NEW LEBANON, N.Y. -- Irving Berlin’s popular 1950s tune, "Sisters," well might be an anthem for Madalyn Parnas and Cicely Parnas.
For, as the song’s lyrics suggest, they are indeed "such devoted sisters" that, aside from being sibling friends, they also have found a way to share careers.
Madalyn Parnas is a violinist, Cicely Parnas, a cellist. They are known as duo parnas -- lower-case letters intentional. When they appear this Saturday evening at 8 for Tannery Pond Concerts, the billing "duo parnas and Vincent Adragna" will accommodate their current keyboard partner.
The two Parnas women began their studies early, each at age 4. Madalyn, now 22, started at the keyboard.
"I was obsessed with the piano," she recalled during an interview from Bloomington, Ind., where, as a student of the University of Indiana, she took her artistic diploma after studies with Jaime Laredo and before receiving her master’s degree in London.
"I started violin a year later," she explained. "My parents both felt that I should give it a try in terms of string instruments. But they had to tear me away from the piano bench."
The incipient exposure to her new instrument was rocky, she said. "I had a rather somber violin teacher who was difficult, probably challenging for a 5-year-old. I didn’t enjoy the lessons, and I couldn’t stand the sound of those Suzuki violins.
"I was going to quit, but I changed teachers when I was 7 or 8," she said. The new teacher became "my Aunt Laura, a close friend of the family, Laura Donovan, and she made me love music. It wasn’t about practicing 200 times; we played duets, played music that I love, and it kindled this passion for violin."
Cicely Parnas, 19, was drawn to the cello initially, she said in an interview from her parents’ Stephentown home.
"I said ‘I want to play cello like Papa’," she said, referring to her grandfather, the distinguished cellist Leslie Parnas.
So she began study with her first teacher, Erica Pickhard, at what later became the Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield.
Further education, she said, included two years at College of St. Rose and an artists’ diploma from Indiana. In the early years, both girls took lessons from their grandfather.
"He was incredible, unlike any other teacher I’ve had," Madelyn said. "He would spend hours and hours on a couple of notes. I feel very connected to him, his approach and his methods of process, listening.
"I don’t know if that’s a DNA issue," she added.
"One of the best things he gave me," Cicely said, "was a sense of creativity in the practice room, and creativity in your approach to technical demands. He is very outside the box. He turns things around and gives you a different point of view. For example, if you’re working on a particular passage, particularly stuck on it, don’t know what to do with it musically, he has different ways to do it.
"If a passage is legato, he’ll have you practice it staccato, and vice-versa."
Previously performing with Peter Serkin as the Parnas/ Serkin Trio, the Sisters Parnas have added Adragna to their musical family. Like them, Adragna began piano studies early, at age 3, in his native Paris. The three made a connection later while he was studying at Indiana under Menahem Pressler
"It’s such a joy to work with him," Cicely said. "He’s funny, warm. He really expresses who he is with his music, wonderfully and happily."
"Choosing repertory is a collaborative matter," explained Madalyn.
"I like to play things that are new for me," she said, adding that she will be performing Prokofiev’s Sonata in F minor, Op. 80, No. 1, for the first time in public.
Cecily, selecting the E-minor Cello Sonata (Op. 38, No. 1) of Brahms, said it has been some time since she performed the piece. The third composition on the program, Schubert’s Piano Trio in E flat, D. 929, is new for Madalyn, but Cecily has essayed it previously.
The sisters are profoundly drawn to contemporary music. At Indiana, Madalyn was part of the school’s New Music Ensemble, and recalls the experience fondly.
Cicely concedes cherishing the traditional classical repertory performed by most cellists.
"But I have to be conscious of our audience and how it’s changing," she said. "They don’t relate to that language any more. I do believe that Beethoven expresses the same emotions Katy Perry does, but in a completely different language.
"Classical music has to go forward."
If you go ...
What: Trio Parnas at Tanner Pond Concert Series
Where: Historic Tannery at the Darrow School, former Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, Route 20, New Lebanon, N.Y.
When: Saturday at 8 p.m.