Described as a "pure chamber musician" (Globe and Mail) creating "moments of pure magic" (Toronto Star), Canadian cellist Rachel Mercer has demonstrated her love for sharing music through performance since she was three years old. Winner of the 2009 Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank Competition, Rachel was awarded the use of the 1696 Bonjour Stradivarius cello, until August 2012. As the grand prize winner of the 2001 Vriendenkrans Competition in Amsterdam, Rachel made her European debut in the Concertgebouw and has appeared as a soloist across Canada, in Europe, the United States, Balkans and Israel. A member of the award-winning Aviv String Quartet from 2002-2010, Rachel toured regularly on five continents. Currently based in Toronto, Rachel is cellist of Ensemble Made In Canada, Via Salzburg, the Mercer-Park Duo, and is Artistic Director of the "5 at the First" chamber series in Hamilton. Rachel has given masterclasses at schools, conservatories and universities across North America, South Africa and in Israel. She can be heard on the Naxos, Dalia Classics and EnT-T record labels.
Rachel is principal cellist for Via Salzburg, a chamber music series led by Mayumi Seiler, and member of piano quartet Ensemble Made in Canada, winners of CBC Galaxie Rising Stars Award, and named among "80 women to watch" in the 80th anniversary edition of Chatelaine magazine in May 2008. Ensemble Made In Canada tours regularly across the country and most recently began appearing in the United States with a residency at SUNY, New Paltz, NY. Rachel also appears in recital with pianist Angela Park as the Mercer-Park Duo. Their debut disc was released in July 2011. They have recently received Ontario Arts Council and FACTOR grants to record their next album, which will include music all written by Canadian composers of their generation, 3 written specifically for the duo. Rachel and her violinist sister Akemi formed the Mercer-Oh Trio in 2007 (with Toca Loca pianist and Toronto Music Gallery curator Gregory Oh) which presented a complete Haydn Piano Trio cycle in 9 concerts for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society between 2009 and Haydn's birthday; April 1, 2012. Their next project is the complete Dvorak Piano Trios beginning July 14.
As a member of the Aviv String Quartet, Rachel played in halls such as the Auditorium du Louvre, Zurich Tonhalle, Wigmore Hall, Herbst Theater in San Francisco, the Library of Congress in Washington DC, Baxter Hall in Cape Town, St Lawrence Centre in Toronto, and at festivals such as Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence, Lockenhaus, Davos, Colmar, Oslo and Ottawa. The quartet released cds on Naxos and Dalia Classics and celebrated its 10th anniversary with a complete Shostakovich cycle at the 2007 Verbier Festival. Collaborations included performances with Jorg Widmann, Boris Berman, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, James Tocco, Boris Petrushansky, Elisso Virssaladze and Anton Dressler. The quartet also gave masterclasses, coaching and outreach performances in the United States, Israel, South Africa and Canada, including at the University of Toronto.
Rachel's 2011-12 season included the Saint-Saens concerto with the Canadian Sinfonietta, collaboration with the Art of Time Ensemble, an all-Canadian recital at the University of Toronto New Music Festival with the Mercer-Park Duo including two world premieres, chamber music concerts in Israel, an appearance for the Montreal Chamber Music Festival for their Soiree Stradivarius, concerts as the Seiler Trio with Mayumi Seiler and Angela Park, and an extensive BC-Alberta tour with Ensemble Made In Canada. Rachel recently premiered a new cello concerto entitled "Foundation", written for her by Kevin Lau, with the Sneak Peek Orchestra in Toronto. This summer will include a solo appearance with the National Ballet Orchestra for their 60th anniversary Gala, concerts at Music Niagara, and return visits to the Ottawa Chamberfest and Festival of the Sound. Rachel taught at the University of Toronto from January-May 2012 while Shauna Rolston was on sabbatical.
The 2012-13 season will include tours with Ensemble Made In Canada, the Mercer-Park Duo, appearances with the Art of Time Ensemble and John Laing Singers, and solo performances with Via Salzburg (Vivaldi Double Concerto), the Hart House Orchestra (Brahms Double), Kindred Spirits Orchestra (Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations), and the Oakville Chamber Orchestra (Vivaldi and Chan Ka Nin).
Born in Edmonton, Rachel began cello studies at the age of three with Diana Nuttall. She spent formative years with Kristl Armstrong at the Vancouver Academy of Music, where she made her solo debut with the Vancouver Academy Chamber Orchestra at the age of 12. After moving to Ontario, Rachel attended the Royal Conservatory of Music and received the Gold Medal for her Associate Diploma, studying with Susan Gagnon and David Hetherington. She received a BM from the University of Toronto with Shauna Rolston, an MM with honours from the New England Conservatory with Laurence Lesser, and a solo diploma from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with Dmitri Ferschtman. Rachel attended Orford, Banff, Holland Music Sessions, Ravinia, Prussia Cove, Scotiafest, Proquartet, the Juilliard Quartet Seminar and the Verbier Academy, for masterclasses with Boris Pergamenschikow, Frans Helmerson, Lynn Harrell, Janos Starker, Aldo Parisot, Gregor Horsch, Valentin Berlinsky, Valentin Erben, Henry Meyer and Walter Levin.