In the Hands
Paul Cantrell’s music
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Piano music old and new from a devoted amateur,
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Category: Concerts

The Axiom of Keys Please: Feb 3 and 5

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. “What the heck!” I thought, “I’ll try anything once.” That concert — Keys Please — was what kicked me off on the path of being a self-produced, independent musician…

Upcoming concert at Merkin Hall in NYC

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.

Matthew is an excellent pianist, and it’s really exciting to hear him play my work. He’s got chops that I don’t, and thus has interpretive options in a virtuosic climax that aren’t available to me. But what really sets Matthew apart is that he’s truly musical, and in…

Keys Please is Feb 2, 2007

Can this really be the sixth year? Groundhog Day approaches fast, and that means it’s time for Keys Please!

Carei Thomas, Todd Harper and I have been running this annual tradition of a playful, genre-bending celebration of keyboard music since 2001, and by golly, I think we’ve got something special going. It shows a slightly different side of my musical life than In the Hands, and it’s unlike any other concert I know of. For those of you who don’t know about Keys Please, Minnesota Public Radio did a

Keys Please is this weekend!

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…

Song of Keys Please = successful!

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…

Song of Keys Please is next weekend!

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
and composer.

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…

Report from Zo Labs

The experiment: Greg Schaffner posted an interesting comment in which he suggested using improvisations as segues between pieces. I thought that sounded fun, so at two concerts yesterday, I put improvs — completely spontaneous, no planning — between all the pieces within each set. And, to make it all as spontaneous as possible, I had the audience draw the names of pieces to determine the order.

The results: We had a good time. None of the improvs were really outstanding, but they worked well enough…

The Monster's Theme

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…

Zo for Oct 8

Tonight was a pleasantly social concert. My fellow composer Matthew (from the Composers’ Syndicate) brought his whole family over, making this the first Zo Family Night ever. His kids, who are great in general, were a great audience, and drew some awesome pictures while I was playing. And I had the pleasure of introducing Matthew’s wife Lauren, who illustrates picture books, to the wonder that is the

Zo for Oct 7

I thought it was only going to be a crowd of five tonight, but Dave J. brought two friends at the last minute. It’s gratifying to have a full house!

People were in a chatty mood (or maybe I was, and it rubbed off), which lead to a few questions about the music. I wonder how I can encourage people to ask more? I enjoy explaining things (although I’m not always good at it) and showing off my favorite spots in the music, but it’s hard to get the ball rolling. When everybody’s been very quiet and listening intently for so long, they’re not always quick to speak up and throw questions out…

Zo for Oct 2

Well, I did mess with the program after all.

  • Cantrell – Cradle Waltz
  • Brahms – Intermezzo Op 116 No 4
  • Brahms – Intermezzo Op 117 No 2
  • Chopin – Ballade No 3

  • Cantrell – Three Places
  • Chopin – Nocturne Op 15 No 2
  • Chopin – Nocturne Op 15 No 3
  • Brahms – Ballade Op 10 No 4

Tonight’s particularly charming audience got a little tour of the piano’s innards, which was fun. And the new “greatest distance award” goes…

Zo for Sep 30

Tonight’s group skipped out on the presidential debate tonight to come hear the piano. Oh brave audience, forsaking the national dialogue for a little music! Here’s a recording of the debate in case you missed it. (I listened to about half the debate later on, and was impressed with Kerry, who was very articulate and clear-headed.)

  • Cantrell – Cradle Waltz
  • Chopin – Nocturne Op 15 No 2
  • Chopin – Nocturne Op 15 No 3
  • Brahms – Ballade Op…

Zo o'clock and all's well (Wed Sep 1)

Tonight was a satisfying finish to the week’s little mad rush, and the first full house of this round. The fellow who rebuilt my piano, and made it the great instrument it is, was here tonight. It was the first time he’d heard it since I bought it. I hope he saw how well-loved it is!

  • Schumann – Bunte Blätter 6
  • Bach – Sinfonia 5
  • Cantrell – Cradle Waltz
  • Cantrell – Entropic Waltz
  • Carei Thomas – Fragrance XIV: Cjalme
  • Brahms – Intermezzo Op 116 No 4
  • Chopin –

Zo: It's not just for dinner anymore (Sun, Aug 29)

Today’s afternoon concert went well, and the sun came out in time to warm the apartment a little for the show. Several fellow composers came today (yay!), so I made it the program a little Cantrell-heavier — I’ve always wanted them to be able to hear my pieces on my own instrument. I hope the more contemporary program didn’t put off my non-composer guests. (It seemed not to….) My hope is that the music all fits together well enough and I sustain the musical energy enough to make the old/new distinctions not seem that apparent, or that important.

  • Cantrell – Three Places…

Zo-tastic (Fri, Aug 27)

I’m very happy with tonight’s concert — the best Zo yet, I think. The piano was sounding great, and most pieces went well — several about as well as I’ve ever played them. None of yesterday’s muddle-headedness (what was that about, anyway?). The audience seemed to be right with me the whole time — Carei actually laughed out loud after Entropic (messy though it was), and they all seemed pleased afterwards … at least I think so, though I’ll let them speak for themselves by posting comments below (hint hint).

Shirley & Tom Kysilko have the distinction of being my first repeat…

Zo for Thursday, August 26

A small but fun audience tonight for Zo. I was foggy the whole way through – losing focus often, lots of memory glitches – but my listeners were very forgiving. Entropic was botchy beyond repair (will I ever learn the darned thing?!) but the ballade went well, which is encouraging – it’s been a long, long time since I worked up something really virtuosic for a concert … not since college, in fact. I may get the hang of these things yet.

Here’s what I played:

  • Brahms - Waltz Op 39 No 15
  • Bach - Sinfonia 5…