By: Parys Grigsby
It had been an impossibly long day. Each class seemed to drag infinitely; work even longer. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and push thoughts of all responsibilities as far out of my mind as possible, but duty called. I grudgingly went to what I thought would be hours of relentless piano playing.
Classical piano music just isn’t my cup of tea. I’m more apt to blast songs that I can shake my hips and tap my foot to through my iPod speakers than to quietly listen to Beethoven. I’d rather hear a soulful voice croon about life’s toils and tribulations than aurally digest songs with no lyrics. Or so I thought.
As I reflect on the show I realize, I have found a new love. In the intimate Edge Recital Hall at University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music, I sat close enough to the stage to see the performers clench their jaws in focus, tremble in anticipation of perfectly striking the next note. I didn’t expect to experience a sense of amazement, but student pianists Emma Lin and Mackenzie Marr evoked that emotion and more from my musically close-minded heart.
The music they played was fluid, mystifying, precise. They were the epitome of amazing.
Someone once told me “Each word in the English language is the combination of only 26 letters.” to put in mind the concept endless possibilities. As I watched Lin and Marr display their craft all I could think is that each song they played is simply the combination of 88 keys.
And, my God, they combined them well.
The recital lasted a mere 50 minutes. There were no more than 25 people in the audience. Both of those facts exemplify the exact opposite of the level of the music played at the show. The notes were wonderfully played; telling a story with no words. It was as if I paid close enough attention I could see each note escaping from the gleaming piano’s hood fluttering together like the pattern of a bumblebee’s flight. As I watched their fingers, first individually then as a duo, travel across the black and white keys at a mystifying speed I was mesmerized. Their fingers floated across the keys like a determined spider focused on spinning his web.
I couldn’t believe these freshmen, no more than 18 or 19 years old, were so talented. I couldn’t believe more people weren’t here to witness this public display of musical beauty. I couldn’t believe I had once turned my nose up in irritation at the thought of enjoying classical piano music.
The piano styles weren’t too far removed from the hip hop and R&B of my usual music palate. The notes were sometimes punchy and other times soft. The high point of the notes of the song were poignantly held out, drawing attention to their presence like the punch line of a rap verse or the high note of a love ballad.
The pianists played a mix of the works of Bartok, Bach, Schumann, Beethoven and Dvorak. These names are as foreign to me as the Chinese alphabet, but I, the casual observer, believe that Lin and Marr did each of their respective pieces justice. Each young lady played a solo piece which, in my mind, built up to the beauty of their closing duet. Each note was in perfect conversation with the other as if the music flowed from the fingertips of two hands instead of four.
At the end of each set they stood and took a poised bow as the small attentive audience applauded. I couldn’t believe their modesty. Had I just performed beautiful pieces of classical music I’d have raised my hands above my head in celebration like a track star that had just won first place. It was almost as if they didn’t show that they recognized the feat they’d just accomplished. Not many people can successfully play classical piano in front of an intimate crowd. They deserved rousing applause ringing from North Campus to the East Deck.