By Kela Parker
Piano! Push Play! closed out the 2014 season with a sweet serenade benefit concert for the Children’s Cancer Society, featuring some of our favorite regular performers as well as special guests. The concert was held at the Portland Art Museum, in the outdoor courtyard where our red upright piano was stationed for two and a half months! Like many of the pianos that circulate through Piano! Push Play!’s nonprofit piano relocation program, this piano was a “rescue,” and after the concert, it was donated to local Good News Community Health Center.
But before that happened, we brought together a diverse bill of local musicians to send the season off right. The evening kicked off with jazz trio Party of Three (Stephanie Cooke on piano, Sam Hallam on bass, and James Ford on drums). Cooke was also a co-mastermind behind the event, as she has helped with CCA fundraisers in the past and the cause is one that is close to her heart. Having contributed her solo piano music to Piano! Push Play!’s CD release earlier in 2014, Cooke is now getting to branch out into a collaborative role in Party of Three. Next up was local performer and composer Kela Parker, who played a solo set of her original songs for piano. Parker has been a supporter of Piano! Push Play! from the early days, when founder Megan McGeorge was inspired to start playing music again while hanging out and playing duets at Parker’s music studio.
Also a contributor to the CD release, Parker has two albums out (released under Houswife and available at kelaparker.com) and is currently working on her third. One of the highlights of the night was new-to-Portland vocal trio the Von Trapp Family Singers, who are all related to the famous Von Trapp family, of “Sound of Music” fame. The Von Trapps were accompanied by Cooke on piano, and sang pretty harmonies that, indeed, harkened back to the meadows and hillsides of Austria.
Next was soloist Asher Fulero, who, as usual, sat down at the piano and simply let the music stream out of him. Asher performs his compositions and improvisations around Portland and his music can be discovered at asherfulero.com. Closing out the night were some piano duets with Cooke and local classical pianist and teacher Grace Shimer, followed by, in Piano! Push Play! fashion, whomever in the crowd felt like tickling the ivories. One of the great things about Piano! Push Play! is that the audience can also participate, so make sure to keep an eye out for the next crop of pianos appearing around downtown Portland as the weather starts warming up again in 2015. Until then, make sure to grab a copy of our compilation CD to get a taste of the awesome diversity of local pianists we support.