The Community Press, Eastern Edition
June 25, 1991
Tickling the ivories Bosendorfer style
Sterling - The audience found it difficult to keep from singing last Wednesday evening when pianist, composer and arranger John Arpin gave a concept of popular twentieth century piano music here. Although the Bosendorfer piano had already made its debut, this time the top was open and it was right up front, centre stage.
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Arpin opened the program with Scott Joplin's Pineapple Rag. Arpin is known as one of the finest ragtime musicians in the world today and this performance was proof of his ability.
The music was good but what made the evening even better was the commentary that Arpin gave along with it. Selections did not appear in the program; he announced the pieces as he went along, playing the selections in historical sequence and giving a lot of background information that was both informative and amusing.
Ragtime really began around the turn of the century. He explained briefly how it evolved from the classical rondo form, breaking away from the often sombre type of parlour music played during the gay nineties. Then followed a number called When Ragtime Rosie Ragged the Rosary.
Around 1912 the blues style of music was introduced and Arpin played a medley of blues music by William Christopher Handey.
Arpin himself has purchased a key in the campaign to raise the money for the purchase of the piano. Both the key, an "A" for Arpin, and the evening's performance are dedicated to his father who was born in 1898 and who would have been 93 were he still living, the same age as composer George Gershwin whose music was next in Arpin's program. He explained how America, prior to 1920, was a melting pot for a great variety of musical styles, Gershwin exemplifying this fusion of forms. Arpin then went into a Gershwin medley beginning with the familiar Summertime.
"There's more piano down here," he said, referring to the four additional keys that are on the Bosendorfer.
He then went on to talk about composer Richard Rogers who collaborated with Hart and later Hammerstein producing a wealth of Broadway musicals which are familiar to everyone. A medley of Rogers and Hart songs followed. In a demonstration of his skill, he played My Funny Valentine entirely with his left hand.
The arrangements for these and all of the numbers in the program were entirely his own and while the songs were quite familiar, there was also something quite unique about his arrangements. At times the rhythm became almost baroque-like in its precision at other times it showed a romantic fluidity.
"And just to prove I do play music written after 1935," Arpin announced he would close the concert with a medley of works by Andrew Lloyd Webber, beginning with I Don't Know Why He Moves Me, and continuing with a highly embellished Don't Cry For Me Argentina played almost the way Rachmaninoff might have written it. A hush fell over the audience as he went into the final selection from Cats, Memories.
The audience loved it and gave him a standing ovation. He must have sensed the desire to sing along for he returned to his piano and invited them to do just that. And so they did with Nothing Could Be Finer, It Had To Be You, and Bye Bye Blackbird.
At the opening of the evening's program, Alex Winkler announced the good news that the key campaign had raised sufficient funds to complete the purchase of the piano. Additional funds raised will go into a reserve fund for its maintenance.
He again thanked Pierre LaCasse who was in the concert audience and whose generosity made the Bosendorfer available.