© Neave Trio 2019

Engage.  Exchange.  Connect.

The Story of "Neave"

It was a fairly normal weekend of performances for us. We had just played some concerts in the New Jersey area and were enjoying the weekend of travel and performing.

 

After a day of performing, as we were sight-reading and relaxing, we got the phone call we had been waiting for. The answer was ‘yes’, we would be able, after all, to perform once more that weekend.

We were thrilled because this time it would be for our dear friend, Bruce, who wasn’t able to come to the other concerts we had played that weekend. We excitedly packed up our instruments and headed over to his home.

 

The reason Bruce had been unable to attend our other concerts was because he was paralyzed and lived in an assisted living facility nearby. In the past Bruce had been able to make special arrangements to attend our concerts, since the wonderfully caring staff knew of and appreciated his deep love for music and would make any extra effort they could to help him attend. 

But these days, Bruce’s health had taken a turn and they thought it best for him not to venture out in the winter air.

The  signed note from Bruce 

Needless to say, we were delighted to bring our music to Bruce; it was the least we could do.

Once we got there, Bruce was his usual sunny self, never-minding his own health issues and instead, wanting to hear about all we had been up to. After catching up, we began to play for him. The piece was Beethoven’s, and as incredible as it was, what was most incredible for us was Bruce’s reaction. 

 

When Bruce listened to music, he was transported. It was clear that despite the serious health challenges he was facing, his pain and illness were far from his mind as he contentedly listened to us play. From the expression on his face, we could tell that he was in a state of true peace. 

 

After we finished playing, Bruce couldn’t contain his excitement. We assured him that we felt just as excited to get the chance to visit and to see him in good spirits. 

 

With that, Bruce started sharing stories of his life prior to his paralysis, sharing memories of a life we’d known nothing about.

 

We learned about his many jobs, experiences and eventually, about that which clearly mattered most to him - his family.

 

He was enormously proud of his daughter, who at the time was studying abroad. Bruce glowed when speaking about his daughter. Her name was Niamh (a Gaelic name, pronounced “Neave”, which, as we later learned, appropriately means “bright” or “radiant.”)

 

After many hours visiting with Bruce, it was eventually time to go. As we left the facility that night, we knew without saying a word that, somehow, this experience had changed something for all of us. It had clarified in a matter of an evening why we do what we do. Something deep inside had clicked.

 

Because that night with Bruce was about nothing if not humanity. In one short evening we had engaged with one another fully.

 

The three of us and Bruce were completely present with and captivated by one another (us with Bruce’s tremendous sprit and stories; he with our music.)

 

We had also exchanged with one another,  Bruce, giving to us more than he knew through his spirit and stories, and our giving what we could to him through the Beethoven that we played.

 

Most importantly, we had connected on a very intimate, human level;  a level, perhaps, beyond words. As we left that night, we felt that we knew more about him and his values than he could ever realize. 

 

That evening with Bruce was more important, in some ways, than any “debut” we would ever perform because it so perfectly captured what engaging, exchanging and connecting through music could mean. It taught us so clearly that the potential of music to bring humans together is even more profound and powerful than we’d realized before.
 

Weeks later, we received a note from Bruce. Ever the poetic spirit, it was a beautiful note, written on the backside of a copy of the manuscript of the Beethoven trio that we had played for him. In that note, Bruce thanked us for “sharing our souls” with him, declared that he “now doubt{ed} that {he} was alone” and that, if there was a heaven, he felt he had been "given a taste of its music  For only angels could play so beautifully." The fact that this beautiful note was also signed by Bruce (no small feat for someone in his condition) made it all the more poignant and beautiful. We were truly humbled to receive it and to this day,each of us carries a copy of it in our instrument cases to serve as a daily reminder of Bruce.

 

A few months later, Bruce passed away. But his memory lives on in us as one of the most clarifying, meaningful experiences we have had.

 

It is for these reasons and more that we call ourselves “Neave”, after Bruce’s beloved daughter. As much as it meant for him to have us there and play for him, it meant even more for us to get to spend the evening with him and to listen to his proud stories of her.

 

As much as he was grateful for us, we were more grateful for him. 

 

Bruce clarified it all for us, without ever attempting to.

 

Why do we do what we do?  Why do we play music?

 

The reason for us is now so simple.

 

To Engage. To Exchange. To Connect.

 

This is what we strive to do every time we play,  and  in everything we do.  This is what we are all about. We just happen to use music to do this. And we have Bruce, and his beloved daughter Niamh to thank for it.

1/10

"'Neave' is actually a Gaelic name meaning 'bright' and 'radiant', both of which certainly apply to this trio's music making."

 

- Robert Sherman, WQXR Radio

 

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