Live music…one of the best gifts

Great live music is one of the best gifts you can give or receive.

-Jonathan Harnum



This past month I had the opportunity to attend two great live performances. The first was a family concert performed by the symphony orchestra in our little town. I love that as a community we support fine art and good culture and that local musicians have an outlet for their talents to be heard and appreciated by others.

This was a family concert, which I personally love because kids are talking, walking and dancing in the aisles, and eating snacks. I think this is how music should be enjoyed – alongside people you love, moving, talking, eating, being human.

The concert featured “Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant”, which is a children’s book written by Jack Prelutsky and set to music by Lucas Richman. The book and music are composed of household objects combined cleverly with an animal – umbrellaphants, toadsters, alarmadillos.  Mr. Prelutsky was the narrator for the concert, and the whole effect was so original and captivating. Definitely a “Carnival of the Animals for the new millennium.”

The orchestra also performed a few pieces from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, which is always welcome. Then the winner of the orchestra’s young musician’s competition played with the orchestra. She played excellently – a high school senior, violinist, with several accolades already behind her name in the bio. The end of the concert featured the youth symphony playing side by side with the symphony orchestra. What a terrific opportunity for those kids. 20180127_155216It’s so worthwhile attending live concerts! I loved the opportunity to attend with my girls.


A few weeks later I was thrilled to attend a concert of the Boulder Philharmonic with my husband. The concert, titled “Cirque Goes to the Movies” was a collaboration of the philharmonic with Cirque de la Symphonie, a group of cirque acts performed on the stage shared with the full symphony orchestra. The acts included aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers and strongmen. The concert also featured Janice Martin, the “World’s Only Acrobatic Aerial Violinist”, a Juilliard-trained violinist.

Combine these acts with the world-class Boulder Philharmonic playing gorgeous movie themes, and you’ve got yourself a sure winner. The music was radiant, emotionally-charged and technically precise. The Cirque acts were at times charming, humorous, breathtaking and nerve-wracking.

I love that traditional orchestras are collaborating with other art forms, some of which are culturally trendy such as the Cirque, to present fresh and engaging concerts. I believe these types of concerts bring new audiences to the concert hall and therefore give the orchestra more exposure to a wider group of people.

And speaking of concert halls…

Macky Auditorium on the campus of Colorado University, Boulder is absolutely stunning.20180203_185120


Multiple Piano Festival 2017

The Multiple Piano Festival is an annual local concert sponsored by the Boulder Area Music Teachers Association. This year was the 32nd year the concert has been given. I completely love this concert for a number of reasons:

  1. About twenty local teachers work together on this event
  2. Piano students are given the opportunity to play in ensemble with a large group, which is very rare for pianists
  3. Students make music together, not playing solo in competition with each other, but working together
  4. The duet music is so well-chosen – music from all time periods; varied genres; some well-known, some new; some trios or even quartet music at one piano
  5. The concert is a real show – students announce the pieces in a fun and engaging way, sometimes props are used, sometimes the conductors will direct with different types of batons (wands for Harry Potter pieces, light saber for Star Wars pieces)
  6. Students learn to play with a conductor and listen to the group
  7. Students must audition – a good skill for musicians to develop

Here are some happy and excited young musicians ready for the concert to begin:

The stage was so beautiful – the back lights changed colors with each piece:

Each group ended their piece with a bow:


Participating students may submit original artwork for the cover and back cover. My student won runner-up and was featured on the back cover!

The program:


I had fourteen students participate this year:


Me and my daughters!


What a fun and exciting concert to kick off the holiday season! You can read my posts about previous years in the Multiple Piano Festival here:




Olga Kern and the Colorado Music Festival


Last month my hubby and I had the opportunity to hear Olga Kern play with the Colorado Music Festival. Every summer the festival presents a six-week program featuring innovative programs and world-class musicians.


Apart from the amazing music (which I will get to), my absolute favorite thing about the evening is that the Colorado Music Festival performs in the Chautauqua auditorium,  which is basically an old barn. The acoustics were amazing. Sections of the side walls slide open to allow the air to flow freely from the outside in. The moths that came in and flew around the stage actually added to the enchantment of the evening.


We had front row seats! And it was opening night of the festival! There was much excitement in the air. Look at the far right of the above picture – notice the music stands for the brass section were taped to milk crates. Love it!

The orchestra, led by director Jean-Marie Zeitouni, began the all-Russian program with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture. It was exhilarating.

Then Olga Kern took the stage to play Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto of 1911. She was flawless. This was followed by a short intermission to allow Ms. Kern to change dresses. She looked beautiful, by the way. It almost made me want to play another solo recital just to have a reason to buy a fabulous dress like that. Maybe I should just buy the dress and wear it while playing the piano in the comfort of my own home. 🙂

Then Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. Oh my goodness. It was fierce. The variation we pianists most like to play (Number 18) was simply rapturous.


Ms. Kern takes a bow. The audience was so appreciative. “Sir, could you step back so I can get a good picture? No? Okay.”

We went outside for intermission. On one side are the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. On the other side is a view of Boulder. We went back in for Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, played by the orchestra.

