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Tavernier is wizard of ‘Piano Star Wars’ Sept. 1

Christopher Tavernier, who is left-handed, raises and arches his left hand before a downward plunge into an emphatic classical musical note. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Tickets routinely sell out for Tavernier’s energetic concerts, and especially the Masterwork series. Many hail Wortham as Asheville’s premier venue for sophisticated cozy-feel concerts. Tickets are very affordable at $12 — about three times less than his Masterwork benefit show year earlier.“Exploring New Horizons” is the title of Tavernier’s voyage into Hollywood music, to accompany his classical performances. The sixth annual World Masterwork Series is Saturday, Sept. 1, starting at 6:45 p.m. This is his last planned public performance until Nov. 11 in UNC-Asheville’s Lipinsky Auditorium, then next February on Flat Rock Playhouse’s main stage.

The combo of an extra low ticket price and familiar movie themes is geared in part to draw families, and introduce their children to classical music’s various styles and also its offshoots. “The idea of this concert is to bring in the younger crowd — with the movie soundtracks,” Tavernier said, dinner a recent dinner break from his ultra-busy Brevard Music Center (BMC) summer student schedule. The variety “shows more to a piano than classical music.”

The Music Foundation of WNC is the organizing group. Its founder and head, Joanne Freeburg of Freeburg Pianos in Hendersonville, is excited. “You won’t have to be a classical music fan, to enjoy this concert,” she stated. “You can appreciate it from a historical, technical and performance perspective. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you can experience the classic style with (contemporary) popular music.”

Tavernier, now 18, has won recent youth concerto competitions of Charlotte, Asheville and Hendersonville symphonies. He was among winners in BMC’s Wood Concerto Competition in ’17 — going up against college grad students, among others. His prize was tuition-paid return this summer to BMC, through this Saturday.

He is “really excited” to play tunes from some of his favorite movies as a new direction for him. He will perform Jarrod Rudnich’s intricate piano compositions. A stirring medley has Star Wars’ “Fantasy Suite, Movement 2” along with excerpts from Harry Potter and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The Star Wars medley starts with a reprise of one of the most famous main themes of any movie ever — from the opening theme of the final sequence. It includes Leia’s Theme, and Imperial March.

Tavernier’s favorite of these films is the Harry Potter series. “I’ve been most involved with it the most,” he said. “I read all of the books, several times.” He chuckles at the quip to him that he is also a wizard — on the piano, seemingly with magic in his fingers.

He will close with Journey’s rock hit “Don’t Stop Believin.’” He noted this also is enhanced by Rudnich, to “create the sound of the full orchestra — all on the piano.” This year, it has become Tavernier’s signature closing piece.

“I’ve gotten more comfortable with unfamiliar repertoire” this year, he said. “Most pieces are by composers I haven’t done much in-depth.” He enjoys exploring.

The first of his concert’s two segments is solely classical, and more familiar to hm. There are two pieces each of Domenico Scarlatti and Sergei Rachmaninoff. They sandwich in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sonata F Major, KV 332 then Robert Schumann’s debut work of Abegg-Variations.

Its variations are in “tempo, texture, speed, phrasing,” Tavernier explained. He said the Mozart sonata is “soothing, laid back,” yet “has many characters to it” emotionally including “typical Mozart” bouncy frolic.

As usual, Tavernier spans classical eras and styles. “Classical music isn’t just classical — Mozart and Beethoven,” he said. “There are different aspects, and time periods.” They include “Schumann in the early Romantic, and Rachmaninoff from late Romantic in the early 20th Century. The movies (in the second half) add on to that, and show what you can do with the piano” in other genres.

Joanne Freeburg raves about the Hendersonville High School rising senior. “Christopher Tavernier has already established himself as a concert pianist with a flair for playing the most demanding classical music written by the world’s greatest composers,” she wrote. “As Christopher continues to develop into one of the great pianists of his generation, he consistently astounds the classical purists with his grace and technique.”

Exploring New Horizons is a “testament how youth can bridge the classical style with today’s current popular music,” Mrs. Freeburg said. “Christopher is thrilled to combine his passion for classical foundations and techniques with today’s musical themes from Hollywood’s mega-hits.”

He will play on the world’s third-largest handmade piano at 9 feet, 4 inches. The Mason & Hamlin piano is tuned to the traditional Equal-Beating Victorian temperament for more precise sound. Freeburg loaned the piano. Tavernier first played on it publicly last winter — in FRP’s Playhouse Downtown in Hendersonville.

Skyland Auto Group is the naming sponsor. There are plans to park a car from that local dealer on stage with Tavernier. The host as always is WLOS-TV 13’s eloquent veteran news anchor Darcel Grimes.

Tavernier is juggling practice for Masterwork amidst the final stretch of studies and solo recitals at BMC this week. Typically, notices for recitals are next-day or even same-day ‘last minute,” he said. “In the real world, that happens all of the time. It’s a good thing.” A typical schedule spans 14 hours, with two meal breaks and ending with attending BMC evening concerts.

On the side, “I’m learning to be more organized.” beyond “where to be and when, to ‘what is going on inside your own bubble; what is your focus of study’ I’m working on a Mozart sonata (for Masterwork). So to broaden my understanding of Mozart, I might see a Mozart opera.”

Further, he said, BMC is a social “hub. It’s great to ‘geek out,’ and relate on experiences we all have. They understand what you’re talking about.” For example, “if you come in late to a rehearsal, conductor singles you out. Or if you practice a number so long, but you don’t play it as well in a rehearsal or even a performance. We all go through that. It’s part of the learning process.”

He said he is more patient in learning pieces, and less hard on himself than years go. “I’ve gotten better. I’m more reasonable about progress. I don’t try to force” matters.

He is eager for a unique technical challenge Nov. 11 at UNCA, as he accompanies the Asheville-based Blue Ridge Orchestra. The lefty will play the finale, Maurice Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand — playing it only with the left hand.

Mentally and in muscle memory “it’s hard to get used to playing the entire keyboard with one hand” — even his dominant left hand,” Tavernier said. This is especially with “the left hand in the (piano’s) upper register.” In contrast, “when you play with two hands, one hand naturally balances the other one out.”

The Veteran’s Day Concert at UNCA honors the 100th anniversary of WWI”s Armistice Day. The opening number is Beethoven’s famed Symphony No. 5, and excerpts from his “Victory at Sea” starts the second half. That concert starts at 3 p.m.

Meanwhile, Wortham’s upcoming shows also include folk star Mary Chapin Carpenter Aug. 8, and the 12th annual Asheville Comedy Festival Aug. 10-11. To buy tickets to shows in Wortham, go to: or call 257-4530. Exploring New Horizon main ticket outlets in Hendersonville are the Visitors Center (693-9708) and Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra (697-5884).

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