Category: Piano Circus (1)
As I watched the six pianists of Piano Circus take the stage for Trilogies last Saturday evening, their fierce bows and strong stage presence told me they weren’t ordinary.
The opening of the show was unique, to say the least. The members, two of whom had their backs to the audience, sat in a circle. My immediate thought was, “This is poor stage presence,” but I continued watching eagerly for their next moves. The pianists began striking keys, the sounds ranging from deep tones to high-pitched shrills. In this first piece (Sguiggle Zipper) of a trilogy by composer Colin Riley, the sounds were abstract and had no particular form. Members took turns playing short, choppy notes. The composition of the music was similar to human dialogue in the way that each pianist took turns playing, like they were communicating their thoughts, one by one, through the music.
The music reminded me of a soundtrack to a horror film. It was alarming, striking, and even dangerous. Visual images were used throughout the performance to depict the emotion that was enveloped in the music, and they certainly captured the audience’s attention. I found the image of the grazing cows the most memorable, because the cows’ movement mirrored the gentle sounds of the music. The images of the cows transitioned the daring introduction to a lackadaisical and tranquil scene. This sudden transition to a serene ambiance during the second Riley piece (Ebb Cast) kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what the musicians would throw my way next. As the performance progressed, I was taken by the physical appearance of the pianists as they gathered around the instruments to play in unison for Double Trio. Playing both inside and outside of the piano created extended chords and dense harmonies that were very pleasing to the ear.
The second half of the performance was more traditional, similar to what I had originally expected to hear. The six pianists played three pieces by composer Graham Fitkin (Log, Line, and Loud) on grand pianos, creating a classic acoustic sound. The music was much less chaotic and had a continuous flow. I was moved by this portion of the performance, and I admired the musicians’ talent as they played in harmony. I was astounded by the pianists’ ability to play so vigorously throughout the entire piece.
The drastic differences in style throughout the performance demonstrate how talented Piano Circus is. The performance was unusual in its subtlety, yet it was expressive throughout. The music was tied to emotional states, as if the musicians were trapped in a “sonic dream” in which they were submerged. Piano Circus unveiled a new meaning of music to me, and I am so pleased to have witnessed such a remarkable performance.
Jamie Lynn Wisniewski is un undergraduate student at Montclair State University.