named our quartet Cellobrations, a nice play on words, and an expression of the fun of playing together.

This past fall a group of Sandy’s students from several of her quartets got together under the direction of Pam Mittendorf, one of her quartet students, to play classical and Christmas music at Sandy’s church and in two assisted living locations. Sandy was, by then, too sick with cancer to join us with her cello, but she came to one of our rehearsals, and smiled through the whole thing. I hope we made her proud.

Sandy died on January 15. She was 76. She will be missed by her students and friends, and by those lucky enough enough to have heard her play the cello.

Thank you Sandy, for your music and your friendship. Rest in peace.

There will be a memorial service for Sandy Spencer at 2 PM on April 29, 2012. Family and friends are invited to attend. It will be at the Quaker Meetinghouse, 58 N. Main Street, in South Yarmouth. A reception will follow.

Jung-Ho Pak honors Sandy Spencer at a CCSO concert in December 2011.

12 thoughts on “Thank You, Sandy Spencer

  1. I am so sad to hear this news. Sandy and I played together in the group “Mormos”, based in Paris, France, in 1971-73. She also recorded with me on some projects when she was here in the San Francisco area in the late 70s. Her solos on the Mormos recordings were simply astounding, because they were very jazz-oriented and totally improvised. I also have some live recordings from the times in Europe; I will have to dig those out and perhaps make them available for her fans.

  2. Hi Ernie, Thanks so much for writing. I did not know about that musical side of Sandy, and I appreciate your letting me know. I found Great Wall of China by Mormos on YouTube. Is that Sandy? Do let us know if you make the recordings available. I am sure many on Cape Cod would be interested.


  3. I,too played with Sandy in Mormos and visited her on Cape Cod. I don’t live too far (a 7-hour drive) and would love to come to the memorial. Please send details.

    Annie Hat

  4. (Continues) I don’t know how much Notes on the Arts knows about Sandy’s earlier life in the Arts. Around 1969-71 she played in the “house band” for La Mama Theatre in New York City. Later that group migrated into what would become “Mormos” and landed a recording contract in Paris. After Mormos, Sandy performed in France and England with other musicians, and toured with John Renbourne, a fairly reknowned fingerstyle guitarist in England. She also used to sing and play the cello, and had some unique solo recordings. I will try to see if I can find any of those recordings to post for anyone interested. She also worked with composer Jim Cuomo in France.

  5. Thanks so much Ernie and Annie for getting in touch and for sharing this information and introducing me to this music. I have updated the blog post to include information on Sandy’s memorial service. All are welcome to attend, and I look forward to meeting you Annie.

  6. Sandy spent some time in the seventies here in Cornwall UK around 1974-77 . She was like a breath of fresh air to the local music scene down here. i think she had come over from France and she immediately fell in with a group of folk musicians based around Incredible String Band legend Clive Palmer who had moved to Penzance. She played with guitarist Pete Berryman and then formed a 4 piece called Scarlett Runner singing and playing cello with Mick Bennett, Tim Wellard and Thom Podgeresky. This later morphed into a duo of Sandy and Tim called Crooks and Nannies – some of their songs and mussic were truly breathtaking. Tim still has some of their tapes together ( I remember that Ralph McTell was reputed to have bought some of Sandy’s songs (she was a very good songwriter) – and we all hoped things would take off for her. And of course Sandy could improvise – who could forget those wonderful jams at St Ives Guildhall with Clive Palmer and the assembled massed musicians ………I was a music promoter in those days and have always considered it a priviledge to have put Sandy Spencer on

    • I wish I had known Sandy then. Thanks so much for sharing this. It adds so much to our understanding of Sandy.

  7. I too am privileged to say I have known and worked with Sandy Spencer.
    Meeting her for the first time in Cornwall where she was living in an old Volkswagen Camper van together with several cats! (Well at least two or three) and then later on in London when I think she was in some sort of a house share in London with the guitarist Pete Berryman and other musicians.
    Like many musicians she would never stand out in a crowd but came alive and adorable on stage.
    She told me once that she had always planned to become a professional classical cello player but somehow had found herself busking across France with an assorted bunch of musicians from the States and beyond.
    I persuaded her to play along with Pete on two of my albums and those treasured tracks are to this day my favourite recordings from the nineteen seventies.
    I had been touring in Europe and was offered the chance to record an album in what was then West Germany. Incidentally the engineer was Conny Plank who had recently been recording the German band Kraftwerk.
    I was very shy and in awe of Sandy but everything worked out well and I’ll always remember returning to London afterwards. Pete had already left and it was just Sandy and me who made the journey from Koln and on reaching London I offered to drive her back to the place she was staying.
    I dropped her off in Oxford Street and returned to my home in South London.
    We said goodbye in front of the Selfridge store and as I overcame my shyness and hugged her I was shocked to feel how skeletal and fragile she was – The first and last time we ever had any physical contact. I never saw her again and I don’t think she ever got to hear the recordings we had made.

    I will gather together all the tracks we made and if anyone is interested I could send them copies.

    Wizz Jopnes

    • Thank you Wizz. Yes, I would be interested in hearing the recordings. By the way, I am finally making the Mormos “Live” album available, perhaps sometime later this year, and we may be re-releasing the original Mormos albums as well. Anyone interested in the recordings can contact me online: ernie (at) mansfieldmusic (dot) com.

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