Q&A with the NZTrio
You have announced Justine’s decision to leave the trio after an amazing partnership of 15 years. Justine, I’m sure our audience would love to know if you have any plans already in store for the future?
Justine: Actually, at this point I don't have specific professional plans once I leave the trio - apart from a few small jobs here and there. I have poured my heart and soul into NZTrio for 15 years and while I am still with the trio, it is almost impossible to imagine where my focus will shift to and what will be inspiring me as I move forward. Really I am keen to allow some space in my life, space that will allow new things to come. I can't wait to see what does, and doesn't arise.
On a personal note, my husband and I will be leaving Auckland and moving to Central Otago in the middle of June. We have bought land in Queensberry, 15 minutes out of Wanaka, and are currently working on the design of what will be our new home. We are both hugely excited, as moving back to the South Island, and to Central Otago in particular, has been an absolute life dream for both of us for many years now.
Tell us your favourite memory (if you can pick one!) from all those years spent together?
Justine: Wow - this is a hard question...not sure where to start! Actually when I cast my mind back over the years, rather than a specific memory, what comes to mind as an overarching highlight is all the travelling we have done together as a trio. We have been to such varied destinations over the years, and played for so many different people, in a vast array of different spaces dotted over the world. I treasure the diversity of these experiences as well as all the people who have taken care of us and shared this journey along the way. It has been a rich tapestry of experiences - delving into the cultures of these far off places, tasting the wonderful local food and of course sharing our music. We always perform NZ works in our programmes, and playing New Zealand music all over the world has been an incredible honour, and is probably the true highlight for me.
The trio (with Justine) will be touring as part of our Regional Series, starting in May. This will be one of the last chances for NZ audiences to hear you in your current line up. Can you tell us a little about the music you are going to perform….
Sarah: We’ve put together some typically eclectic NZTrio programmes, which really are a game of two halves. All the programmes will begin with some of our favourite energetic and rhythmic ‘toe-tappers’ selected from near and far - Argentinian tangos by Piazzolla, New Yorker John Musto’s vibrant piano trio, and Raimundo Penaforte’s “An Eroica Trio”, which is really a wonderful hommage to three of his own faves (namely, Piazzolla, Ravel, and his Brazilian countryman Lourenco da Fonseca Barbosa).
As always, New Zealand music is on proud display, with David Hamilton’s intriguingly titled “Faraday Cage”, and Claire Cowan’s “Subtle Dances” (a work which was co-commissioned by NZTrio and Chamber Music New Zealand back in 2013, and which we believe has become our most often performed kiwi work since its premiere).
We then look forward to luxuriating in a couple of Classical masterworks: Whangarei and Wellington audiences will get to hear us perform Schubert’s B flat major trio, while Beethoven’s late E flat major trio will be a treat for concert-goers in Rotorua and Upper Hutt. There’s sure to be something in there for everyone - we so often find that people are drawn to the programme by a particular composer, but end up being swept away by something completely unexpected. It will be great to hear what people’s reactions are to all the music.
What is it about performing in the smaller towns around New Zealand that you particularly enjoy?
Sarah: Besides the obvious bonus of getting to drive and travel around our gorgeous country, we really value bringing a live experience to communities which may not have as many musical events on offer. We’d hope that our ‘friendly’ and approachable style will tempt people along, even if some of the composer names are less than familiar! It really is a shared experience, and the smaller, more intimate venues offer the opportunity for a really great audience/performer connection - big halls are very nice and all, but we love the up-close immediacy of smaller spaces. Hopefully that works both ways!
Are there any centres/parts of New Zealand that you are especially looking forward to taking your music to?
Ashley: Of the centres we’re coming to with CMNZ this April/May, I reckon Whangarei and Rotorua are the ones we’ve been to the least often, so it'll be great to get back there. Of course we'd love to be able to get to each centre every year. But the cost of mounting a one-off concert makes that impossible. So it's an absolute privilege to have the support of CMNZ with its proven structures, experience and knowledge (in the head office and the local societies) and to get back to these regional centres. Actually, we've never been to a Stewart Island - can CMNZ send us there…? And how about West Island? (Some people pronounce it “Australia”.)
Later this year we’re getting back to Christchurch too. We three all studied at Canterbury. For years after the quake we struggled to find an appropriate space to perform there, with the right combination of acoustics, piano quality and audience-performer proximity. So we were delighted to see our old haunt, the Great Hall, restored to glorious condition when we played there with Simon O’Neill last year. We also visited the new space called The Piano too. It's a very impressive design and we're looking forward to trying it out in August.
How is the search for the new violinist going?
Ashley: It's a tricky business. Of course, as a group, we've never been through a recruitment stage before so we’re taking our time and doing everything within our power to get it right. Anyone who knows NZTrio will know we’re looking for the right combination of chops and attitude. It's our ongoing mission to make chamber music, NZ music, and new music from around the world accessible, relevant and funky.
CMNZ has heard that NZTrio finds great eating places whilst on tour around the country…Did you tell the prospective applicants that a healthy café appetite is a pre-requisite?
Ashley: Ha, yes it's all part of immersing ourselves in the local culture, whether it’s deep-fried locusts in China or possum pie in Pukekura. We’re partial to the occasional Wellington craft IPA or Central Otago Pinot Noir too. We just have to be careful we can still fit into our concert clothes. I have an image of my top button finally giving up, pinging off, and taking out someone's eye.
Touring 20 April - 7 May