Eighty-eight keys, many hands

This year marks a number of milestones for several Asheville music institutions. The Asheville Symphony Orchestra began its 50th season last week, and this week, the Asheville Area Piano Forum performs its 10th Fall Benefit concert at the Diana Wortham Theater. The latter celebrates the performance of music, while benefiting further generations of musicians.

In some ways, the audience benefits the most.

The first piece on the program, Bach’s “Fugue in G Minor,” arranged for two pianos and four hands, is reason enough to attend. From there, other classical piano works by Chopin, Liszt and Shubert (just two hands for these) braid with jazz numbers by Fazil Say and Dizzy Gillespie (four hands resume!).

As one might expect, most of the music is for the piano; professional jazz and classical pianists in the AAPF’s ranks will perform most of the pieces. AAPF member John Cobb plays one of the two Liszt works on the bill, “Legendes No. 2 (St. Francis Walking on the Waves).” Founding members (and current board members) Judith Rodwell and Polly Feitzinger contribute four of the eight hands to the Bach fugue.

Many of the other performers have appeared as soloists with the Asheville Symphony and Blue Ridge Orchestra and other orchestras, Feitzinger says.

Some of the AAPF’s true beneficiaries — and the true reasons for the benefit— will perform as well. Student Ayano Annis, winner of the advanced category from last spring's AAPF Piano Competition for pre-college students, will perform the third movement of Mozart’s Sonata K332.

Another student, 17-year-old cellist Elizabeth Gergel, will perform Piazzolla's “Tango for Cello and Piano” with AAPF teacher (and pianist) Dan Weiser.

The “benefit” has tilted toward the audience again.

But to be clear, the concert, teeming with unique interpretations of great music, benefits a great cause: the continuation of music through education by way of the AAPF Student Assistance Fund.

The now-annual concert began almost by accident, according to the AAPF’s website. The first performance the Forum gave as a group “was so successful that it raised funds above those needed to cover the expenses of renting its venue, reception and its printed programs. The pleasant dilemma of what to do with the money earned was solved when members decided to lend financial support to students' families, who were having difficulty paying for private music lessons, as well as to students hoping to attend summer music camps and festivals.”

In addition to the fall concert and student recitals, the AAPF hosts a number of instructional lectures each year, open to the public. Topics of some of the six upcoming general meetings include such workshops as “Bach’s Sinfonias: Insight into Teaching and Performing These Minature Masterpieces,” on Friday, Jan. 21, and “Self-Indulgence Versus Good Taste: Appropriate Use of Rubato”(Rubato denotes a variance or flexibility of tempo, a stylistic flourish that demonstrates the skill and control of the performer. Refer to the piano music of Chopin and Brahms for some examples), on Friday, Mar. 4.

Eight local piano instructors established the AAPF in 1992 as an outlet to discuss teaching practices and their general ardor for the piano. Founded upon the fundamental love of keyboard music, “which they hope to foster and share with kindred spirits,” the small roundtable has since expanded to a 90-member nonprofit organization.

But the AAPF is not limited to practitioners. “Anyone can join the AAPF,” says Feitzinger. “Membership is not limited just to pianists or teachers.”

Although the group began as a small circle of professionals, AAPF “expanded to include many piano enthusiasts who wanted to attend our programs and also support our educational mission,” Feitzinger continues.

Practice makes perfect; but practice takes time, and time requires money. Each of these elements could constitute a kind of metaphorical chord. The AAPF concert uses these elements to create a great event while enabling the possibility for such events to happen again. The practice, time and resources of the AAPF teachers, musicians and students come together in the form of music, its purpose, in order to simply continue with that purpose. The chord is played, producing overtones that we can all enjoy.

The audience at the AAPF’s 10th Annual Fall Benefit concert can experience a lifetime (perhaps several) of study of hundreds of years of music, and contribute to the continuation of that music at the same time.

For more information about the Asheville Area Piano Forum, including upcoming events, visit www.aapf.ws

who: Asheville Area Piano Forum
what: 10th anniversary benefit concert
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Sunday, Sept. 26 (3 p.m. $20 adults, $50 patrons, $5 students ages 13 to 21, free for children 12 and under. Tickets at 257-4530 or 277-4111. www.aapf.ws)

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