Community piano serves island music aficionados
The community piano is in its eighth year of distinguished service to Jamestown residents and visitors. Thanks to generous grants and donations and the hard work of the Jamestown Community Piano Association, the magnificent instrument will continue producing memorable performances for years to come.
The idea of purchasing a highquality piano was generated by a group of pianists and civic-minded residents back in 1999. The group consisted of John Biddle, Teddy Leyon, Helen Richardson, and Julie Tagan. It took them two years to raise the money to purchase a brand new Schimmel 7- foot concert grand.
The piano was chosen by Tagan, a Jamestown pianist and teacher, who researched, played and inspected many pianos before deciding that the Schimmel was the best value at $29,000 over comparable Steinways, Mason & Hamlins, and Bosendorfers on the market at that time. The group asked respected island pianist and teacher Janet Grant to also play the instrument before making the final decision to purchase.
The piano has been kept at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church on Narragansett Avenue for most of the time since it was purchased. It was moved to the Community Center several times for performances by the Jamestown Community Chorus and it was also in the library for a short time.
"We're fortunate to have St. Matthew's Church house the piano for us," said Grant, who is now an active member of the JCPA. "They also allow us to take advantage of the good acoustics and use the church as a venue for our recitals and concerts. For this we are most grateful."
Grant went on to say, "Ideally, we'd like to have the piano in a performing arts center as a permanent home. Perhaps one day that will happen," she said. "Moving the piano is expensive and it is not good for the instrument."
Grant recalled when the piano was first purchased and more than 25 Jamestown pianists played the piano for its debut at the Jamestown Community Center in November of 2001. Since then the renowned pianist Manabu Takasawa has given three performances on the instrument. The chamber orchestra, Musica Dolce, also gave a performance using the piano in November of last year.
Other notable performers were Nancy Nicholson, who accompanied tenor Eric Bronner; Providence pianist Christopher Jordan; jazz pianist Lois Vaughan, with bassist Dennis Pratt; and Nancy Bennett, who did a preview of her senior recital in October of 2006. Bennett was a piano performance major at University of Rhode Island and is now an active member of the JCPA.
Last Sunday, Hiroshi Taguchi performed Franz Liszt's "Benediction of God in Solitude," and Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Sonata No.2." on the piano. He was joined by Takasawa for a piano duet performance of Igor Stravinsky's "Three Movements from Petroushka."
Taguchi has appeared at Lincoln Center and the Carnegie- Weil Recital Hall in New York City and performed Bach's Goldberg Variations in Washington D.C. for the commemoration of Bach's 315th birth year.
An upcoming performance in April will be by Linda Pezzullo, a senior at URI who will preview her senior recital in preparation for her master's degree in piano performance. The exact date has not been set.
Takasawa will perform on the piano at St. Matthew's Church again on May 11.
Bennett mentioned that having such an exceptional instrument available for the community "is unusual and so beneficial to the town. It affords the musical arts programs an opportunity to attract the highest level of pianists who require a high-quality instrument to properly perform," she said.
The Jamestown Community Piano Association members are: Janet Grant, Nancy Bennett, Rosemary Enright, Ann Zartler, John Biddle, and Bill Knapp. The association plans concerts, solicits funding, maintains the piano and supports a regular tuning schedule.
The association recently received a Jamestown Fund for the Performing Arts grant for $1,000 from the Rhode Island Foundation to help with the concert program.
The concerts are free. Donations for piano maintenance and performance support are appreciated. For more information, call 423-0515.