Alison Chesley graduated from Northwestern University in 1994 where she had obtained her master’s degree in cello performance. With her newly-acquired training on the instrument, Chesley started putting that talent to use while helping out performance artist friends and solo musicians and bands that were looking for a cello to add some atmosphere to their performances.
One particular musician who was interested in Chesley’s talent as a cellist was Jason Narducy. With Narducy, Chesley and some other musicians formed a rock group under the name of Verbow. The band had some popularity but that soon faded. After a while and with two albums completed, the band started to drift. It was at that point that Chesely decided that she wanted to find something different.
With the experimentation she had been trying out on the cello while she was with Verbow, Chesley was getting requests to have her help out bands, once again. With her gigs with Chicago band Poi Dog Pondering, along with bands that were more of the heavy metal persuasion, Chesley herself was becoming a rock musician. And soon she was writing her own music as a solo musician. Once Alison Chesley had started to write her own music as a solo artist, she decided to create a new identity to match the new direction she was taking in her life. At that point, Alison became known as Helen Money.
The music that Chesley was creating as Helen Money was rock music but she was using an instrument not commonly associated with rock bands- the cello. While making music with the instrument, Helen Money uses pedals, the same pedals that would be used by an electric guitarist. So with feedback, echo and dampening effects, there really is no other category for her music other than “rock”.
Helen Money made her way to Cleveland on November 5th, 2009. The musician was in town to play a concert and to promote her new release of In Tune, an album that was just recently released on Table of the Elements Records.
While Money’s playlist only contained six songs, the strongest tunes were “Too Heavy,” the new album’s title track of “In Tune,” and “Hendrix,” a song that was in no small way influenced by Rock And Roll Hall of Famer Jimi Hendrix. Like her opening acts of Like Bells and Technical Drawings, Money’s set only lasted for about 35 minutes. In that short amount of time, the small-but-attentive audience found out just what Money (Alison Chesley) can do with her instrument…………with the help of many pedals that she brings with her to create the sound she is known for.
As Alison Chesley (Helen Money) has a master’s degree in cello performance, it came as no surprise that some of the music in her performance was very classical in its sound. But for the most part, the style that Chesley had developed earlier in her musical career with Jason Narducy was the style that had the audience entertained for the evening.
Helen Money was not the only act on the bill for the Thursday night conert; two bands helped open the show for her:
Like Bells, a trio of musicians that met while attending Oberlin College, started the night of music off. The band played their 35-minute set of original experimental rock from the current self-titled release, as well as a future follow-up release. The band members of violin/viola player and lead singer Garrett Openshaw, guitarist Gabe Baker and drummer/keyboard player Will Mason played perhaps the most commercially accessible music of the night.
Technical Drawings was a duo made up of Melissa St. Pierre and Jesse Stiles. Technical Drawings helped bridge the gap between the experimental rock of Like Bells and the solo avant garde cello music performed by Helen Money. Melissa St. Pierre and Jesse Stiles created their avant garde music with St. Pierre performing on a prepared piano and Stiles adding loops and computer technology to the music. The duo’s 35-minute set was delivered with reckless abandon: they sounded and looked as if they were having fun while performing live in concert………..and isn’t that what rock’n’roll is all about?
Since the music of Helen Money is outside the normal boundaries of regular rock music, not just any old venue would have been suitable to host the event. The Thursday night concert took place in the Front Room Gallery, an art gallery (and sometime music venue) that exists inside what might have been an old factory that has been repurposed to bring life back to a once-vital part of the city of Cleveland that sat dormant for some time. The unique setting gave the music performed that night a great atmosphere to match the unique quality of the music played by Like Bells, Technical Drawings, and of course, the main act for the night, Helen Money.
Alison Chesley is currently on tour as Helen Money to promote her new release of In Tune that was just recently released on Table of the Elements Records. To find out where Helen Money will be performing next, and the find out more about Helen Money herself, you can find Helen Money online at www.helenmoney.com. You can also find Helen Money on MySpace at www.myspace.com/helenmoney.
To find Helen Money’s latest album, just click on the album cover: