On November 17, 2017, The Suburban Times published an article written by Andrew Buelow, Executive Director of Symphony Tacoma, titled,Symphony Tacoma guest pianist cancels due to illness; Centralia native Charlie Albright steps in at the 11th hour.If you have time, check out Mr. Buelow’s article.
Let’s talk further about Charlie Albright, who grew up just 44 miles south of us in Centralia, Washington.
One of my reasons for wanting to talk about Charlie is it seems 24/7/365 we are bombarded with so much negative news about homicide, train derailments, the homeless, White House drama, high-level sexual deportment issues; and then there are the nuclear buttons. Rocketman tells Tweetman that he has a nuclear button on his desk. Tweetman responds to Rocketman by telling him, “My button is bigger than your button.” The news can be very depressing at times.
Yes, we need the news, good or bad. We can’t stuff our heads in the sand, but how about taking a negative news break? Instead of being depressed and wallowing in the news-day soup, let’s think about something positive, pleasant, amazing, and beautiful. I am talking about the positive force Charlie Albright brings to our planet. Charlie is a gift from the heavens.
(As I write this article, I am playing my autographed copy of Charlie Albright’s CD titled, The Schubert Series / Live / Part 01.)Photo: Autographed Charlie Albright CD cover.
The essence, (I like the word, “essence” more than the tired phrase, “the bottom line,” don’t you?) of the article referenced above is that pianist Andrew Tyson had fallen ill. He was forced to cancel his long-standing commitment to perform with Symphony Tacoma, under its Music Director Sarah Ioannides on November 18, 2017. Maestra Ioannides was given only three days to find a miraculous solution to what seemed to be an impossible task.
Maestra Ioannides, not being one to disappoint her symphony audience, moved into her problem solving mode. Of course, being a problem solver myself, I would have been willing to guest star on my Blues harmonica, but she did not reach out to me.
Instead she called Charlie Albright, who now resides in New York, to ask if he would be willing to occupy the vacant piano bench on her stage.
When I think of a concert pianist, I picture a serious, studious man or woman and a piano. That’s it. Charlie Albright conjures a much larger picture. Charlie Albright is serious, talented, studious, fun loving, humorous; and he has a Steinway piano. But here is where Charlie is different. Charlie wears an action hero cape. Can you picture the cape? Yes, the cape looks like a piano keyboard. On occasion, Charlie, who stores his cape in his piano bench at home, wears his cape when he is called upon to rescue a music director, a symphony orchestra, and a classical music audience. Charlie, with his hero cape flying in the wind, crossed our whole continent and landed on the Pantages stage to save the day. Actually, to save the evening.
Three days notice. That is about the same as no notice, but Sarah and Charlie, who both possess copious amounts of “can do” attitude said, “Yes.” Charlie had played the piece she wanted him to perform several years before. He admitted to being a little rusty but was optimistic he could make a positive contribution to her musical effort.
He did not disappoint: his performance brought down the house.Credit for original photo and article goes to Ann Dorn, Dane Gregory Meyer, and the Concert Magazine of Symphony Tacoma – Touch. Composite photo – Joseph Boyle
You may wonder how I fit into this story. My wife read the Charlie Albright article in The Suburban Times. She informed me it would be fun for the two of us to attend the concert. Here is the deal. Think of this as a relationship hint. A guy does not enjoy the company of the same lovely woman for 56 years without taking her to a concert or two or three…
Then there is our friend Mary Hammond, who serves Symphony Tacoma as a dedicated volunteer. My wife was on one side of me, and Mary was on the other like a couple of bookends. I had no choice but to attend the concert.
When the last note of Charlie Albright’s Steinway fell silent, I enthusiastically gave thanks to my wife, to Mary, to Sarah and Charlie. Not because it was over, but because I had a wonderful time.
Between now and when you have an opportunity to see Charlie Albright in person, treat yourself to the fun Charlie Albright video links I have included below.
Young Charlie Albright Charlie started playing piano by ear around age 3. When I say “playing by ear,” please do not misunderstand me. Not only did he play by ear, he used his hands and fingers on the keyboard too.
Charlie Albright Documentary A fun overview of Charlie’s piano life and gift.
Charlie Albright Improvisation – 5 Audience Notes When we think of Classical music we usually expect the musicians to play a strict, exacting collection of notes dictated to the musician by a score. When we think of jazz and the Blues we think of improvisation. Charlie has the unique ability to take 4 or 5 random notes suggested by his audience and improvise a beautiful classical masterpiece.
Play The Piano With Charlie – Blues Because I am a Bluesman, I thought, Yes, Charlie is brilliant, but he is not perfect. I was wrong. Charlie is perfect. Yes, Charlie Albright can play the Blues.
One last comment. I notice my piece fails to include the word likable, so I am going to use likable right now. On top of everything else, Charlie Albright is intensely likable.