We all come into this world with gifts, talents, passions, a certain mission, which the Lord has granted each and every one of us. Some of those traits may be obvious in our lives, others not so. Some even manifest themselves in our lives later, when we have a bit more experience in the world to know what we love and enjoy. How may we realize such, and pursue it? Our story is truly one that points to the grace and mercy of our Lord, since He has always been the one leading and guiding us as a string trio with our various personalities, gifts, and talents to consider. Quintessence Ensemble was something that was created by the Lord, and the guidance of parents, Christian parents. It is truly quite the journey, starting with a group of three sisters born into an Italian/Canadian family, in a small 1940’s home in the heart of the city, Toronto, in Canada.
Classical music was always played in our home, even though both of our parents were not classically trained musicians. Mother, Carolyn, always had classical music playing since her college days. While working through a paper, Mozart was the perfect solution to brain activity, and one classical track made all the difference in her life as a student. As a mother to a couple children at that time, she wanted such an ear cultivated by the children, a “musical” ear.
Each and every summer, our parents would take us to the Canadian Opera Company’s outdoor concert series, where we were able to hear beautiful outdoor orchestral productions, including whatever soloist that was in town at that time. I remember, clearly, as if it was yesterday, the day I approached my mother to play the violin. At the tender age of five and a half, I was absolutely in love with the violin, and was determined to play it. Mom tried, to some extent, to convince me to start with the piano first, as it is an easier instrument, but I was determined to play my love, the violin.
Soon after, she enrolled me in violin lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music with a Suzuki violin teacher who was quite the fellow. He was not very open to questions in the lessons, and had some quite eccentric ways, but my interest in the violin caused me to overlook such a situation.
A couple years later, both Hannah and Abigail began playing the violin as well, and we would practice together. Sibling practices were not always successful, more often not, to be honest, but mom was always around the corner, and would even bring out the video camera to show us how ridiculous our practice conduct was at times. When we began learning the violin, we were blessed with a mother who also started violin lessons, so that she would sometimes join our practice sessions, and play simple duets with us if needed. Sadly, her violin was sold to pay for one of the more expensive instruments once we needed an instrument improvement.
The Suzuki method has its benefits but also downfalls, as soon after picking up my violin, I was able to play entire concertos without even reading one note. So it was at that moment, mom enrolled us all in piano lessons with a sweet Christian lady, who always gave us the time of day to share our life experiences, and let us pick the pieces we desired. At around the same time, Hannah decided to switch to the cello. The violin was never a passion of her own, she started to play it just to follow “big sister”. After some discussion, she agreed to try it for a month. That month never ended, as Hannah fell in love with the cello, and would practice for hours on end. In her own words, “I even remember, one time, where I woke up in the middle of the night and really wanted to go and practice, but didn’t dare, as the family was asleep.”
And Abigail, the youngest of the three sisters, the spunky one that was quite opinionated at times, she continued with the violin, trying the viola for a time, but switching back. Abigail’s main musical passion was always the piano, she could listen to piano concertos on end, but even so, she pursued the violin with vigour, practicing dedicatedly.
Three sisters, all of us pursuing that instrument which we loved best. Seemingly simple and insignificant to some; our early repertoire consisting of Twinkle Twinkle, to the extent of Minuet No.3 by Bach. Even so, the Lord had a plan for us...one that we would never dream of, or expect in the slightest!
It all began with a cousin’s wedding. She was looking for a couple string musicians to play during the ceremony, and since she lived far north, in Ontario, there were not many musicians who were able to travel to such a location. We, at that time young amateurs, were asked to perform for the ceremony. Quintessence, made up for the most part of solely one violin and a cello. The bride and groom absolutely loved our performance, and so did the family, though we were a tad embarrassed when we stopped the entire piece as soon as the mother-of-the-bride walked down the aisle, not sure when we were required to stop, and start once again.
Such an experience did not negatively impact our group as we continued to practice and perform together, Abby joining full-time once she achieved a certain level. When practice times didn’t necessarily work out, mom was always there to encourage us, set some guidelines that assisted in the entire practicing process, which, like I said previously, was not always pleasant. Truly, by the grace of God, and word of mouth, our trio group name spread like wildfire. Fast forward a few years, one performance at an Austrian cafe in town for their weekly brunch led to a performance at the Austrian Society of Toronto’s Annual party, and before we knew it, we were called to represent Austria at the World Hockey Cup held in Toronto in 2016 (and as you know, we are not Austrian).
