Friday, June 20, 2008

And, the big question:

"Can I play your piano?"

I'm at the Artsgarden's info desk again, and this is my favorite question anyone ever asks. The official answer is "No!", but unofficially we're a little more flexible. I'll generally ask what they were planning on playing; if the answer's "Chopsticks" or "Heart and Soul", then no -- you can't play "Chopsticks" on our Steinway concert grand. But on rare occasions, if someone sounds interesting enough, we'll unlock the piano for them.

My favorite was the guy a few months ago, with whom I had a conversation something like this:

"Would you mind terribly if I tried your Steinway?"
I glanced over and saw the piano was still covered. "You can tell it's a Steinway by looking at the bottom of the legs?"
He nodded. "Of course. The legs, and the pedals."
"That's a good sign. What were you planning on playing?"
"I was thinking of Rachmaninoff's Corelli variations. I'm still working on it, but it's quite an intricate..."
"Sure. I'll unlock it now."

And he was excellent. He played for almost half an hour, after which he apologized for making so many mistakes -- none of which did I notice. I told him what Fred Astaire said: "the better you get at any profession, the more mistakes you're allowed. At the very top, if you make enough of them, it's considered your style."

A year or so ago, we were setting up for a performance by the Jack Gilfoy Trio when a passerby asked if he could play the piano. I asked what he was planning on playing, and he said, "Heart and Soul". I explained that we didn't let people play "Heart and Soul" on the Steinway. Marvin Chandler, Jack Gilfoy's pianist, was extremely amused by this. So he opened their show with "Heart and Soul", starting playing with one finger, and slowly building to something masterful. It made my day.

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