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Selection:  George Gershwin
Prelude No.1
 

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    Excerpts from the Diary of a Concert Pianist
by Michael Sellers

Part 1
 
 
 

     Do you think that playing concerts all over the globe is glamorous and exciting? Sometimes it can be exciting, rarely is it glamorous and it can be fraught with unexpected surprises, perils and every sort of pitfall. Years ago a dreamy-eyed music student at a Midwestern college asked me "What's life like on the road?" expecting me to pour out stories that would make Tales of a Thousand Nights sound tame by comparison.
      Last December I returned from a month's concert tour that took me to Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland for a number of concerts and master classes.  It was a wonderful trip in many ways.  I will tell you a few details and you decide what kind of life the "road" is.
      When I arrived in Budapest in the later evening, it was snowing.  Budapest was transformed into a magical and fairytale city.  Little did I know that the snow was part of an unexpected winter storm, the likes of which Europe had not experienced for quite some time.  It was freezing cold and the snow kept coming.  I got soaked and caught a nasty cold.
      After my concert in Budapest, I caught a train for Vranov City, Slovakia, my next concert stop.  At the train station and in the train nobody spoke English or German, the only languages I could communicate in, which created a minor problem regarding the correct connections.  I had to resort to sign language and pointing to my watch.  The platform where I had to wait for my train was freezing.  There was no warm place to wait.  To make matters worse, the train was 1 1/2 hours late because of the storm.
      I was rescued, I mean met, at Vranov City by a very interesting Slovakian who is an English instructor.  He was my translator. After a pleasant lunch with the concert organizer, who gave me an informative history of Vranov City, one of the oldest cities in Slovakia, we went to the hall for a rehearsal and to check the piano.

 

 

     The hall wasn't designed for concerts, but was rather an all purpose meeting room that was part of the Town Hall.  It was wall-to-wall carpeted with an acoustic deadening rug.  Because I was not happy with the position of the piano, I tried to help things along by moving the piano by myself while my translator and concert organizer tended to other matters.  Big mistake!  The rollers on the piano did not move easily against the grain of the thick rug.  When I applied ever so gentle a force with the deftest of touches, the back leg of the piano snapped like a gingerbread cookie and the back end of the piano crashed to the ground with the most sickening groan and deafening crash, not unlike the fall of Valhalla in Gotterdammerung, or so it seemed to me.
      The commotion that ensued was out of a comic opera.  Here is Michael, the Piano-Destroyer Klutz from Los Angeles, who has come to Slovakia to perform a concert and thereby to represent the United States, and who has single-handedly demolished the piano for that evening's concert.  Fortunately, the internal parts of the piano were O.K.  There were chairs in the room that had arms.  With the greatest of Chutzpah, I directed the translator and concert organizer to lift the piano and I pulled over a chair and placed it under the back end of the piano.  Miraculously, the height of the arms on the chair fir the piano and the chair was able to take the weight of the piano.  That's how I played the concert a few hours later.  The concert went very well.  I was received with warmth and enthusiasm.  There was a large audience, curious to hear, more specifically to "see" an American.  Foreigners, particularly Americans, barely come to Slovakia.
      The next morning I was driven to Kosice to take the train to Poland, and that's another story.

This is the first in a three-part series about Michael Seller's experiences while on a recent European tour.

 
 
  Part 2  
 

 

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