We were also blessed to release our first CD including sacred pieces and hymns at the ages of 19, 16 and 14, with many of the hymn arrangements being arranged by me, Miriam. Our second CD was in light of the 50th anniversary of the production of the Sound of Music film, one of our most favourite family films! For this CD, we also put together a couple concerts where we performed tracks from The Sound of Music, producing a CD with all of the selections so that people could enjoy our music in their homes, while driving to work, or reading a good book.
Not to say that everything was sugar and spice! We were in certain situations where gigs weren’t as plentiful, maybe we didn’t feel motivated to practice, or another situation in our lives distracted from our main focus. Even so, we continued to persevere, with the constant encouragement of our parents, knowing that the Lord had a plan for Quintessence, and by putting it to the side, or focusing on that which may or may not be important, we would be taking away from His main focus for our lives.
Performing days continued to increase, and we found ourselves performing in two weddings in Europe, to riding a yacht around the Toronto Islands playing for the Austrian Tourism and Trade Board, to even performing on television.
It all started with one phone call. The television station, 100 Huntley Street was looking for a string ensemble to perform for their Christmas program, and our name was discovered. In December 2017, we performed a set of Christmas music on the station, which was aired multiple times. Once again, in the spring of this year, we were called by the television station to accompany award winning singer/songwriter and pianist, Fernando Ortega. He flew in from New Mexico to record on the station a day before, giving us time to run through the repertoire. It was truly quite the experience, since we had performed with countless professionals in the past, including orchestras, vocalists, choirs, but never with a composer, performing his own compositions.
Overall, at this point in time, our performances consist of conference performances, weddings, celebrations, television appearances, concert series, choir and soloist accompaniments, concert tours, private functions, etc. As a string trio, we are true to our Classical background, and as a group, perform classical music much of the time, though we are also fine to experiment with Latin music, considering our Italian heritage. Our solid mission as a string trio is to glorify the Lord with our music, and to encourage young people in their passions, to pursuing music with excellence in the classical sphere. Far too often, Christians swerve away from taking such a jump, leaving the musical excellence up to the world to deliver, as “they produce better results than we do”. I encourage you, young people, if the Lord has gifted you
somehow in the musical field, and you aren’t sure whether or not to go for it, even though there is passion and talent there, pursue it! Go to the heights with your musical talent; pursue music with excellence!
As Christians, our main focus is the glorification of our Lord and Saviour, though it is not always easy to keep it at the forefront. Many people do not look well upon three young women pursuing God, but keeping Christ at the centre allows us to overlook such comments and keep on keeping on.
Not only pursuing Christ, but also pursing music successfully, the pressure is real, trust me! Those who ask why we don’t have a “real job”, who technically must be pitied over judged, as they don’t realize truly, the life of a musician. The life of a musician in a nutshell is preparing, practicing, building up all the adrenaline before a performance, performing, and then crashing; a consistent pattern that is repeated and repeated. The heaviest amount of work is put into the preparation stage, as sometimes I am required to arrange music since there are not many arrangements in the music sphere for two violins and a cello. Then the program must be compiled, and then practice to a perfection, and finally, performed in the same quality as the practice sessions. This is an extremely summarized version of the life of a musician. So, if you ever find yourself thinking the life of a musician is a breeze, that it really isn’t a real job, that “these musicians truly need a reality check”, you better check your facts first, folks!
Such a rigorous schedule is balanced with family time. We are very close as a family. I am not sure if it has anything to do with the Italian background, but truly, we talk about everything and anything together. One word spoken to one, before long is spoken to the rest of the family and discussed, pulled apart, resolved. We are blessed that our family has been able to come along to quite a few of our performances, though when such is not able to happen, we always make sure we have a day or two together, only all eight of us! Close family ties is something that is not usually found in the majority of homes in America in our day and age, and we, by God’s grace, plan to keep it tight. Young ladies, I know your friends are special, and you enjoy your time with them, but never forget your families! One day, when you are grown and move out, you will look on these days with fondness, wishing you spent that extra time reading that book to little Tom, or listening to Sally’s hour long conversation on dolls and the toys she likes. Yes, I know its very boring, I completely understand! But you are, in essence, building a bridge that shall never be broken..she shall be there for you through thick and think when friends disappear. Cherish those family moments dearly!
