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Bond, the Classical Spice Girls - 2001-04-12

Bond is an all-female string quartet that's being hailed by the international press as the "Spice Girls of classical music." Conservatory-trained, the four women hail from opposite ends of the world, and present themselves like pop stars. Their debut album "Born," is being praised as an accomplishment in classical crossover music.

"Born," the first album by Bond, is a classical mixture of sounds and rhythms from around the world, with elements of pop and dance. On first glance at the album cover, the quartet could be easily mistaken for a pop group, such as the Spice Girls or Dream. On stage, they dress like rock stars, and appear in bikinis in their videos.

First violinist Haylie Ecker grew up in Perth, Australia, while violist Tania Davis hails from Sydney. Welsh-born Eos, the second violinist, has played with several rock stars, as did cellist Gay-Yee Westerhoff, who hails from London. All four women graduated with honors from various universities and music conservatories.

Augmented by guitar, percussion and a symphony orchestra, Bond re-invents Tchaikovsky's "1812," adapts a classical gypsy rhythm for "Korobushka," and borrows from Rossini's "Barber of Seville" for a tune called "Victory," by Croatian composer Tonci Huljic.

Last year, Bond was the first chamber ensemble to sell out all 5,000 seats of London's Royal Albert Hall before the release of their debut album.

There has been some controversy, however, about the group's placement on the music charts. Even though they reached Number 2 on the British classical charts, Bond's album "Born" was removed from the roster. The Chart Information Network ruled that the CD didn't fit its classical category, "either by a recognized classical composer or in a sufficiently classical idiom." The electronic dance beats further clouded the boundaries of classical and rock.

The album also entered the U.K. pop chart at Number 36. Violinist Haylie Ecker said in a statement, "In a modern world, it is disappointing that the classical elite cannot embrace change. We are all classical musicians." Bond joins other female artists who have met resistance from the conservative world of classical music. Sexy violinist Vanessa Mae, former model and cellist Nina Kotova and Finnish violin player Linda Brava, who posed in Playboy magazine, have all had to fight for recognition as classical artists, although they chose promotional methods usually reserved for pop stars.

Linda Valentine, a spokesperson for the Universal Classics record label, said, "The Bond girls are proper musicians; they have paid their dues. They are also providing glamorous role models that young people who might be interested in playing classical instruments can identify with."

Drawing their musical roots from five continents, the women of Bond hope to do more international touring over the next few months.