Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ten Grand Pianos

I just got home from a performance, a number of performances actually, at Benaroya Hall.  I had a great time.  Well, I was geared to have a good time because I went with my best friend and we had stopped for a glass of wine at Wild Ginger before we went to find our seats.  I had no idea what to expect.  Can you believe that I spent the night looking at a stage packed with roses and ten grand pianos? 

Before the performance began, we had time to wonder where you'd even find ten grand pianos to use for a concert, but you might be able to borrow them from the UW, from Seattle University, Cornish College, the Fifth Avenue Theater. It seems like some of the people participating could have loaned their own pianos out for the night as well. Then there's the challenge of tuning them to each other.  With two or three strings per key and eighty-eight keys per piano, that's a lot of strings to tune, more than 2000 total, not including the harp and violins.  I wonder if they had more than one person tuning the pianos.  It definitely seemed like one or two of them were tuned slightly differently, not out exactly, just not as well blended as the others.  How often do you have to do a job like this though?  It would be intimidating.  It's not like tuning a guitar. 

This 'Ten Grands' performance occurs once a year and benefits the Snowman Foundation, an organization that supports music education and activities in the Greater Puget Sound area. Some of the kids that played tonight were Washington Music Educator's Association State Winners.  They were amazing, fingers flying across keyboards and strings, voices raised, high and clear.  You could hear all the hours of work.  You could feel their passion.  It brought tears to my eyes when a girl stood up front, hands empty, and sang 'Oh Mio Babbino Caro.'  Most soprano voices sound like a flute or possibly a violin.  This girl's effortless tone had the feel of a steel string guitar.  It was just lovely. 

You could not imagine the sound when all then pianists played at the same time.  There just wasn't room for the sound of one more piano!  What amazed me was when Kristin Chesnutt played violin from Aaron Copeland's 'Rodeo' and didn't get drowned out.  It just goes to show that one clear voice can be heard above the din.  Oh, it wasn't a din, not really.  Another thing that amazed me was the way each of the pianists had his or her own style, but blended right into place when they were doing something together.  These people read music like most people read People magazine.  Plus, I wondered how many times they were just up there jamming.  They made it look so easy.  Mac Potts, basically a kid, blew me away by beatboxing to his own solo while tapping out a rhythm with his foot.  It was as if he was playing three instruments at a time. 

The best part of the night was when an eight year old girl went up on stage and played the piano like a seasoned professional.  She simply looked too small for the piano, but the sound she made was not small.  I just couldn't believe her talent.  None of us could.  When she was done, the audience leapt to their feet in a standing ovation.  Then there were the two sisters, ten and twelve years old, who sang tight harmonies.  It was like a big recital, except that David Lanz was there along with Tom Grant, Mac Potts, Michael Kaeshammer, Barbara Roberts, Michael Allen Harrison, Yelena Balabanova, JJ Guo, and Janice Scroggins.  Any one of these artists could have carried the night. 

I'm still being carried away by all that talent put into one room. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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