The life of the oldest child has not been easy to say the least! Each and every thing that you may do, whether right or wrong, is watched by your younger siblings and implemented immediately. Though it has also come with countless blessings, which have made me so thankful for such a position in my family. I, Miriam, completed my BA in Music through the Thomas Edison State University in 2016 at the age of nineteen almost twenty. Yes, almost twenty, I am not exaggerating! All glory to my Lord who strengthened me through such an intense time. In the meantime, I have brushed up my Italian language skills, became certified to Teach English as a Second Language, and spend my days working on my language skills, reading, writing, teaching music, performing, painting, practicing my violin, and having intellectual discussions with my friends. Passions and dreams, mine are endless, from starting a music school in rural South America, to performing internationally as a professional violinist, to contining in the simplicities of life here. I’m praying that the Lord would use my gifts for the better of others, and ultimately for His glory! I love serving those under-priviledged, and wouldn’t be surprised if the Lord uses me in a mission type vocation sometime in the future.
Hannah, dear Hannitah, as we call her, our chef, our grounded girl, who keeps me on planet earth, and our in-house comedian. Hannah has a solid but sweet personality, and is blessed to
be able to excel in whatever her hand touches. If she tried painting, it looks like a masterpiece, baking, and it is top of the line, music, and she sounds like an absolute professional. Such talents are complete blessings, but can also make the choosing process a little more complicated. Even though Hannah’s heart is in the kitchen, probably because of our Italian heritage, she is seriously considering pursuing a professional cellist career, attending one of the nearest universities. There is also an amazing culinary program at one of the nearest colleges, so Hannah is seeking the Lord on what He would have her do. She knows that He has her future in His hands, and it may or may not include music performance, though she is fine to rest in His most perfect will. He will work in His timing.
And last but not least, our dear youngest sister, Abigail, also known as Abby (she doesn’t take well to being called Abigail). Abby, our strong rock, usually our main spokesperson, young lady full of wisdom with a strong personality that will stand the test of time, complete with a level of discernment greater than her years, Abby is finishing up her final year of high school at home before she will move onto pursuing higher education. For those of you who know her, communication is a significant strength of Abigail’s, which is why she is considering pursuing Communications and maybe eventually Law, if that may be in the Lord’s plan. Politics is something that greatly interests her, and in our age of relativism and uncertainty, Abby finds herself commenting on various commentaries, and wanting to respond to the stances of many of our public reporters. With such a personality, I wouldn’t be surprised, in a few years, if she does make the news as a spokesperson for conservative, Biblical values, but only the Lord knows. At this point in time, she spends her days taking courses, writing, painting, performing her violin, teaching the piano and violin students she has, reading, and preparing for her most certainly amazing future. Abigail is a huge advocate for young people pursuing that which they love as singles, not waiting around for that “perfect” person. “We as young people have been given so much time to pursue that which we love, to educate ourselves, so why not? Also, many times young people are content with staying in the “box” so to say, instead of being brave and courageous enough to step outside that box and do creative things passionately. I encourage you, think outside the four walls, the box that is present for young people.”
Performing together as Quintessence is a significant part of our lives, as we are either preparing for performances or performing. According to Hannah, “At times, we only have a couple days off before we are on the road again, which can be tiring, but it is also truly a blessing.” “You never know,” Abigail says, “where we may all be in the next ten to fifteen years, so why not take advantage of the time while we are all at home and able to perform.” The Lord has gifted us tremendously, which we are so thankful for, and do not want to let even a moment go where we have put aside the gift which he has so graciously given us.
Don’t get me wrong, we do have our moments! After a full week of performing, it can take quite the pulling of teeth to pick the instruments up again, though we know why we are doing what we are doing; Soli Deo Gloria, for His glory! Such a mission provides us with a goal, an incentive to working harder. Life isn’t perfect, but we serve a God who knows our infallibilities, and has redeemed us so that we can overcome them by His power. What is your “driving force”? What encourages you to do what you do each and every day?
Each and every person in our world has talents, dreams, aspirations. Some strive for those dreams, running to the heights to have them fulfilled, pursue their life calling, and others just live for the common denominator, completing that which is required and nothing more. I challenge you, young ladies, pursue those desires and dreams which the Lord has given you so that He would be glorified. The Lord does not give us passions and talents to hide away, like the servant in Matthew 25, “But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.” (25:18) A talent at that time was an amount of
money equal to a year’s income, so you could even compare it to all that the Lord has granted us in this world. Are we hiding our literal talents in the ground, pursuing that which may be popular among our friends? Are we too lazy to pursue something that may require a bit of extra work? Ladies, sisters in Christ, strive for that which is the best, in line with the gifts which the Lord has given you, so that you shall hear on that day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:23)
Our Lord has blessed you for a reason; do not take His blessings for granted! Take the road assigned to you, and travel it with direction, and you shall see what the Lord has in store. And I am sure, it shall be glorious!
Quintessence Ensemble is a chamber ensemble dedicated to creating music that brings glory to Him alone.