By Pete Zamplas- Christopher Tavernier is adding new twists to his piano benefit concerts for Hendersonville Community Theatre Jan. 14-15, mixing in one jazzier blends as he is joined by a seasoned clarinet player.
His Masterwork Performance free-admission shows both are in HCT (229 S. Washington St.) starting at 4 p.m. They double down as the Hendersonville High School sophomore’s second annual benefit for HCT educational programs and capital improvements. The third show in the HCT Benefit Concert Series, on Jan. 27 at 7 p.m., is New Orleans Baroque with a jazz quartet.
“It’s great they allow us to be a part of their season,” Tavernier said of the theater. “Knowing how it impacts the community, it’s pretty cool.” He likes the venue’s coziness, large stage and sound. “I love the acoustics there.”
There was such a turnout a year ago, the theatre was packed. Many more sat in a lobby, with a visual monitor and sound piped in.
Tavernier plays solo in “A Rich Blend of the Greatest Piano Classics.” He presents Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt then Prokofiev — spanning from Baroque to Romantic periods.
The 16-year-old’s precise, brisk-paced solo piano wizardry is Saturday, Jan. 14 for the entire show, and as part of the two-person show Sunday, Jan. 15 with clarinetist Matthew Hanna. That show’s title of “Cappuccino: A Rich Swiss Blend of Clarinet and Piano” extends organizer Bob Tavernier’s coffee theme, to warm up the ears in so far an oft-chilled winter.
In both shows, Tavernier plays Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7 in B flat Major, Opus 83. On Jan. 15, he performs Claude Debussy’s “Reflections in the Water.”
Hanna opens with Igor Stravinsky’s “3 Pieces for Clarinet,” and does two other solos. He founded the Papageno Woodwind Quintet, plays in Upstate S.C. orchestras, and runs Harmony Creek Studio to record symphonic and chamber music. He was a prodigy himself some 20 years ago; he won the Inter. Clarinet Assoc. Young Artist Competition and a state woodwind competition.
“Matthew is very fluid,” Christopher said, and in concert “he’s moving about” but strays within his sight of the music notation on a stand. Christopher, of course, remains perched on his piano bench. He said that as in his prior piano duets, “you’re still having basic eye contact, for cues. But mostly, I’m focused on what I’m playing.”
In this duet “typically you’re under it — playing notes lower. supporting the clarinet’s higher registry.” He called it “cool,” when their melodies overlap.
The duo combines for three pieces. Bob hails the collaboration as a “fine rich mixture of clarinet and piano playing separately and together, in some of the greatest solo and duo works ever written.” One is by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Another is by Brit Howard Ferguson (1908-99).
In the grand finale, Bob raves, “you will savor the taste of one of the greatest works ever written for these two instruments — (Francis) Poulenc’s ‘Sonata for Clarinet and Piano.’” Poulenc (1899-1963) penned it in 1962, setting the clarinet in B-flat.
The first and last of three movement flow bubbly, with titles including “allegro” which means happy. The middle movement is reflective, Christopher adds.
He calls the sound an “early form of jazz before it was called jazz. It was a transition from neo-classical to jazz. It’s much closer to jazz than what (classical) I’ve done before. I’ve been learning modern 20th Century music.”
Playing jazzier notes “keeps me more on my toes,” Christopher said. “It’s more edgy than most classical music is. It’s more experimental in dynamics — the quality of sound.”
He explains that “to produce the right sound requires the right body language” and timing such as brief “accented rests, between phrases. The pause enunciates what you played. It’s a landing point for the start of something completely different.”
The third HCT musical benefit this month is “New Orleans Baroque with a Modern Swing of Elegant Jazz.” The four in that show are Karen Sams on piano, veteran flutist Rita Hayes, Keith Freeburg on double bass, and Morgen Cobb on drums.
They will play Claude Bolling’s “Suite No. 2 for Flute & Jazz Trio,” with “icy technical precision and fiery jazz swing,” Bob Tavernier said.
Bob and Kim Tavernier and their sons Christopher and Nicholas stayed in a cabin for Thanksgiving, later for the week of Christmas. This provided Christopher a refreshing, low-key break from his routine. “It’s nice. I don’t feel I have to do something all of the time,” he said. “I want to. But this forces me to do nothing.”
When returning home and into routines “I feel more rested, and energized,” Christopher said. He practices piano for an hour before school, and three hours after school before dinner then doing homework. “You get tired, without knowing you’re getting tired. Y might not work as hard as you think you’re working.”
He runs a mile once around the neighborhood after morning practice, and before school. “I like running. It’s a way to get away, and rest your brain.” He also unwinds playing video games, and watching pro soccer on television. He plays soccer, and likes its tactics. “I can relate it to chess,” in which he excels.
These three benefit concerts are presented by The Music Foundation of WNC, local studio and store Freeburg Pianos and Perzina Pianos. Christopher Tavernier is Perzina Pianos’ sole official performing artist.
There is no admission to these benefit concerts, although those attending are encouraged to donate to HCT. Call the theater at 692-1082 regarding tickets, or for more info such as on HCT plays and projects.