Improvisational Piano — Chooka Parker

September 8, 2014

It really isn’t often that musicians are self-taught; and that improvisation becomes the dominant ‘production’ from an instrument. The exception is Australian pianist, Chooka Parker.

Much as many of the artists that I have followed and promoted as a hobbyist over the years, I found Chooka quite by accident.  While listening to traditional classical piano and related YouTube music videos, there was a ‘suggested’ listing–located in the right column of my screen–that pointed me to Chooka’s work.  After a very small handful of selections, I was hooked on his music.

I made it a point to spend some time listening to his video appearances on Australia’s Got Talent, his Sydney Opera House premier and later, his accompaniment work for a favorite classical-crossover vocalist, Miss Elena House.

His variations on Fur Elise quickly convinced me that this young man had a huge repository of music in his head, and that it was only a matter of time before he would release his music, in several genres, to the world.  I am glad that he did.

I am always flattered when I receive a note from Chooka.  I remain honored that Chooka has taken the time and effort to correspond occasionally with me.  Obviously, I value his friendship highly.

For an admittedly quick sample of Chooka’s work, try YouTube link:

Following that sample, I would encourage readers to spend some time listening to his selections.  His EPs are great and available on his website and usual outlets. Chooka has recently branched out into another percussion instrument and is now ‘tearing into’ a trap set.  

I have no hesitation in recommending his work.  Happy listening!

 

— R. Johnson

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Anastasia “Anya” Lee — Classical-Crossover Vocalist

Anastasia “Anya” Lee is a gracious friend and classical-crossover vocalist, that I first discovered on YouTube.  I was immediately taken with her remarkable voice.  The timbre of her voice belies her youth.  As with many of the extremely-skilled artists I have gotten to know over the years, I have made every effort to provide comments on her YouTube channel, along with shares to other social media, predominantly Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

Anya is also an athlete as well as a vocalist.  She and her family are energetic members of their Chicago-area community, to say the least.

During the summer of 2013, Anya and her family traveled to Romania, where she won an international competition as a vocalist.  Although I cannot now recall the exact travel schedule, she returns to Romania in 2014 as a featured performer and event judge.

This plucky young woman attended a Josh Groban concert near her home about three years ago.  Groban was accepting questions from the audience, on hand-written 3 X 5 cards.  One of the cards was from Anya, who asked Groban if she could perform a duet with him.  To the shock of Groban, the audience–and likely most of all to Anya–the two did a superb impromptu duet. That ‘commemorative’ YouTube video has received nearly 1.2 million views.

Rather than spending a great deal of time writing about her skills–I could easily spend days writing–it is much simpler for me to provide the link to her channel  It is:  https://www.youtube.com/user/TheAnastasiaLee

In addition to her ‘expected’ repertoire as a classical-crossover artist, Anya often branches out into everything from movie themes, country-hit covers, to The King of Rock & Roll – Elvis.

Enjoy your exploration of The Anastasia Lee’s music channel  You will not be disappointed.

 

–R. Johnson

 

Miss Elena Ling House — Classical-Crossover Vocalist

I have had the genuine honor to follow the work of Miss Elena Ling House, a spectacular classical-crossover vocalist (and more) for about the last two or so years.

I first discovered her work on YouTube and wrote comments and gladly re-posted her brilliant work.  She was gracious enough to provide me very kind replies in social media.  I have continued re-posting essentially everything she has produced ever since.

I listed “and more’ in the opening line above for good cause.  In addition to a world-class voice, Elena is–in her spare time–a superb gymnast, martial artist, musician and actress.  Often accompanied by her father as a character in her music videos, the entire family provides considerable encouragement to the many skills in Elena’s arsenal.

Although every music video is exceedingly well done, I most enjoy her classical-crossover selections. Her renditions of “Ave Maria” (Caccini, Schubert, Mascagni and Bach/Gounod), “Ombra Mai Fu” “Pie Jesu” and the remainder are superbly done.

I have really enjoyed getting to hear some traditional Japanese selections of late; and hope that Elena expands that particular offering to her fans and followers.  I would be remiss if I did not mention the assistance of another friend, renowned improvisational pianist, Chooka Parker, who accompanied Elena in her release of  cover, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

For a treat to the ear and eye, try Elena’s YouTube link at:  https://www.youtube.com/user/MissElenaHouse

— R. Johnson

 

Ezra Donner — The American Piano

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Composer, musician and friend, Ezra Donner, has produced a delightful collection of work, to be released on September 2, 2014, entitled “The American Piano.”

This collected work, highlights selected Jewish-American composers, as a tribute to their respective compositions.  The collection features blues, show tunes and contemporary folk/pop genres, in piano instrumentals.  The longest piece of the series is a 14-minute arrangement and rendition for solo piano of the Gershwin classic:  “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The studio-recording quality is excellent and brings heritage pieces to a ‘hum-the-tune’ level for those who may have little knowledge of the individual pieces.

On the release date, noted above,”The American Piano” will be available for purchase with links supplied on Donner’s website.  For additional information on Ezra Donner, try link:

http://ezradonner.com/

–R. Johnson

Composer and Friend: Ezra Donner

Richwood, West Virginia, USA

Fellow Classical Music Enthusiasts

Ezra Donner is a RICHLY-PAID university music instructor.  Okay, You know that isn’t true, at least the richly-paid part.  But Ezra is most-assuredly a fine composer, whose friendship I treasure.  He is the only person on our planet, who sent greetings to me, in a private YouTube posting, with some great piano music he played in live performance.  “Flattered” doesn’t come close to describing the feeling.

