Mobile Chamber Music Presents Merz Trio

Story By: Andrew Bryant | Contributing Writer and Photographer |

Jan. 15, 2023

MOBILE, Ala. – Mobile Chamber Music celebrated its 61st season by welcoming the Merz Trio to the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center. Mobile Chamber Music is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that brings musicians to schools and youth centers to implement an appreciation of classical music.

Merz Trio has performed across the country and worldwide. The members of the trio, coming from different corners of the world, have been friends for five years and got their group name from German artist Kurt Schwitters. Schwitters is said to have once fully decorated his parents’ house with objects that he found, and affirmed that “art only occurs in shared places.” The word “Merz” itself was invented by Schwitters, who used it to describe his art, with an emphasis that art could only occur in shared spaces. The trio has performed for and alongside dancers, puppeteers, chefs, directors, concerts, and recitals, and has won many competitions. 

The program began at 3:00 p.m. but had about three dozen guests lined up in the halls by 2:15 p.m. I had never been to a piano recital before, so to say that I was underdressed in a hoodie and shorts would be an understatement. By 2:30 p.m., the ushers began letting patrons in, so I made sure that I was one of the first people in line to nab a great seat.

At 3:00 p.m. on the dot, the emcee introduced the Merz Trio, made up of Lee Dionne on the piano, Brigid Coleridge on the violin, and Julia Yang on the cello. After a round of applause for the trio’s arrival on the stage, Lee addressed the crowd, describing the first song that they would perform: “Trio elegiaque No. 1 in G minor”, composed by 18-year-old Sergei Rachmaninoff  (1873-1843) as an homage to his friend Tchaikovsky, two years after his death. The song was hauntingly beautiful. Nearly a minute into the first song, the trio were all nodding their heads vigorously while playing their respective instruments, so much so that I had to keep myself from laughing. I later realized they had reached what people call “the zone”; a mental headspace where the only inhabitants are people who not only love what they do but are truly great at what they do. They weren’t worried about messing up, or what others thought they looked like at that moment. They were simply one with the music. It was probably one of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever experienced.

After the song finished, the trio arose from their benches and bowed while the audience held powerful applause. After the applause, cellist Brigid Coleridge described what they would play next: four songs that the trio had assembled and arranged, a combination of two by composer Alma Mahler (1879-1964) and two by Alban Berg (1885-1935). One song by Alma was about a traveler walking amidst the dead of night, who is then comforted by a child’s song. The second is about a couple in love, roaming a forest on a starless night. The songs by Alban were based on two separate poems: one about the days of summer, mentioning the color white, while the other uses the color blue to describe eternity and a lengthy journey across the world.

The last song, “Piano Trio No. 1 Op. 8,” was composed by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), at the young age of 16. The song was created for his then-girlfriend, Tatiana Glivenko, with who he’d stay for 10 years. The melodies were so sweet that I had to hold back tears. What humans can do for love is amazing; sometimes horrific, but often amazing.

As cliche as it sounds, that’s what holds humanity together. We individually are at our most powerful and can achieve feats we otherwise probably couldn’t do, when we love somebody. After the song was over, the trio bowed as the audience applauded fervently, myself included. If I weren’t a broke college student, I would’ve purchased one of their CDs. No worries though, you can listen to their album on Spotify! Just search “Merz Trio.” Be sure to keep an eye out for their next performance. You won’t want to miss it!