UH faculty members, from left, I-Bei Lin, Fred Lau and Thomas Yee make up "Trio Xia."

Pushing the limits

Trio Xia

Where: Orvis Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa

When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow

Tickets: $12 general, $8 students and seniors with valid ID

Call: 956-8742

The Chinese word "xia" is not only the word for summer, but Hawaii as well.

So it's no surprise that three enterprising and classically trained Chinese musicians who reside in the islands would call themselves Trio Xia, although their growing repertoire is definitely not tropical or laid-back in feel.

Flutist Fred Lau, cellist I-Bei Lin and pianist Thomas Yee -- all University of Hawaii faculty members -- showcase original compositions from local, national and Asia/Pacific composers specially commissioned for them, and three such pieces will be presented tomorrow night at the Manoa campus' Orvis Auditorium.

Earlier this week, we caught up with them one late afternoon at the music department's auditorium as they were rehearsing UH composer Marty Regan's dynamic "Runaway Train." (The evening's program will also include other UH composers' works, in particular Takeo Kudo's "Yin," with Lau playing the dizi, or Chinese flute; Don Womack's "Triple Play"; and Yoko Sato's "Burning Green." The only extant piece will be "Trio" op. 45 by 19th century French composer Louise Farreno.)

"It's part of our intention to showcase the works of UH composers and graduate composition students," Yee said.

Incorporating Asian elements in a contemporary classical work, "with Takeo's piece, he obviously wanted to use the sounds of Chinese music, like the dizi and the gong, plus the cello playing a glissando similar to the erhu (a two-string bowed instrument)," Lau said. "The musical gestures are very Chinese in a sense."

As evident by comments between the trio and Regan after the first run-through of "Runaway Train," "we do a lot of give-and-take with the composers -- what works and what doesn't, and what's idiomatic for us. ... We're willing to push the parameters of what is usually considered chamber trio playing," Lau said.

Yee added that each of the composers will be introducing their work before its performance, "describing their compositional aesthetics."

Trio Xia has been together for two years now. "We like to play with one another," Lau said, "and we want to continue to explore musically this combination of Asian and Western classical elements."

Each of the UH professors' resumˇs is pretty formidable. Taiwanese native Lin is a prize-winning soloist, both abroad and in her home country, and is a member of the Honolulu Symphony orchestra. Canadian-born Yee has his share of accolades and will be a featured soloist with the symphony, playing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as part of a Veteran's Day tribute in November.

Lau, born in Hong Kong, has earned his reputation for his expressive style on the flute and interpretation of both the baroque and avant-garde repertory, as well as being a noted scholar and researcher on topics related to music, politics and identity.

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