I wish that I could boast that I too am a composer; and that Mr. Donner and I travel the same, large-city classical music circuits–but alas, that is not true.  While I have written some simple piano and church pipe-organ pieces, they do not soar to the level “composition.”

For the last two years or so, I have plunged into the musical social-media world as an after-hours hobby.  I started by adding a few, admittedly-amateurish comments on YouTube, as the musicians and vocalists I followed then (and still follow) posted new videos.  One thing led to another, and soon I had more than 1,000 followers on Twitter, and many of my Facebook friends know I post a good deal of music, so another 1,000 followers became part of my musical family.  With a YouTube channel addition, I have quickly added nearly 800 people from around the world to my Google+ account.  I will, in later blogs, describe some of the new artists I have found and whose work I admire and promote.

Back to Mr. Donner.  It would be difficult to list all the music that he has freely shared with me.  A full opera, “Antigone” and several individual compositions (some from his album “Steel Sky”); and most recently “Mountain Suite.”  Mr. Donner and I share a love of the mountains, and his music of that title is so rich, so full of musical emotion, that even people who do not ordinarily listen to classical music (or those who knowingly avoid it) still would likely sense the powerful beauty of the composition.  I gladly wrote customer reviews for the work, on iTunes and Amazon.

I would encourage my classical-music-lover friends to sample Ezra Donner’s work, “Mountain Suite” at link:

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/mountain-suite-ep/id869026048

I additionally direct readers to Ezra’s YouTube channel and Facebook account.

Although I am a musician and songwriter for more than 50 years; and a chorister for 60 years, I stand in awe of the skills routinely displayed by Ezra Donner.  Check out his work.

–R. Johnson 

 

Groovy 94 — Jazz & Blues Broadcasts

Fellow Jazz and Blues Enthusiasts

As a jazz and blues nut, freely admitted, I would be remiss if I did not mention a weekly opportunity to experience some great selections.  Let me start by saying that Groovy 94.1 WXAS-FM in Beckley, West Virginia, USA, has been playing some great genre for 40 years.

Every Sunday evening, from 19:00-21:00 at GMT -5, [7:00-9:00 PM in Eastern Daylight Time] the host, Doris A. Fields, plays a wide selection of ‘the-best-of-the best’ music.  Ms. Fields has a special handle on the music, as she is a jazz and blues vocalist in her own right–and a major organizer for the Annual Simply Jazz and Blues Festival in Sandstone, West Virginia, USA. The festival is held this year on August 1-3.  Check out its Facebook link at  https://www.facebook.com/SimplyJazzAndBluesFestival

Doris Fields is also know as “Lady D.” and sings at many venues in the region.  She was able to join us, in Richwood, West Virginia, USA, for three evenings, October 24-26, 2013 at the Corner Coffee House, during the 2013 Create West Virginia Conference on the Future.  She certainly helped pack the house each evening with her heartfelt and superb jazz and blues.

My friend, Lady D. also has a hand in the super jazz and blues venue in Beckley, West Virginia, USA, called “110 Marshall” the street address for the club.  Check out that link:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/110-Marshall/300628986704996

and keep in mind that the Second Saturday each month is THE evening for great jazz and blues, along with absolutely-marvelous buffet-style food service.  Plan on sitting back, in a home recreation room or sidewalk bistro setting, and listening to the best this region offers for a full evening of jazz and blues.

Do yourself a favor, mark calendars and catch performances.

–R. Johnson

 

 

Fellow Music Enthusiasts — Upcoming Pop Concert — The Asterino Sisters

Richwood, West Virginia, USA — Pop music fans are in for a treat, later this summer, at the end of the week-long Cherry River Festival.  On Sunday, August 3, 2014, the Asterino Sisters will appear in live concert.  As an added treat, several of their usual tour mates will also appear.  The tentative venue for the performance is Richwood High School Auditorium.  Ticket prices and related information will be released by organizers on May 31.  Media releases are being prepared as this blog is written.

For those readers who may be unfamiliar with the Asterino Sisters, this harmonizing family group, located in Columbus, Ohio will appear on national television during season nine of America’s Got Talent [AGT] later in May 2014.

Always accessible to their growing crowd of fans, the Asterino Sisters (and company) plan a Meet and Greet, earlier in the afternoon of the performance date.

— R. Johnson

May 9, 2014 

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Nicholas County [WV, USA] Girls Choir — Richwood Concert

Richwood, WV – April 25, 2014

Nicholas County Girls Choir appeared in concert at First Baptist Church, in Richwood, West Virginia, USA on Friday evening, April 25, 2014.

Under direction of Amy Hypes, the 30 choristers sang eight  well-selected pieces including two by John Rutter.  The program varied from traditional church and choral genre, to include 1950s Doo Wop and the Pink Panther theme. Another variant was a sweet rendition accompanied on banjo by Logan Browning.  Accompanist for the evening performance was Wayne Halstead.

There was an unannounced inclusion of “Les Oiseaux Dans la Charmille”  Olympia’s Aria, from Jacques Offenbach’s ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann’, before start of the main program, sung by soloist, Miss Sammie Goette.

The entire concert by Nicholas County Girls Choir was simply superb.

R. Johnson