Finn Center - Mountain View

Note: Reviews that have appeared in the Pacifica Tribune may be found on the web site of the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra at www.sfconcerto.org.

Delicious ragtime temptations by Ms. Mimi Blais, pianist bon vivant
A musical night in Mountain View – November 20, 2006

While the right hand breaks up the melody into short syncopated rhythms, the left hand settles on a rhythmic foundation of bass notes on odd-numbered beats and chords on even-numbered beats.  Both hands meet and discuss a slow march tempo and follow a parlor theme right into temptation.  This wildly popular raggedy music introduced in the States in the 1890s made a household name of the King of Ragtime composer Scott Joplin.  Composers Joseph Lamb, James Scott and Eubie Blake also changed and charged the world with their musical mark.  Now here we are in 2006 with a new top hat on that crowned walk of fame.  And who’s under that sensational ragtime topper?  That would be the Canadian mind-blowing, delicious piano whirl known as Mimi Blais, New Queen of Ragtime.

Ms. Blais, educated in classical and enthralled captive of ragtime, is a thoroughly engaging ragtime historian, composer and performer.  She recently played and emceed the “Glenn Gould Talk Shows” sponsored by Seth Montfort and his San Francisco Concerto Orchestra International Competitions for Musicians held at the Finn Center in Mountain View.  Before she played she talked.  She filled her audience with anecdotal gems of ragtime lives and gold ribbon rags.  We learned about: May Aufderheide; Zez Confrey; folk rags; novelty rags; and Fats Waller on stride piano.  Then she played.  She played something from everyone already spoken about in this article and then she played some more.  Her charming, on-the-mark, well constructed rags flow like maple between tricky fingers and are constant delicious reminders that ragtime is heaven sent.  Play it again, Ms. Blais.

~Jean Bartlett for South Bay Spotlight

Eric Leong

Violinist Eric Leong and his finger dance of “Partita No. 3 in E major” by Bach
Community School of Music and Arts, Mountain View – November 20, 2006

Bach’s “Partita No. 3 in E major” is a kaleidoscope of violin discourse. Harmony and counterpoint glide through a single violinist’s bow and fingers as if he really were made of two (violinists.) With a graceful sense of depth and Bach wizardry, it was performed Monday night by violinist Eric Leong at the Community School of Music and Arts at Finn Center, Mountain View. As Leong played his body swayed to the Bach music where detailed phrases and blazes of meticulous notes fell like beautiful tears, the swirl of a masquerade ball, minuet and jig. With naught but a single instrument to explain the craftsmanship of the Bach journey; Leong allowed his own extraordinary talent and his keen sense of the composer take his audience on a deeply satisfying sail of Bach.

~Jean Bartlett for South Bay Spotlight

Kenn Gartner

Boomtown rag and bits of Bach make for playtime piano by showman Kenn Gartner
Community School of Music and Arts, Mountain View – November 20, 2006

With wonderfully slamming irregularities, and a bit of boogie-woogie, pianist Kenn Gartner sashayed out the novelty rag “Brass Knuckles” by William Bolcom and William Albright. Gartner played this modern day street-smart rag with a smooth liquid sly, and an obvious understanding of both the classical rugged touch, let’s hear it for Beethoven – and a constant tip of the hat to a march tempo bass line. Unafraid of pyrotechnics that nearly made the grand all wobbly; Gartner put on a showman’s cap and played this smoke house rocker to a hall of seat-bouncing toe-tappers. Gartner also played a series of Bach pieces: “French Suite in E major, Menuet;” the “Adagio” from the “Italian Concerto” and five short preludes written by Bach for his children. Gartner played unhurried and Bach astute, but his “Brass Knuckles” won the day.

~Jean Bartlett for South Bay Spotlight