Friday, March 6, 2009

Sing Us a Song....

You're the Piano Men.
And sing us a song, they did.

I've been playing the piano since I was seven years old. My mother told the story that after visiting a friend who had a piano, she saw me sitting on the bed, fingering an imaginary keyboard. Very shortly thereafter, a piano showed up at my house.

Mrs. Johnson once told someone that I was the best student she ever had. She never said that to me, of course. To me she said, "Cut your nails!" and "Slow down!"

But I still have to thank Mrs. Johnson for keeping me in love with the piano, even after The Beatles took over the rest of my musical life.

My favorite all time piece of music written for the piano? That would be Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme by Paganini. I loved it even before it was used in the movie "Somewhere in Time." (Which, by the way, is the reason my son's name is Christopher, but that's another story).

But my favorite live performance by a pianist? That would be last night at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Florida. Sir Elton John and Billy Joel. I've seen these two in concert together two other times, about fifteen years ago. I think I love them best when they're doing each other's songs.

The show opened with "Your Song" and closed with "Piano Man." And the energy never flagged in between. From the roots-rocking "Italian Restaurant" to the audience participation "Tiny Dancer," both artists held us captive in their hands for three hours.

And their hands! I've seen a lot of concert pianists play Gershwin, Mozart, Beethoven. They all have large hands with long, slender fingers. These two guys - cowboys, the local paper called them today, and I can't disagree with that - have little chubby hands with short pudgy fingers. How do they reach those octaves? On Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man," his hands moved so fast there was nothing but a blur on the jumbo screen.

It was the ultimate "Jellyrolls" last night. Dueling pianos manned by the two greatest pianists of our generation.

We were all in the mood for a melody. And they had us feeling all right.


Mark Wolfgang said...


>>Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme by Paganini<<

Reminds me of Groucho: "This is a song I wrote myself by Irving Berlin."

I've always been impressed by Roy Clark playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, etc., with short pudgy little fingers. (You'll probably remember him well from "Hee Haw," right?)


Susan Cody said...

Mark! Of course I remember Roy Clark. Now which was he - a-pickin' or a-grinnin' ?