Music professors turned into local celebrities

Any art student may recognize the term ‘chiaroscuro,’ but some UW-Eau Claire students might not be familiar with the “Chiaroscuro Trio.”

 The musical group, made up of contralto Elizabeth Pétillot, her husband and violist Aurélien Pétillot and pianist Yuko Kato, formed the Chiaroscuro Trio in 2010. Both Elizabeth and Aurélien Pétillot are lecturers of music at Eau Claire and Kato teaches piano at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

 The three were colleagues at SIU and there they formed a friendship that led to the trio.

 “We all did concerts together as friends and we soon realized we worked very well together,” said Aurélien Pétillot. “We got to a point where we wanted to do a CD and we looked at what other people had done and we thought we should do something radically different.”

 The CD, called “New People,” features contemporary American works, including “The Rain is Full of Ghosts” by Daniel Powers, “New People” by Michael Colgrass and “Front Porch Poems” by Jonathan Santore. The trio also commissioned two works for the album, “Jabberwocky” by Graham Reynolds and “Erotica” by Rob Deemer.

 The CD was released July 1 with Albany Records and all of the music was written specifically for the combination of voice, viola and piano.

 “I think a unique aspect of our trio is that it’s not just instrumental or just voice,” Kato said. “I think it’s a real plus that we get to work with words. It’s so nice to be able to put lyrics to our music. I don’t get to do that when I play alone.”

 ‘Chiaroscuro’ is an Italian art term for the interaction between light and dark. Aurélien Pétillot wanted the group’s name to reflect the kind of music they produced.

 “A lot of the music we play, we play off of those contrasts,” Aurélien Pétillot said. “Our instruments and Elizabeth’s voice can create a tremendous dynamic contrast and tremendous emotional contrast.”

 The songs on the album cover a wide range of subject matter, as well, from songs about loss and longing to songs about hope and love.

 The group accomplished several goals with the release of their debut CD, and had their students in mind while producing the album.

 “We wanted our students to see that classical music is alive, is doing well, and is beautiful,” Aurélien Pétillot said. “We wanted our students to see what they could do when they graduate and become professional musicians.”

 The trio performed in Eau Claire two years ago and plan to perform here again in March. Elizabeth Pétillot said the group hasn’t really discussed plans for a second CD yet. They are concentrating on concert tours and promoting the album at the moment.

 “I want to get our kind of music out there, especially to college-level students, so they know that classical music isn’t always what we think it is,” she said.

 “New People” is available on Spotify and iTunes. It can be purchased online at Albany Records or the Chiaroscuro Trio website. It is also available for purchase at Volume One.