Randy Newman once said that a Steinway is “the best Beethoven piano, the best Chopin piano and the best Ray Charles piano.” And that means it is the perfect piano for the Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College, which brings artists ranging from the most refined classical pianists to good-time rock ‘n’ rollers.
Luckily, a kind donor has gifted the college a new 2016 Steinway for the series, and you can hear it for the first time Wednesday, Dec. 21, when the superb young musician Chaeyoung Park plays it in a recital at the Polsky Theatre.
“Our old Steinway was a reconditioned model,” said Emily Behrmann, general manager of the JCCC series. “It was well-used, kind of old and just got to the point where it would not hold a tune for an entire concert. It just makes sense that we have a top-of-the-line instrument on site for musicians to use.”
And that’s where Peter Goulet comes in. A professor of management for 40 years, Goulet and his wife moved to the area seven years ago and began attending performances at the Carlsen Center.
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“We were immediately impressed with the amazing facilities and joined the friends society for the program,” he wrote in an email. “When Emily told us of some of the projects they were thinking about, I just offhandedly asked what she really wanted, and she said a Steinway Concert D piano. As a failed piano player but an avid listener of all classical music, I said that might be a fun thing to donate and asked how much.”
How about $145,000?
The list price for a new Steinway is $160,000, but with $15,000 for the reconditioned Steinway and an educational institution discount, that left $145,000, which included shipping, setup and the first tuning.
“The amount was a bit of a shock but in line with some other things my wife and I had been doing, and I said, ‘We’d love to do that,’ ” Goulet said.
So Behrmann made plans to visit the Steinway factory in New York and enlisted Park’s aid to choose the perfect instrument. After testing out several pianos, they decided on a Model D, full-size, 9-foot-long instrument, the kind of concert grand piano you’ll find in any concert hall around the world.
“The best way I can describe the sound is that it sang,” Behrmann said. “The tone was pure, round and had its own voice.”
Goulet is also pleased with the choice.
“Like all Steinways it is gorgeous,” he wrote. “Every time I look at one of them up close, I keep wondering how they figured out exactly how those insides should be configured to get that marvelous sound. It’s kind of like magic.”
And Park, a silver medalist in the 2016 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition who is currently studying at Juilliard, has chosen a program to make the magic come alive. She’ll perform works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Robert Schumann, Maurice Ravel, Frédéric Chopin and George Gershwin to show off the instrument’s versatility.
“I can’t wait to hear it under the touch of a worthy player,” Goulet wrote. “I am sure this instrument will be well used and provide pleasure to many.”
7 p.m. Dec. 21. Polsky Theatre, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. The concert is free, but you must RSVP at TheSeries@jccc.edu.
Kantorei Christmas concert
Kantorei, one of Kansas City’s fine choral ensembles, will present its Christmas concert Sunday, Dec. 18, at Visitation Church. This year’s program, “Heaven’s Gate,” will feature the “Missa Ave Maris Stella” by Flemish Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez, as well as selections from Kantorei’s new Christmas album “To Bethlehem.”
“To Bethlehem” is a jewel and would be a great addition to any Christmas collection. Little-known Renaissance composers like Melchior Vulpius are juxtaposed with contemporary composers like Douglas Helvering. The mix of old and new has a timeless quality that is hauntingly beautiful.
“To Bethlehem” is available to purchase as a CD or download at http://tinyurl.com/zfetbmq.
7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at Westport Presbyterian, 210 Westport Road and 3 p.m. Dec. 18 at Visitation Church, 5141 Main St. www.visitation.org.
Spire Chamber Ensemble
Spire Chamber Ensemble’s period instrument performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” in Helzberg Hall has become a much-anticipated annual affair.
Ben Spalding, Spire’s conductor, assembles musicians skilled in playing period instruments from around the country, and combined with Spire’s excellent choir, the resulting sound is refreshing and exuberant. It’s Handel’s “Messiah” just as he would have heard it.
7 p.m. Dec. 23. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$55. 816-994-7222 or www.spirechamberensemble.org.