Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wow, A Night Out!

It is very hard for me to motivate myself to go out in the evening. Out of town, on my own. It's just not much fun being alone sometimes. So, if it's something that I really should enjoy, I force myself. On Saturday night I took myself to Manchester to a free (donations at the door and yes I did) concert. A ragtime concert with Bob Milne. I case you haven't noticed, I L-O-V-E Ragtime. I'd never heard Bob Milne. The advertising, and his website, made the concert sound like it would be spectacular.

The concert was a fundraiser celebrating the 200th anniversary of the First Parish Church in Manchester. Considering the notoriety of Mr. Milne and assuming that seating would be at a premium in a moderately sized New England church, I made a point of arriving early. I watched as two people entered the church, about 45 minutes before performance time and decided that it would be a good time to go in and get a front pew seat.

Wrong. The first 6 or so rows of pews had been reserved. I picked the seventh row center aisle and found that I'd been beaten, evidenced by a coat left on that pew. I took a seat at the center aisle, next pew back. Within 15 minutes the church was full! I stared at the diminutive, 1930's Cable-Conover grand 'on stage'. What a poor little piano expected to fill the church with top of the line ragtime.
Bob Milne (self imposed etiquette of no flash)

I feel like a ragtime traitor to say that I didn't enjoy the music. Mr. Milne is touted as one of the best, a musical ambassador, a Library of Congress treasure. I can't argue that his performance was spectacular. But, to me, it was just that. Performance. I missed the nuances and heart when ragtime is played as expressive music. Mr. Milne played like the old time competitions of oneupmanship. More than competent, way too showy. Not at all what I expected. At first, I enjoyed seeing and hearing how fast he could play, how he could emulate a player piano roll with it's octave 'dubbing' and innumerable trills, how his fingers blurred. But after a while I tired of the rush, the struggle to recognize familiar pieces as they flew from the piano at top speed.

It was a two hour concert and I was ready for it to end. The drive home in the rain was refreshingly quiet. My brain didn't settle until early morning hours.

Big night out exhausted me!


Kippers Dickie said...

Hi Deb,
What a let down...but at least you got out.
Now I have a Large volume entitled the 'Complete Works of Scott Joplin'. There is a section at the front written by Joplin where he says "...ragtime should never be played fast..." and I agree. Too many people try to show off.
My favourite recordings are by Joshua Rifkin.

deb said...

Yes, Joplin was quite insistent about that!

The first ragtime recording that I heard (outside of the movie, The Sting) was by Joshua Rifkin and his 'played straight' style hooked me.

Until I heard Richard Zimmerman! He seems to play with the soul with which ragtime was written, paced yet expressive.