By Asolia Zharmenova
“Make that forte a joyful one!” exclaimed Lisa Lee, violinist and middle sister of the Lee Trio, during the chamber masterclass on Friday, April 6.
The Center for Faith and Inquiry and the Department of Music were privileged to welcome the world-renown sibling trio to Gordon’s campus. Following their Conversation with the President convocation, the trio performed select movements from Beethoven’s Ghost Trio op. 70, Dvorak’s Dumky Trio, and a newly commissioned piece by the Finnish composer Uljas Pulkkis’ Fern Flowers, “Midsummer Night”.
In reference to the core philosophy for their performance as a trio, the youngest of the three Melinda Lee Masur said, “Everytime we perform we seek to give a sense of shalom, restoration and reconciliation. This is our opportunity to give these feelings to our audience.”
Their debut performance in 2002 at Wigmore Hall may be considered as the first official initiation of the Lee Trio. Although growing up, they often performed chamber pieces together, they now see the privilege of getting to share music even as adults despite their busy family lives and constant travels for performances, masterclasses and teaching.
With a career in classical music performance, they claim that unlike other professions, their platform is the stage.
When asked about their personal journeys in music, cellist Angela Lee said, “Music for each of us was there from the beginning, while we were still in our mother’s womb”.
Their mother, a professor of piano at the San Francisco Conservatory, began their studies in piano at the age of five. In fact, Lisa added that there were only two rules in their household, that each girl practice two hours and day, and on Sunday’s they went to church. Around age nine, Angela and Lisa chose to pursue the cello and violin respectively, while Melinda continued in piano.
Holding undergraduate and graduate degrees collectively from the Yale School of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music, the San Francisco Conservatory, Harvard, and Juilliard, the sisters also spent time abroad and encourage young musicians to take initiative in gaining opportunities outside their home cultures.
Mothers, educators and performers, the sisters are also engaged in social initiatives, bringing the world of music to underprivileged communities both locally and abroad. Music Camp International, located in Romania, is an intensive six-day choir and instrumental involvement for Ukrainian and Romanian children. These children face the consequences of growing up in post-Communist societies that continue to face the realities of poverty, political unrest, and social instability.
The mission of the camp is to introduce children to the world of music, while also teaching them the joy of pursuing education and extracurricular activities.
The Lee Trio was first invited to participate as guest performers, and upon their arrival to the camp, they expressed an overriding, shared concern: “How can we play music [for these children] while their most basic needs are still unmet?” They realized, however, that this is the true power of music. “When there is a world of conflict and social unrest,” says Angela Lee, “we try to be diplomatic, yet music melts away barriers that words and actions cannot break… We witnessed exactly how the power of music changed and continues to do so in the lives of these children.”
Looking ahead, the Lee Trio prepares for the 250th anniversary celebrating the life and work of Beethoven which will be held in June of 2020. Currently, they continue to record the composer’s piano trios and are working on commissioning contemporary composers to create trios inspired by the works of the German master.
The sisters believe that in order for the piano trio genre to endure it is their duty as chamber musicians to encourage rising generations of composers to continue exploring in this compositional genre.