Monday, March 17, 2014

Chopin Birthday Festival in Winston-Salem

7:17 PM
Weirdo adventurer convention at ChopinFest
Life in my family--growing up, calling to check in as an adult, listening to stories from before I was born--is all about crazy projects. My parents are schemers.

Let’s take the kids to Europe and all enroll in a French as a Foreign Language intensive alongside a bunch of zitty Dutch college kids so we can come back to the states and loudly discuss other restaurant patrons’ strange table manners in a language they won’t understand.

Let’s start our own record label. Let’s design our own house. It’s 1984! Let’s go on a concert tour of Colombia, but obviously let’s mostly hang out in Medellin.

In recent years, my parents have focused their shared weirdo-adventurer superpowers mostly on Chopin.
My mom is a concert pianist who’s sought ever more unique vehicles for her excellent interpretations of the Polish composer’s works. She’s also developed an obsession with bringing his music and his life story to young audiences who are not already familiar with classical music.

This has all spawned a one-woman show; a documentary; candlelit, time-warpy Chopin salons; and a multimedia program called Night Music, in which my mom performs Chopin nocturnes to projections of paintings my dad created, inspired by each piece. (As part of the promotion process for the latter, my hometown newspaper recently ran a story on my parents with the headline The Perfect Marriage. Make of that what you will.)

I’ve been able to join the Chopin party, too: I did some digging into Chopin’s little-known vocal compositions and recently had the exciting opportunity to accompany Mom on the most recent of her several concert tours through Poland. We performed together at the Smolna district’s Chopin Salon, the American ambassador’s residence in Warsaw, and the American Corner in Radom.

So Chopin’s birthday fell on a recent Saturday--I don’t know if you knew--and to mark the occasion I trekked home to Winston-Salem to sing at my mom’s latest project, the Chopin Birthday Festival at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

Chopin didn’t write many songs, but a collection of 17 pieces based on Polish folk music (Op. 74) does exist from early in his career. I am not smart enough to embed someone else’s facebook video in my post, but click through if you’d like to hear a snippet:

That’s "Moja pieszczotka," the best-known from Op. 74. These pieces have a simplicity that’s lovely but not characteristic of his later works--I also got to bust out a few of Pauline Viardot’s transcriptions of famous Chopin mazurkas, which are more artistically and vocally fun intricate.

The Wake Forest Innovation quarter is an amazing, gorgeous venue and the festival--which included the work of about 30 pianists, a documentary screening, visual art, and a piece choreographed to several nocturnes by the Winston Salem festival ballet--drew surprisingly diverse and very enthusiastic crowds.

My mom and I are performing a Polish-American program including these Chopin songs and some Gershwin and Jerome Kern at a few other NC venues coming up, including at Winston-Salem’s Arbor Acres, March 27th at 7 PM. Shoot me an email if you have questions about this or other upcoming performances, dear reader!

About the author

I'm Andrea. Everything you need to know is here.