Monday, 4 October 2010

Queen of the ivories

When my father asked if I wanted see Jan Preston's Life and Music of Winifred Atwell with him this weekend, I wasn't sure how to answer. The ticket would be free; all we had to do was turn up. Ok, it sounded simple enough.

Jan Preston is a classically-trained pianist with a love for boogie woogie – and she’s good at it. Right from the first number, her enthusiasm and vibrant energy for playing was obvious. Jan and her backing bass player and drummer started out with some crowd-pleasers, including the Harry Lime theme and Baby Elephant Walk. It's obvious that she loves what she does. Although we had great seats (we were in the front row) and I could see Jan's hands flying up and down the piano, we were on the wrong side and I couldn't see a single key of the keyboard - a shame, as I love watching good pianists in action.

Jan introduced us to Winifred Atwell, a renowned 1950s boogie woogie pianist originally from Trinidad. During her career, she became Queen of the Ivories and performed all around the world, especially in the UK and Australia, to packed audiences. She also wrote a number of boogie and ragtime-style pieces, resulting in eleven Top 10 hits. Jan's presentation was made up of dozens of photos from Winnie's career and accompanied by a running piano commentary in ragtime, boogie woogie and honky tonk style.

This type of music is not for everyone and the age range of the audience reflected this. At one stage, I asked Dad if I could lean across the aisle and slap the old biddies across from me who talked incessantly for most of the show. Dad's hearing has paid the price of a lifetime as a musician so I couldn't tell if he genuinely couldn't hear me or was just ignoring me; probably a bit of both. Instead, I focused my best teacher stare on the offenders, but they were so wrapped up in their conversation that they didn't even notice. The most embarrassing part was that we were sitting in the front row and the performers would have been able to hear every word. How rude!

There were a few singalong numbers which were painfully embarrassing. I was not impressed when the concert threatened to finish with the dreadful Goodnight, Irene. Thankfully, the band redeemed themselves and ended with Bumble Boogie in true boogie style. A classic Sunday matinee show.

1 comment:

Alli said...

I hate that! I hope it wasn't too bothersome the entire time; I'm surprised they didn't get up and go instead of detracting from everyone else's experience. Huh. Well, it's great that you got to see a classical pianist perform anyways, sounds really fun!