It’s in the stars

Internationally renowned Zodiac Trio performs in Yellow Springs

By Lisa Bennett

On May 29, 1913, crowds packed into the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The crowd, expecting a typical performance excellence by the Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Company, was so taken aback by the avant-garde presentation by composer Igor Stravinsky that near riots erupted in the theatre. His composition subsequently earned him a reputation of a being a “rebel” and forever changed the way composers after him thought about rhythmic structure and musical design.

Much like Stravinsky, the Zodiac Trio has re-imagined the presentation of classical music. In 2006, the trio surprised the classical music scene with an unusual but successful take on the piano trio. Typically, a piano trio consists of a piano, a violin and a cello. The Zodiac Trio, however, replaced the cello with a clarinet, creating a melodious blend unlike anything else being presented.

“It’s a different sound and a different repertoire,” says Jane Watts, president of the Chamber Music Yellow Springs board. “I just think that the clarinet and the violin have such an incredible ability to play in unison, and to just be so in tune with each other and the piano then also fits in beautifully.”

The tantalizing harmonic blends propelled the young group into international acclaim just a year after the ensemble formed. In fact, in their first few years together, the group became the world’s first and only ensemble with a wind instrument to enter the renowned and prestigious Ysaӱe Quartet Chamber Music Program at the Paris Superior Conservatory.

Since its inception at the Manhattan School of Music, the group has garnered awards from around the globe, including multiple awards in France and Italy, as well as awards from the United States including New York, California and Ohio. In 2009, the Trio competed in the Yellow Springs Annual Competition.

“The Zodiac Trio was just very appealing, and we’ve been talking about having them come back ever since,” Watts says.

Getting them back to Yellow Springs wasn’t easy, however. The group has had an extensive performance itinerary that has included Canada, Japan, China, Massachusetts, Nebraska, California, Colorado, New York, Minnesota and France.

Their demand is due, in part, to the hail of praises from newspapers and magazines around the world including Classique Info, Concerto Net, La Tribune France, New York Concert Review and Muso—the London-based magazine that first introduced the Zodiac Trio to the international chamber music scene.

In addition to wowing audiences with their innovative performances, the trio is busy presenting classes and programs for children and college musicians to institutions including Tufts University, Berklee college of Music, University of Missouri, San Francisco Conservatory, Tulsa University and the China Conservatory of Beijing. One of their more notable programs called “Sound of the Imagination” was aired in Beijing to an audience of millions. The trio is also the founder of the Boston New Music Project.

Their new album, just release in January of this year, called Dreamtime is a compilation of music from composers Andrew List, John Mackey, Richard Danielpour and the special, call-for-score project: “Zodiac: Across The Universe.”

The trio plans to include a selection from the album in their upcoming performance at the Chamber Music Yellow Springs. The selection, “Visions from the Aboriginal Dreamtime,” was written for the trio by composer Andrew List. The piece is broken down into four parts, each one inspired by a portion of the Australian Aboriginal creation stories. The piece recounts the tale of a grey, desolate world from which ancient ancestors rose up and sang all of creation into existence. It then celebrates the passing down of lands and wisdom with sounds and rhythms used by the Aboriginal peoples. List successfully mimics the sounds of the didgeridoo using the clarinet and violin, adding yet another layer of delicious dimension to the piece. Other selections of the performance will include pieces from Paul Schoenfield, Galina Ustvolskaya, Astor PIazzolla and Béla Bartók.

The Zodiac Trio will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 20 at First Presbyterian Church, 314 Xenia Ave. in Yellow Springs. General admission is $25 and student admission is $7. For tickets and more information, please visit or

Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at


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Lisa Bennett
Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at

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