Byline: Megan Steller
In the midst of 2020’s lockdown, Emma Jardine of the Streeton Trio had her hands full. Unusually, though, they weren’t busied with the violin, but instead with gardening and cooking and chasing her three children under the age of five, the youngest of whom had been born that January. As the year progressed, and the crisis escalated, leaving colleagues and friends out of work and the sector as we knew it strangely deserted, she had started contemplating the work she had been engaged in up until that point – what was the true purpose of art? What is the point of music?
How should musicians and artists be grappling with the question of their relevancy as all around them theatres and concert halls shutter? One afternoon, this question at the forefront of Emma’s mind, one of her children was idly scanning the radio as she tended to her garden. As he flicked through the channels, there out of the blue appeared Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, and Emma knew immediately that it was her ensemble that the presenter had chosen to broadcast. She hurried over to sit next to her son, and all of the feelings that had been brewing since the beginning of the strange new normal arose. “You know when it hits you?” she asked me, when we caught up on the phone at the start of the new year. “It was beautiful and sad, and a great feeling of longing and nostalgia filled me all at once, remembering how it feels to perform, to feel the connection and energy of the audience.” You get on with things, we mused, with life and day-to-day frustrations and joys, and then all of a sudden it strikes you: the reason why artists must continue to create.
Once the entirety of the piano trio had been performed, Emma listened as ABC Classic FM broadcaster Martin Buzacott relayed a text message he had received in the studio while the Mendelssohn played; a lady called Annette from Melbourne had written to tell him about her amateur piano trio, who had played together every Wednesday for the past 30 years. The Trio No. 1 had been a favourite of theirs to play together. Since the pandemic had begun, their cellist had been moved into an aged care facility, so the trio had been unable to get together for the first time in three decades. As soon as Annette heard those opening strains on the ABC though, performed deftly by the Streeton Trio, she’d called up her two long-time friends and musical colleagues and the trio had sat together, but apart, listening and remembering.