The musician was still performing more traditionally with orchestras as a soloist in concertos by the likes of Dvorak and Shostakovich, but it was not what she wanted to do. She was still “grinding” in her spare time to get there. One video changed it all.
In 2010, Guo uploaded a metal arrangement of the 19th century Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee to YouTube. Renamed Queen Bee, it features the musician on electric cello, backed by a full band. It has the aesthetics to match, too – the video is rated 18+ for its sultry, provocative visuals.
Guo’s parents were not happy. “They almost disowned me,” she recalls. “I don’t really blame them that much because I think that’s a pretty extreme deviation from playing the classical cello.”
But the video caught the eye of one Hans Zimmer. When the prolific film composer reached out, she admits, “I didn’t even know who he was.” It was the beginning of a fruitful creative partnership – the two have worked and toured together extensively since. Their collaborations include co-writing the electrifying theme for Wonder Woman, which Guo performed – it has been viewed more than 10 million times on YouTube.
Meeting Zimmer and a gig with Cirque du Soleil were the turning points in Guo’s career – from 2011 to 2013, she toured with the latter’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. “That was my biggest dream, to be like a lead guitar player, basically, and play huge arenas,” she says. “I was so grateful when I had that opportunity.”
Through that job, where she was an official employee – health insurance, salary and all – her parents came around, at last, to her unique version of a musical career. “It took me running away with the circus for my parents to finally be OK with it,” she jokes.
Guo has racked up a seriously impressive portfolio and set of passport stamps since. She will perform on classical cello this weekend in Melbourne as the soloist with an orchestra celebrating Ang Lee’s award-winning 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The film will screen alongside its score being recreated live.
Having the opportunity to work on a range of eclectic projects – and spearheading a few of them herself – has transformed the instrument Guo once resented into something adventurous, freeing and distinctively hers.
“You can play so many different types of music with it, not just classical concertos,” she says. “It’s great to be able to do that, and then turn around and shred and make crazy noises on the electric cello.”
Tina Guo is performing two shows with the Green Destiny Orchestra at Hamer Hall in Melbourne on Saturday, August 5, at 1pm and 6pm.
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