It was a memorable evening. The music filled my soul. The atmosphere was beautiful. It is well worth it to remember that support of the arts really is support of ourselves and those around us.

Five-Piano Concert

I recently attended a wonderful five-piano concert given by members of a local church. It was a unique concert because of the use of five pianos and that the performers rotated playing at each piano throughout the concert. Each piece was beautifully presented and was directed by a conductor.

Some of the pieces I have played before, some were new to me. I thought I’d include the program here on the blog because it’s always interesting to see what people are playing.


Sunday Music in the Library

Yay!  Another Sunday, another concert at the Canyon Theater in the Boulder Public Library.  What a beautiful recital hall!  I’ve been to three concerts there since we moved to town four months ago, and each time it has been packed out.  It’s so nice to see the community supporting local arts.

Pianist Nina Tichman presented a concert of music by Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and contemporary composer Stefan Heucke.  This was the program (my observations are written in italics):

Franz Schubert

Sonata, Opus 122, D. 568 E-flat major

Allegro moderato

Andante molto


Allegro moderato

Frederic Chopin

Polonaise-Fantasie, Opus 61, A-flat major

Claude Debussy

Etudes These pieces are extremely difficult to play.  Ms. Tichman played them with superior technical control and touching musicality.

pour les tierces (thirds)

pour les degres chromatiques (chromatic degrees)

pour les agrements (ornaments)

pour les octaves (octaves)

Stefan Heucke

Skizzen, Ruinen, Adlerfittige aus Preludes These preludes were written as a birthday present to a friend.  This was the American premiere of these four preludes.  The set includes twelve preludes.

Allegro maestoso

In moto scorrendo Very unusual and striking harmonies.  I loved it. (Scorrendo means “flowing”).

Molto moderato, in tempo di Polacca

Sehr langsam und schwer (Meaning “Very slow and burdensome”).

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Polichinelle, opus 3, no. 4 This piece and the next were my favorite pieces of the concert.  Ms. Tichman obviously enjoyed playing them as well.

Prelude, opus 32, no.12, g-sharp minor

Etude-tableaux, opus 39, no.9, D major

It was a lovely concert.  I was glad I brought my laptop to research some of the pieces during intermission.  It would have been nice to have some translations in the program, as well as a few program notes.  Ms. Tichman did introduce the Heucke preludes with a little background information.  The more we know about these pieces, the better we understand and appreciate.

The Beautiful Piano

A few years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend a Christmas concert presented in a little theater about an hour from our house.  The whole evening was idyllic.  We are usually the type of people who show up for events just in the nick of time, or after the first song has already started.

This evening was different.  We were in a different dimension, it felt like.  We had plenty of time to travel to the venue, and we enjoyed the beautiful country drive with the snow gently falling all around.  We found a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant and ate a leisurely dinner before making our way to the theater.

This was our first time to this particular theater.  It was a beautiful little theater, complete with coffee bar, myriads of white lights hung throughout rafters, and funky decorations. My husband and I sipped on our cups of tea while we waited for the show to start.

Then the magic began.  Sam Stryke took the stage with his band of musicians: a percussionist and a bass guitarist.  With the backdrop of winter designs on the powerpoint screen, Sam and his group wove tunes of beauty and brilliance.  We heard both the usual Christmas/holiday tunes, newly-composed holiday tunes, and old classics set with new words  (The Holly and the Ivy).

It was one of my favorite Christmas concerts I have ever attended.  It was very real, organic – a comfortable evening of sitting back and being surrounded by beautiful music.  It was not high-intensity, not high-brow,  just real musicians who know their craft and can communicate their message clearly to their lucky audience.

I have come back to Sam Stryke’s music every Christmas to relive that magical evening in my mind.  And, today, on this beautiful, near-spring morning, I am reminded again of the beauty of a simple piano piece, played expressively and creatively.

L’Esprit de la France


French Keyboard Music from Couperin to Poulenc


This was a beautiful piano concert I was able to attend in January.  It was performed by Lisa Harrington, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado.  Her pieces included:


By Francois Couperin:

Les baricades mysterieuses (The mysterious barricades), 1717

Les fauvetes plaintives (The plaintive warblers), 1722

L’arlequine (The harlequin), 1730


By Jean-Philippe Rameau:

Le rappel des oiseaux (The call of the birds), 1724

Les tourbilions (Whirlwinds), 1724

Gavotte et six doubles (Gavotte and six variations), 1727


By Gabriel Faure:

Impromptu in F minor, No 2, Op 31, 1883


By Claude Debussy:

From Images, Book II, 1907:

Cloches a travers les feuilles (Bells heard through the leaves)

Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (And the moon sets on the temple ruins)

Poissons d’0r (Goldfish)


By Maurice Ravel:

From Valse nobles et sentimentales, 1911:

Modere, tres franc

Assez lent, avec une expression intense


Assez anime

Presque lent, dans un sentiment intime


Moins vif

Epilogue. Lent


By Francis Poulenc:

From Trois mouvements perpetuelles, 1918:

Assez modere

Tres modere