How To: Play in a chamber music trio – curious arts

Patricia Tao in Convocation Hall.

Industry Advice from Patricia Tao

Pianist Patricia Tao is playing a concert called Transatlantic Meeting with internationally-acclaimed artists Gil Sharon and James Campbell this Saturday, September 13th. The two guest musicians arrive in Edmonton September 11th, just two days before the concert! This makes me wonder how the players can form a trio quickly and pull off a great performance with so little time playing together previously. I asked Patty for some insights on how she plays in a chamber music trio with guest artists.

Q: How many rehearsals will you get in before performing together?

We’ll rehearse that Thursday evening and Friday as much as we can. The concert is on Saturday, so we’ll do a light rehearsal Saturday, and that will be it. It is quick. Jim and Gil have played all this repertoire before. It is a challenge, more for the pianist who hasn’t played everything before (laughs) but it is what you have to do as a professional musician.

Q: Is it tricky to play as a trio with guest artists?

You need to know your part quite well but you also need to know what the other people have in their parts so that when you rehearse, all you have to do is adjust. I have my own interpretive ideas and tempos but when we get together it might all completely adjust. You have to be flexible.

Q: Do you have some tips on how to quickly establish a rapport when you are performing with new people as an ensemble?

In any setting, when you are working with chamber music with people you don’t play with all the time, or even with people that you do play with often, it is all about listening.

During the rehearsal time, you constantly must be listening. You can’t be immersed simply in your own part – that’s part of what makes chamber music different and difficult. It is a skill. You have to be listening and you have to be able to react. So if they play something a certain way, then you have to follow suit. You don’t just play it how you’ve always played it. Developing those listening skills takes a lot of time.

Patricia Tao in Convocation Hall

Patricia Tao in Convocation Hall. Picture by Angelique Rodrigues.

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