Bay Area Pianists to the Fore in the Piano Break Sessions
By Lou Fancher
The Ross McKee Foundation’s alliance with Bay Area pianists and a move to feature more work by Black composers resulted in July 2020 in the Piano Break sessions. Fashioned to support keyboardists hard hit by the pandemic and offer access to their music for audiences, the online series currently runs through December 18.
The fall performances showcase 12 rising young or highly established local pianists including Fremont native Alison Lee (performing works by Scott Joplin, Alexander Scriabin, Beethoven, Nikolai Kapustin, plus William Strong’s 1885 Quarantine Polka); pianist Calvin Hu (works by Schumann, Tyzen Hsiao, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Chopin); harpsichord and fortepiano virtuoso Derek Tam in an all-Bach program; jazz improviser, composer-arranger, and band leader Edward Simon (program TBA); pianist Sarah Cahill (program TBA); San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the Opera Parallele artist-in-residence pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi (Robert Evett, Dai Fujikura, George Crumb, Karen Tanaka, and Adolphus Hailstork, and joined by Eva-Maria Zimmermann for a ZOFO piano duet); and more.
Executive Director Nicholas Pavkovic in a press release says, “Part of the success of Piano Break has been the inclusion of so many rarely performed works by Black composers. The audience continues to grow each week because people are curious to learn more about these composers.” The fall series includes works by Black composers George Walker, Joseph Bologne (Chevalier de Saint-Georges), Adolphus Hailstork, and Oscar Peterson, among others. The premiere of each 45-minute, prerecorded concert broadcast on the Ross McKee Foundation YouTube channel presents the pianists in a virtual Zoom “Green Room” postconcert conversation where audience comments and questions provide live interaction with the musicians.