“It is a wonderful and maybe a dangerous thing”: Rachel Mercer on EMIC’s new CD ~ Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

Ensemble Made in Canada (photo by Sian Richards)

Ensemble Made in Canada (photo by Sian Richards)

It’s here! Acclaimed chamber-music quartet Ensemble Made in Canada‘s (EMIC) second CD is having its official launch on Wednesday, October 28 at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto. EMIC, regarded as Canada’s premier piano quartet, is composed of award-winning musicians Angela Park  (piano), Elissa Lee (violin), Sharon Wei  (viola) and Rachel Mercer (cellist). In 2013, they released their acclaimed self-titled debut CD of Mozart and Brahms Piano Quartets. The follow-up CD features the music of JUNO-award-winning Canadian composer John Burge, and includes Piano Quartet No. 1, specially commissioned and premiered by EMIC. While in residency at Western University, the artists are currently on a fall tour, performing concerts in Thunder Bay, Toronto, London and Kingston. In November, they embark on a 6-city US tour, including a keenly-anticipated New York City debut.

Cellist Rachel Mercer (photo by Miriam Lee)

Cellist Rachel Mercer (photo by Miriam Lee)

Do the artists’ schedules sound frantically hectic? Absolutely! But what makes them sought-after and relatable is their love of music and a near-compulsive desire to share it. Fortunately for us, this means they always make time to discuss their performances and projects. On the eve of EMIC’s CD launch concert, SesayArts spoke with ensemble member Rachel Mercer about recording the new CD, EMIC’s fall tour and how the ensemble found their name.

  1. What has been the most rewarding and challenging aspects of bringing this CD about ?

The most rewarding is the moment the final product is in your hand–and also the launch party! And also when finally getting feedback from listeners!

The most challenging is the actual recording sessions — recording is tough. There is a different kind of focus needed, long hours, and of course, with our schedules, the sessions are usually squeezed into tiny breaks in a tour! Next, would be trying to stay on budget!​

  1. What do you think people might be talking about after they hear the selections on this CD? 

Hopefully the fascinating music! John’s music takes you on a journey, and there is quite a variety represented here, even though he composed all 3 pieces recently and within a span of 2 years.

  1. How easy is it to be a professional classical musician in Canada?
Angela Park, Elissa Lee, Rachel Mercer and Sharon Wei (photo by Bo Huang)

Angela Park, Elissa Lee, Rachel Mercer and Sharon Wei (photo by Bo Huang)

​Being a classical professional musician is not easy. But what profession is? We have all chosen this path for a reason, for a huge love of music and sharing it, so we are not complaining to be busy working musicians! Canada is particularly special as our community is spread out but small. We all know one another through someone, and there is a great feeling of support and cross-pollination/ inspiration to draw on. It is invigorating to have such a wealth of talented creative people around who are on complimentary missions.​

  1. If you could put this CD into one particular person’s hands, whose would it be?

​Anyone who is afraid of new music. They would hear there is nothing to fear!

  1. EMIC tours quite a lot, and is currently on tour…How will your tenure with the NACO impact the ensemble?

​That remains to be seen. Ideally, both positions support each other, in that my work and value to each ensemble improves by doing both, but in the end it is really a scheduling issue that I will make every effort to make work!​

6. Where did the name come from?

I heard it started as a joke, and then became something everyone hates or loves. Now we are growing into it and thinking about what it means to be an ensemble with a very Canadian identity — from where we were born, brought up, and our connection to this country.

7. Famous last words…

L-R: Elissa Lee, Angela Park, Rachel Mercer, Sharon Wei (photo by Sian Richards)

L-R: Elissa Lee, Angela Park, Rachel Mercer, Sharon Wei (photo by Sian Richards)

Making a classical CD these days is so different from the past. For one, the days of having a regular label are gone. Anyone can record anything, and not even tons of money is needed, necessarily. It is a wonderful and maybe a dangerous thing. There is no quality control, and the listener becomes the sole element that decides whether a recording is worth listening to and then possibly buying. This means that we only record projects we truly stand behind and believe in, since we will make no money from them!

We hope that, in the end, our recording output is a representation of our quality and kind of work to be on record for generations to come.​

News You Can Use

Who: Ensemble Made in Canada: Elissa Lee (violin), Angela Park  (piano),  Rachel Mercer (cellist) and Sharon Wei  (viola)

What: EMIC: Chamber Music of John Burge CD Launch Concert

When: Wednesday October 28, 2015, 7:30 pm

Where: Canadian Music Centre, 20 St. Joseph St., Toronto, ON

Why: listen to EMIC in concert

For information:  ensemblemadeincanada.com

For ticketsmusiccentre.ca

Order EMIC: Chamber Music of John Burge CD here

Order EMIC: Mozart Piano Quartet No. 2, Brahms Piano Quartet No. 3 CD here

© 2015 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya

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