Entertainment

Piano is key to musical extravaganza

Paula DeWit, along with 13 students, are all part of the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra
Paula DeWit, along with 13 students, are all part of the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra's Piano Extravaganza on Oct. 8.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Organizers are not exaggerating in the least when they describe their upcoming concert as a Piano Extravaganza.

The Oct. 8 event features Canadian pianist Ian Parker and more than a dozen local piano students at the Chilliwack Alliance Church, accompanied by the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

The focus will be on the musical marvel that is the beloved piano. They'll be tickling the ivories on an impressive Steinway D — the largest piano of its kind, courtesy of Glen Cuthbertson, who generously offered to loan it to the CSO.

It's the second time the CSO has tried something similar for local fans of piano music, says conductor Paula de Wit.

The first half of the Saturday night program will feature 13 piano students of the B.C. Registered Music Teachers' Association (BCRMTA), who earned the right to perform that night by auditioning for the CSO conductors. They were up against a total of 30 other young pianists.

The second half of A Piano Extravaganza will feature Parker playing the romantic and dramatic Liszt Piano Concerto as well as Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Liszt was the piano pop star of his day, and loved the drama of performance.

Gershwin apparently wrote Rhapsody in Blue very quickly, trying to meet a deadline.

"It's so jazzy, and easy to listen to. It will be accessible to the audience because everyone has heard it," de Wit said about Rhapsody.

The CSO Chorus as well as Belle Voci A Cappella Singers will also be on stage singing.

Born in Vancouver to a family of pianists, Parker began his piano studies at age three with his father, Edward Parker. While at Juilliard, the Canada Council for the Arts awarded him the Sylva Gelber Career Grant, which is given annually to the “most talented Canadian artist.”

Parker has appeared with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Calgary Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, CBC Symphony Vancouver, and many more.

"As a musician, he's totally immersed in the music," said conductor Clyde Mitchell.

"He's charismatic, easy-going and delightfully articulate," said de Wit. "He has a great future ahead of him."

The juxtaposition of the seasoned musicians and the youth was not accidental.

"They can learn a lot from Ian and they already have," de Wit said.

Parker worked with each piano soloist during a master class he offered on Oct. 1 in preparation for the concert.

"It's going to sound so good!"

Piano Extravaganza with Ian Parker and BCRMTA students, Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m. tickets at the Chwk Cultural Centre $30 Dress Circle, $25 Orchestra and $20 for general seating, concert at Chilliwack Christian Alliance Church.

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