Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
On May 5, the 5 at the First Chamber Music Series’ 8th season will close as it began, with the moving voices of instruments. The season launched with the voice of the flute and will end with a trio of string voices, titled Three Voices: Twelve Strings. In the spirit of all 5 at the First concerts, it features friends performing within the supportive environment of the series’ loyal and growing audience. In this case, it’s our friend cellist Rachel Mercer, along with her friends and colleagues violinist Yehonatan Berick and violist Jethro Marks.
The artists, who refer to themselves as “Twelve Strings,” are connected through their work at the University of Ottawa and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. They work their way through the standard repertoire for string trio – Bach, Beethoven and Mozart – and also explore lesser-known works such as the Reger trio they will perform at the concert.
Over its eight seasons, 5 at the First has distinguished itself by performing an eclectic program that features classic as well as new works. Every 5 at the First concert features the performance of at least one Canadian composition. The season finale concert will uphold that tradition with the world premiere of Ein Kleines Trio by the award-winning Dundas-based composer and Composer in Residence with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra Abigail Richardson-Schulte. Ms Mercer is a longstanding champion of Canadian composers, and Ms Richardson-Schulte offers her a special note of thanks for commissioning Ein Kleines Trio first to be inspired by – and now to be performed alongside – Mozart’s Divertimento for String Trio in E flat, K. 563, an epic 6 movement masterpiece.
In studying the trio, Ms Richardson-Schulte was struck by its movements, which seemed at first to be completely different. On further study, however, she found many similarities and variations. “The movements almost seemed like different family members,” she observes. “Mozart created these very different characters out of the same basic building blocks of music: scales and arpeggios. My ‘little’ trio takes these concepts in miniature. Instead of having many different movements which subtly use elements from other movements, I use alternating short sections: a rondo.” At first, these sections are separate, but as the piece progresses, the sections become intertwined, almost as if they have been influenced by what has gone on around them. By the end, there are no independent sections remaining, as they have all come under one umbrella together. She admits giving herself the additional challenge of using just notes, without contemporary effects: “I use musical form, scales, arpeggios and melodies, just as if I were writing in the 18th century.”
The opportunity to spend a spring afternoon listening to the song summoned by such talented string voices sounds soothing . . . and sublime. This is especially true, given 5 at the First’s always friendly environment, which offers live music for all ages by professional musicians without the remoteness of a large concert hall. Now layer on the fact that each concert includes a warm reception by Artistic Director Rachel Mercer and Executive Director Michele Corbeil, the ability to interact with the artists, complimentary refreshments at the tea-time intermission, all wrapped in a fulsome yet succinct 2 hours. It’s a short time and a good time . . . and always among friends.
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What: Three Voices: Twelve Strings, performed by Yehonatan Berick, violin; Jethro Marks, viola; Rachel Mercer, cello.
Who: Audiences of all ages
When: Saturday, May 5, 2018, 3:00 pm
Where: First Unitarian Church, 170 Dundurn Street South, Hamilton ON
Tickets: universe.com or At the door: Adult-$20; Senior-$15; Student/unwaged-$5; children under 12-Free
© 2018 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya