By Susie Davidson
Lovers of the ivory keys reaped complete indulgence last weekend at the Zeitgeist Gallery’s Second Annual Piano Festival. For thirteen hours straight, beginning at noon on Saturday and continuing until 1 a.m., a steady stream of pianists took to the gallery’s 7-foot grand, in its yearly showcase of varied local connoisseurs of the keyboard.
Organized by the Zeitgeist resident pianist Gill Aharon, the event also paid tribute to the gallery’s consistent support of Boston's piano culture and the Zeitgeist's key role in fostering and sustaining that culture. The fest helped raise money for continued technical improvements to the space
Gill Aharon, who sound recorded the entire event, designed the Piano Fest to span genre, age and musical taste while providing a chance for performers and audience members to experience common ground. Aharon, who began playing piano at the age of four, originally brought his piano to the gallery, where he hosts its Fishlung Piano Series on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
Aharon’s Bulgarian parents moved to Israel in the early 1950s, where they lived until relocating to England in 1964 for fellowships, his father in Pediatrics and his mother in Endocrinology. In 1965 they moved to the Bronx, and later to Scarsdale. The family traveled often to Israel to visit relatives; both his brother Alon and he were bar mitzvahed at the Western Wall. Following graduation from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, he enrolled at Berklee. “I decided to scrap all safety nets and pursue music,” he said. He leads the Gill Aharon Trio and Fishlung Five, is planning a winter Middle Eastern music fest, and hopes to play in Israel next year and do a Mediterranean tour as well.
Pianist and composer Kobi Arad, who holds a master’s degree in Contemporary Improvisation, is working on a Doctorate at the New England Conservatory. The Israeli native, who plays jazz, pop, world, and classical music, has performed at the Tel Aviv Museum and for the Knesset and appeared on the Tel Aviv-broadcast event "The Music of Ravel"; his compositions have been performed on Israeli National Radio and at the Jerusalem Performing Arts Center. He currently arranges and transcribes music for the Warner Brothers and Hal Leonard publication companies.
In Israel, Arad played keyboards for the Lehakat HaNakhal (the Nakhal Band), and for two years, was arranger, transcriber and Musical Director for all Israeli Army bands, with his arrangements performed at statewide army bases, universities, and concert halls. In 1996 his commissioned re-orchestration of Hindemith's "Wir Bauen Ein Stadt" was performed by the Israeli Chamber Orchestra at the Tel Aviv Museum. Arad, a student of Hassidism, is active in the Kabbalah Center and at Congregation Kehillath Israel. “My orchestral song 'Nogea Lo Nogea,' (‘Touching Yet not Touching'), reflects Hassidic-Kabbalistic esoteric subject matter,” he explained. His recent album "Revadim," released on Sachimay Records, delves into varied spiritual layers of existence.
Steve Lantner, a 20-year local music veteran with a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and a master’s degree in piano from the New England Conservatory, appeared with drummer Luther Gray. A first-generation American Jew, his father, from eastern Poland, and mother, from Latvia, escaped Europe at the onset of the war, although many of their immediate family members perished. “My life has been shaped by their experiences of survival and displacement, and my music is in part an expression of a past that is unknown and irretrievable,” he said. Lantner has released two CD’s.
Upcoming gigs for Lantner include Nov. 7 at the Artists-At-Large Gallery, 37 Everett St. in Hyde Park, where he’ll play in an all-New England ensemble The Heavy Industries, and Nov. 15 at the Zeitgeist with the Dan Levin Group in a CD release event.
Performer David Maxwell, who has a solo LP, “Maximum Blues Piano,” has played with big names Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, James Cotton and Ronnie Earl, among others.
Other performers included Greg Burk, Vardan Ovsepian, Gabriel Guererro, Malone's Trio, Joe Della Penna, Daniel Blake, John McDonald, Dan DeChellis, Manisha Shahane, Jaques Chanier, Gill Aharon, Daniela Schaechter, Thomas Luther, Dean Marcellana, Hans Poppel, Gordon Beeferman and Michael McLaughlin. “In keeping with this spirit of disparate collaboration within a gallery setting, visual artist Kristen Mills painted throughout the evening performances,” added publicist Mary Curtin.
For information on the Zeitgeist Gallery, 1353 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge. or the Fishlung Piano Series, please visit www.zeitgeist-gallery.org or call 617-876-6060.
What: Zeitgeist Second Annual Piano Festival Who: organized by Gill Aharon When: Saturday, September 13, noon - 1:00 am Where: Zeitgeist Gallery, 1353 Cambridge St., Inman Sq., Cambridge; for information, 617-876-6060 or www.zeitgeist-gallery.org Admission: Donation for the festival pass: $10 / $5 for children over 4 and seniors / free for children under 5 and dogs