Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota kicks off the holiday season with an all-new holiday version of “Piano Grand,” featuring five Steinway & Sons concert grand pianos played by five top area pianists, Dr. Joseph Holt, Don Bryn, Andrew Lapp, Thomas Purviance and Michael Stewartz, on Dec. 8.
After three successful seasons of “Piano Grand,” the keyboard spectacle where five top pianists tickle the ivories of five majestic Steinway grand pianos with complex arrangements of favorite pieces often created especially for the occasion, one might think that the series had exhausted all available repertoire.
“Not quite yet,” says Joseph Holt, director of artist programs for Artist Series Concerts. “It’s true that there are only so many arrangements out there for multi-piano performances. Coming up with fresh programming is always a challenge, as well as a bit of a scavenger hunt. This year’s holiday theme gave us a fun and whole new pianistic playground to explore.”
The result is an uplifting and uniquely “digital” celebration of winter and the arrival of the holiday season. As in seasons past, the first half of the program will feature the more classical selections, including the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria,” a lilting version of Vivaldi’s “Sento in seno ch’in pioggia di lagrime” and of course, Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite.”
The second half will take audiences on a merry musical sleigh ride through such light popular holiday favorites as a “Bells of Christmas” medley (“Silver Bells,” “Jingle Bells,” “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and more), “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and Leroy Anderson’s iconic “Sleigh Ride.” And be ready for more of the props, audience participation and “musical chairs” between the musicians that have also become a signature feature of “Piano Grand.”
“Last season we had our ‘cannon fire’ created with popcorn bags for the “1812 Overture.” The year before that, it was our LED illuminated sneakers and ties,” recalls Holt. “This year? Who knows?! But audience members should definitely arrive with voices warmed up for some singing.”
Reserved seat tickets are $20 to $55, $10 student tickets are available at the door with current student ID. There will be a reception with the musicians immediately following the concert on the second floor of the Opera House. Tickets for the reception are $35 and include an open bar and refreshments.