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Pianist Aaron Price’s ‘Offering’ is creative devotion to hymns


Price plays solo and in various lineups in concert, for such causes as area land conservancy, and in backing cabaret shows, poets and comics in Asheville. He will again provide snappy musical accompaniment to the counter-cultural Poetry Cabaret Collective, in the Asheville Fringe Festival of unusual acts that span Jan. 25-28 in many venues.

He is expanding to do concerts in Hendersonville as well. One is a free show of his fresh hymn improvs on Wednesday, March 7, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in Trinity Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville.

Price, 43, grew up a Methodist. He is music director of West Asheville Presbyterian Church, and has served in that role for 15 years.

Price publicly unveils his new CD (entitled Offering: Hymn Improvisations, Vol. 1) at its release show Sunday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in White Horse Music Hall, in Black Mountain. Singing hymns in non-traditional settings such as pubs has caught on for the last three years, in the Asheville Beer and Hymns series.

Price’s three prior CDs have been variations of jazz. He recorded Offering in the Seclusion Hill studio in East Asheville, in September.

This is Price’s devoted offering on some of the earliest songs in his youth, which still inspire and influence him. “These songs are in my blood. I was raised around church music, and continue to play this music often” such as (what churches?), he said. “It is the oldest music in my life. It impacts my composing, and is often the soundtrack to my day.”

Price pays homage to these hymns, basing his recordings on their traditions. “I present the hymns in a familiar fashion, emphasizing the melody and meter.”

Yet Price splendidly succeeds to as he puts it “gradually weave variations into the hymns, altering the harmonic progressions.” He further explained it is “riffing in a transitional gospel way, and improvising through the chord progressions of the hymns.”

The result is “the hymns sound more relaxed, and in a less strident manner than in a hymnal,” Price said.

“Deep River,” “Precious Memories,” and “Great is The Faithfulness” are prime examples of this blend.

One of the peppiest hymns is “Happy is the Home When God is There.” Price said, “I turned that one into popular piano music, with the stride style playing with the left hand. It’s bouncing, like ragtime of Scott Joplin” circa 1900.

Further, Price said, his improvisations vary live. “Each performance, is unique and never happens the same way twice.”

On the Fringe front, he and a half-dozen poets took their show from Asheville Fringe to the large Fringe in Washington, D.C. in July. He discovered a new “perspective” of the art, performing in a city unknown to them. Yet he felt the same “fiercely-creative spirit” in D.C. that flourishes in Asheville.

In Asheville’s Fringe this month Price will again play piano for Poetry Cabaret as backdrop during poetry performances, as a solo act ahead of shows as the crowd gets seated and during intermissions. The Fringe poetry gigs are on Thursday, Jan. 25 then that Saturday, both starting at 9 p.m. The venue, which is new to Fringe, is The Sly Grog off Haywood Street near Pack Library.

Contrasting with the 15-person Fringe poetry extravaganza a year ago In Asheville, this time look for a half-dozen performers. “It’ll be less a variety show, and more focused” with longer readings on varied topics from fewer poets, Price said. Troupe leader Caleb Beissert of Asheville is the host poet, and a collaborator with Price. Count on more varied expression. “Caleb and I are experimenting with a new performance form,” such as mixing in dance with poetry and music, and “not the standard poetry reading,” Price said. “I’m excited about it.”

Aaron Price Music is what to search for on Facebook. To check samples of Price’s hymns CD, go online to:

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