When I went in to see A Late Quartet, a new film by Yaron Silberman that includes a wonderful performance by Christopher Walken as an ageing cellist, I was already thinking about string quartets, and cellists in particular. A friend had just sent me a link to the YouTube clip of an event that took place 40 years ago this summer and which represented probably the first successful introduction of a string quartet into rock music: the 1973 tour by Van Morrison’s Caledonia Soul Orchestra.
That tour was commemorated in the classic double-album It’s Too Late to Stop Now, some of which was taped at the Rainbow Theatre in North London. I was there that July night, along with just about everyone I knew. It was the gig of the year, not least because Morrison was returning to the UK for the first time since his days with Them, and it was no surprise to me when it turned out to be an absolutely perfect night because I’d seen them a week or so earlier, at Birmingham City Hall, and that had been spectacular enough. In the meantime I’d talked to Van and some of the musicians in order to write a combined review/interview/preview of the London shows for the Melody Maker (the piece is archived, if you’re interested, at the subscription-based library http://www.rocksbackpages.com).
At that point Morrison had been living in Northern California for a couple of years, and to the regular line-up of his excellent six-piece band he’d added two violins, viola and cello. Playing arrangements written by the keyboard player Jeff Labes, the string quartet added depth and texture to favourites such as “Into the Mystic” and “Listen to the Lion”. As the concert neared its end, they were featured at length on a magnificent version of “Caravan”, in a passage representing a wonderful moment of baroque and roll.
But I know exactly why my friend sent me the clip of that performance of “Caravan”. It was to remind me that this was the night we all fell in love with the blonde cellist.
When those who were at the Rainbow that night gather to reminisce, the name of Terry Adams invariably finds its way into the conversation, accompanied by swooning gestures. It’s like the face you glimpse through the window of a bus and never forget.
Along with Nate Rubin and Tim Kovatch (violins) and Nancy Ellis (viola), she was a member of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra. Forty years later she is still active in the Bay Area, playing in musicals in San Francisco theatres and performing with the recording orchestra at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch film studio. She also runs something called the Nob Hill String Ensemble: “Whatever you’re planning — a wedding and reception, private party, or company convention — Terry will work with you personally to help create a mix of elegant classical, light-classical and popular music to help brighten your special event.” When Morrison put together the band to play Astral Weeks live in 2009, she and Nancy Ellis were recalled; they can be heard on the album recorded at the Hollywood Bowl concert.
That warm July night in 1973, anyway, Teressa “Terry” Adams took her place in rock and roll history. In the clip, you’ll see her responding to Van’s introduction with a smile that some of us swear we can still see hanging in the sky above Finsbury Park.