Monday, September 22, 2014

Friday is Gershwin Night at the Portland City Grill

This Friday, September 26, marks the birthday of George Gershwin.  To celebrate, I will be featuring his songs at the Portland City Grill Yamaha grand.  Bring some friends and your list of favorite songs and join the fun.  The music starts around 5 p.m.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

MelloMacs Go Gershwin

It's September, and the delightfully talented and musical MelloMacs are back! This mixed choir of Portland's Multnomah Athletic Club meets weekly to put together musical entertainments that are shared all over the Portland community. This season the group will feature a brand new show filled with Gershwin favorites. It's hard to go wrong with Gershwin; these are some of the best-loved songs of the American songbook.

Later this month, on Sept. 26th, we will all celebrate George Gershwin's birthday. A bright light of the Jazz Age and the golden days of Broadway in the Twenties, Gershwin's use of the Jazz idiom infused the American spirit into his compositions.  So many of his songs have become beloved standards in the American songbook; they are rediscovered and enjoyed by each generation of artists and audiences.  His larger works like Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F, and An American in Paris are a tribute to his orchestral abilities and innovations.  His biggest masterpiece may be his folk opera, Porgy and Bess.  So much great music from this American original.  I look forward to the MelloMacs and their new musical tribute to this American legend.  And I will enjoy playing many of his songs at the Portland City Grill, as I celebrate one of my greatest musical inspirations, George Gershwin.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Touch Me in the Morning by Michael Masser

This day in 1973, singer icon Diana Ross hit the top of the charts with the song "Touch Me in the Morning," one of her longest charting recordings (her second solo #1 after her time with The Supremes).  I was in college at the time, and I remember how powerfully her song captured the American audience.  Ross had also just received great reviews for her acting debut in Lady Sings the Blues.  That new song, "Touch Me in the Morning," was also a launching vehicle for a new young composer, Michael Masser, who later contributed on many other great songs including "The Greatest Love of All" (Whitney Houston), "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "Saving All My Love for You," "Tonight I Celebrate My Love" (Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson), "If Ever Your in My Arms Again," "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)," and many more.  So many great songs that resonated through our lives!  My one little individual side note: a few years later, I performed for Michael Masser.  In fact, he hired my dance orchestra to supply musical entertainment for his son's wedding reception.  I remember how The Gus Pappelis Orchestra performed admirably that day, but I also remember how much in awe I was of this composer, Masser, who had written so many of the songs we loved playing for our guests. Yes, Diana Ross sang it beautifully, but Michael Masser put the notes together for her to sing.  I'll have to add those titles to my Portland City Grill playlist this Friday.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pi Day Update:

I am very happy to report that our St. James Pi Day Celebration 2014 was a wonderful success.  Our fifth graders had a blast, and everyone came through the festivities smiling. It only took me a day and a half to recover, which isn't too bad.  By the way, our math field day received excellent news coverage with many interviews on our local radio stations, Portland's K103 fm and our local KLYC am 1260 (they even sent the YamVan for the occasion).  Our McMinnville News-Register also covered the story with student interviews and pictures. I want to thank Fr. Kelly Vandehey, our principal Jeananne Bloudek, and all our St.  James School staff for their support. Also, here is a shout out to Linfield College for sending over one of their math majors as a guest emissary.  Pi Day 2014 was a big project, but it was worth the effort.  There are now 184 students and assorted teachers and parents who have experienced how much fun math can be.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

How I found the Portland City Grill and how they found me!

March 14th St. James Annual Pi Day Celebration Update - So far we have received confirmations for 175 5th-graders and 16 teachers and chaperones.  I will have a final total Tuesday or Wednesday for our huge math field day event. It's going to be a blast.

My plans are still to be at the Portland City Grill Friday, March 14th.  It is Pi Day (3.14), and Albert Einstein's birthday. But not only is it my birthday, it is also my anniversary of the opening of Portland City Grill.

The Portland City Grill opened to the public on March 19, 2002, but this was after a "soft opening" to friends and guests the week before. That's when I first came in contact with this new Portland hot spot. It really began with a surprise call that had received from the PCG office. They had been told by a business friend that I had played piano professionally in Los Angeles, and that they should consider giving me an audition.  I had heard of the new restaurant/bar (it was wildly anticipated by the city), but I had never been to the place, even when it was Atwaters in the old days. It was now under new ownership and was scheduled to open soon.

I went up to meet the managers, and I was invited to have an audition - more precisely I was asked if I would like to play ( it was one of their soft opening nights, the week of my birthday).  As I looked around, my first impression was that it was a gorgeous night club: elegant, classy, with a spectacular  view of the Portland city lights 30 floors below, and with a wonderful Yamaha grand piano surrounded by tables.  I admit that I assumed they were expecting to hear the usual society background stylings of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, etc., which actually is an era of music dear to my heart. But that evening, just before I started toward the piano to begin my "audition set," one of the managers stopped me and explained, "Now remember, we don't want any of that old music here. We want fun music, rock and roll, 60's - 70's - 80's, everything young and upbeat."  With a grin on my face, I sat down in the middle of a huge, enthusiastic crowd and let the music begin.

It was just like being in college again. The place was literally packed with thoroughly enraptured guests. The energy was high with lots of laughter and singing. It was like a continuous party; the hours just zipped by. At the end of my audition, the managers said they were pleased and gave me a choice of playing nights.  I picked 8 pm on Friday, thinking it was my one free weekend evening (working around my choir schedule).  They said that was great, and asked what other night I could play. I picked 5 pm on  Wednesday (again working around choir practice and school).  And then they asked for another!  So I went with Saturday with an 8 pm start (enough time to accommodate my 5:30 Mass).  I went up for an audition thinking that I might be able to play there once or twice a month, and I ended up playing there practically every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evening for over ten years.  I was chosen as one of several fine pianists who eventually filled out the week's house musicians. Three of our original group still entertain there weekly.

So it has been 12 years this week. I still smile on my way to play there, and I usually smile all the way home.

Happy Anniversary, Portland City Grill.  See you Friday.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Concert season is over

The Christmas concert season has gone very well. The MelloMacs entertained brilliantly at the MAC and around town. CTK Choir was superb at their Sunday hometown concert and Monday's Grotto Festival of Lights appearance. Tuesday's Ivories Holiday Bash was a sell-out sensation - we all had a great time.  The students of St. James Catholic School were wonderful in their Christmas Program.  All is well in the musical world!  Thanks to everyone who helped make it so successful a season.

Now I can settle into a little more regular schedule.  The Yamaha grand at the Portland City Grill is still a great place to enjoy songs, and I will be there one more time before Christmas (this Sunday evening), so we still have one more chance to sing Christmas songs together.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to everyone, and I hope this new year is the best one ever for all of us.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Christmas is coming

Christmas music is already playing in my classroom and my office. I'm not trying to push up the holiday; I just love the music, and let's face it, the holiday season truly is upon us. Important upcoming  concert performance dates: the first MelloMac concert of the new season this Monday, Nov. 11th;  the MAC  Open House Holiday Fest  is Thursday, Dec. 5th; CTK Choir Concert at the Grotto Festival of Lights on Monday, Dec. 16th; The Gus Pappelis Holiday Happening at Ivories on Tuesday night, Dec. 17th; and the St. James School Christmas Program on Wednesday, Dec. 18th.  A quick look at my calendar  explains the Christmas music in the classroom.