Ten years ago, I was trying to figure out what the heck to do with myself. I wanted to stay serious about music and not give up my piano training,
but the world of professional piano performance was clearly not my cup of tea. I wanted a world my music could live in, and wasn’t sure where to find it.
Then these two delightfully crazy musicians named Carei Thomas and Todd Harper asked me to do a concert with them.
Matthew McCright will be premiering my Disembodied Dance this Saturday at Merkin Hall in New York City. A rough draft of the piece appeared on this blog; this weekend, you can hear the final product.
Can this really be the sixth year? Groundhog Day approaches fast, and that means it’s time for Keys Please!
In the Hands will come back to life soon. I’m getting settled into my new job (which is a good thing: nice people, interesting problems), and I’ve sorted out the “sudden car death” crisis that’s been eating up lots of time lately.
In the meantime, if you’d like a sneak preview of the two Chopin nocturnes I’m planning to record, come to my concert this weekend:
Keys Please: The Untold Story
Saturday, February 4 - 8:00 PM
Janet Wallace Concert Hall
Macalester College, St. Paul, MN
$10 at the door / all students free
It will be a grand time!
And, to whet your appetite: MPR’s excellent Marianne Combs did a wonderful interview with us about Keys Please. You can read the text of story on the site, but I strongly recommend listening to the web audio if you can — the sounds add a great deal.
The interview sounds so natural as I listen, it’s easy to forget how rare this is: an interview that the interviewee likes, that captures what is important and hones right in on the essence of the subject. That’s hard enough in world news, harder still where art is concerned. (True, she pronounces my last name wrong, but she did such a great job capturing the spirit of Keys Please that I’ll forgive her ten times over.) We musicians should always be so lucky. Thanks a million, Marianne!
Last night’s concert was a delight to play in — and the audience tells us they had a good time as well. My third ballade was a bit fudgy, but got enthusiastic comments nonetheless. And people surpised me by also really liking the Dance for Remembering and Forgetting and especially the Entropic Waltz. It seems that the sensual surface of the first and the humor and recklessness of the second won out over the strangeness of the music. Say what you will about the Lone Artist maintaining the Integrity of their Vision in the face of an Unforgiving Society — it’s always gratifying when people actually like what I do!
I was actually feeling kind of discouraged about the completely lackluster, conversation-stopping, everyone-stares-at-their-shoes-and-shuffles-uncomfortably response to my request for suggestions on keeping In the Hands going. (Three days after that post, I have one donation and zero reader comments.) A successful performance was a tonic for my spirits. A second tonic came last night from Leslie Ball, who asked me to play accordion at Balls Cabaret on the spur of the moment. I said with minor distress that I didn’t know what I would play, and she said, “Oh, Paul, everything you do is beautiful!” Well…shucks. I don’t think that’s actually true, but it’s just about the nicest thing you could say to a performer. (I’ll provide a future aside at some point about how the word “beautiful” to me encompasses a far greater range of experiences than “pretty.”) What a good soul she is!
All of this was made ten times sweeter by the fact that my parents were here to visit from Colorado for the weekend. They are the very best of all for putting me in good spirits, for reminding me just what it is I generally mean to do by living! Oh, I’d best pull myself in, lest I have to start a third blog dedicated entirely to gushing about them! But I’m sure all the people who spent time with them this weekend would agree: there would be plenty of material for that.
Sorry for the lack of a recording this weekend. I’ll be back on the bus next Tuesday.
Todd Harper, Carei Thomas and I will be having our annual celebration of music, friendship, and
keyboards on Saturday, Feb 5. Our special guest this year is Laurie Witzkowsi, singer, drummer
Song of Keys Please
8:00 PM Saturday, February 5
Macalester College Concert Hall
St. Paul, Minnesota
$10 admission (all students free)
Rehearsals have been going well, and this stands to be a rollicking good time, as the past three were! Carei has a little bit of inspired madness called Synescalatoria that is bending my poor brain into weird knots. I mean that in a good way. I’ll be doing a new piece and the third Chopin Ballade. And yes, I will be playing the accordion again (just a very little, as I still don’t really know how to play the darn thing). Do come if you can.
In college, I won an award from the Math/CS department for being the most outstanding procrastinator of my senior class. I don’t think it’s exactly fair to say that I procrastinate, though; I’m just perpetually late. My life is like a finely tuned Swiss watch that’s set to the wrong time.
So I finally got around to putting The Monster from Keys Please! up on the site. To celebrate the occasion, here’s the opening number in its original, bare, single-piano form:
Compare that with the full-on decked-out two-pianos-with-Todd-belting-it-out-in-his-monster-voice version from the concert!
I should mention that, if you’re one of these retro folks who likes physical media with high-quality sound and high-resolution artwork, you can buy the CD of the concert. This will also be of interest to those of you who like to support independent artists!
And, in keeping with the “always behind but never idle” theme of this post, I’ve revamped my music home page as I’ve been meaning to do for the last six months. New! Improved! Bright, not just white!