Friday, October 29, 2010

Ken Burns' Pianist: Jacqueline Schwab

For the 80 or so folks in attendance last night, the evening concert surely created a special memory.  Jacqueline Schwab, the only pianist documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will engage, performed for two hours on the Ossip Gabrilowitsch grand piano in the Museum Gallery.  Ms. Schwab played classic Americana tunes - Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin, etc. - and paused in between to tell stories of the songs, the composers and performers, and the sentiment of the day.  The crowd was mesmerized.  It was wonderful to be tucked in all together among the Norman Rockwell paintings, soft lighting, friendly faces.  I felt as though we'd have a group of friends over for some parlor entertainment (although someone of Jacqueline's talent would not typically be found playing in someone's parlor).
Jacqueline Schwab delighted the audience with stories in between songs.
I almost asked her to play "Ashokan Farewell" - that haunting theme played throughout Burns' Civil War documentary, but I felt it might be too much to bear.  The song is one I have heard hundreds of times, in my multiple viewings of the documentary and in the repeated listenings on the CD in my car and at home.  But, I didn't ask her, knowing it would only make me cry.  Imagine my mixed emotions (mainly joy) when she sat down to play her encore.  Ashokan Farewell.

And I was not the only one crying.
Jacqueline Schwab playing the Ossip Gabrilowitsch piano

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