After our last successful performance in LaBar Recital Hall, it’s time we take a trip back over to the south snap-on to the stadium for Merz Trio! The trio was one of the winners of the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition last spring. They return to Notre Dame as Presenting Series artists to perform some of their favorite pieces of music. (If you haven’t heard of Fischoff, you should have—it’s the nation’s largest chamber music competition, it’s hosted at the Center, and the competition performances are free to attend.)
Merz Trio is made up of Brigid Coleridge on the violin, Julia Yang on the cello, and Lee Dionne on the piano. All are fantastic musicians alone, but we asked them a few questions about the magic they create when they all come together.
What is the most difficult piece you’ve ever played?
The Flight of the Bumblebee. No, just kidding. But actually, Ravel and Brahms B Major (our DPAC program) are some of the hardest things out there for a piano trio … and they’re absolutely worth the struggle. Those two pieces alone are a pretty good reason to play music and it’s pretty amazing to be playing them both on the same program.
Who was or still is your artistic inspiration?
Too many to count. Among piano trios, we have some varied and shared favorites: Barenboim-Zukerman-du Pre Trio, Tetzlaff Trio, and Rubinstein-Heifetz-Piatagorsky Trio; among current artists, Daniil Trifonov, Isabel Faust, Jean-Guihen Queyras, and Kirill Gerstein. Lee’s been going through a progressive funk and experimental jazz phase. All of us also draw a lot of inspiration outside of music in art, literature, dance, and even food!
How often do you practice?
We’re trying to strike the right balance between too much and not enough. We rehearse a lot for a Trio—five days a week, but it’s also really important to take breaks and make sure we’re coming to rehearsal refreshed, well-prepared, and full of creativity.
What is the most rewarding part about working in a group?
Sharing something as deep and meaningful as chamber music with two incredible, equally passionate colleagues—and getting to do that every day (!!!)—is more than its own reward, but some of what makes that experience uniquely incredible is the realization that you’re truly able to make something greater than the sum of its parts, as well as what you’re able to learn from your colleagues. True commitment to chamber music instills a deep humility and pushes you to be not just the best player, but the best musician you can be.
What is the most challenging part about working in a group?
Groups are composed of individuals with different tastes, differing opinions, different passions, and different needs. Being in a chamber group is just like being in a relationship. It requires openness, communication, commitment, consideration, and above all listening to each other in both music and otherwise!
Obviously, all of this is something one can work on consciously, but maybe the most difficult thing to achieve is that elusive rehearsal dynamic, supportive but natural, where everything just flows and creativity is expressed in “burstiness”—the kind of mutual, spontaneous affirmation
and building of ideas together.
Do you play any other instruments?
Lee is currently trying to convince Julia to start a funk band with him where they would play keyboards and double bass. This is, of course, purely fantasy.
Many thanks to the Merz Trio for their fun and insightful responses to our questions! (If the funk band ever gets off the ground, please let us know.) To experience their unique music, and guess which foods inspired it, get your tickets for their show on Sunday, October 13 at 2 p.m. The performance takes place in the LaBar Recital Hall in the O’Neill Hall of Music.
Pianist Lee Dionne, violinist Brigid Coleridge, and cellist Julia Yang have quickly emerged as a unique and award-winning ensemble, winning the 2019 Fischoff Competition Senior Division Strings/Piano Gold Prize and the First Prize and Audience Prize at the 2018 Chesapeake International Chamber Music Competition.
Sunday, October 13, 2019 at 2 p.m.