Lehigh University pianist Helen Beedle has made a career of exploring the parlor music of 19th-century America, and will present a diverse program of period music at the Mauch Chunk Opera House on Sunday, February 20 at 6 PM. A benefit for the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce, this concert is a featured event of Jim Thorpe’s WinterFest Celebration. Tickets are available online or at the Opera House Box Office 570-325-0249.
Ms. Beedle holds a Master of Music degree in piano from the renowned New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and her recordings have been used for soundtracks in various projects, including the television series Big Love, the 2006 season finale. The CDs can be found on ITunes, and are sold in gift shops of the National Parks System throughout the US. She is presently on the Music Faculty at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.
The music she has chosen for this performance comprising From Gottschalk to Gershwin, a program that continues in the vein of Beedle’s previous Opera House concerts which have sampled American popular composers of the mid-19th century. It also includes the occasional European who had also acquired popularity in America.
One of the most important of the American composers is Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a native of New Orleans noted for becoming America’s first internationally-recognized piano virtuoso. Among his compositions that Beedle will perform are The Banjo and The Dying Swan. Arrangements of The Girl I Left Behind Me and Beautiful Dreamer by Stephen Foster continue the theme.
A relatively minor figure, Ellen C. Morant‘s Wheatland Polka, is dedicated to President James Buchanan, the only Pennsylvanian to gain the office, and named after his residence in Lancaster County.
Another featured composer, Thomas Wiggins, was known ”Blind Tom.” He was born to slaves in 1849, and showed evidence of what we know today as autism. He began playing piano as a toddler, and never let up, often playing 12 hours a day.
His talent was quickly spotted by his owner who took him on tours that earned considerable sums. After Emancipation, the family continued to manage him, until he died in 1908. The Opera House audience will hear the Blind Tom composition The Oliver Galop.
And since the concert explores a great deal of sentimental music (and WinterFest is so close to Valentine’s Day) music lovers will hear compositions by Chopin (here’s an example from her 2010 performance). There will be many other pieces performed as well, all on the Opera House’s venerable 1898 Chickering 9-foot grand piano, an instrument similar to the pianos played by the composers selected by Ms. Beedle.
Performing on cornet with Ms. Beedle will be Jari Villanueva. He will end the first half of the program with Taps, and will also play the Bugle Quickstep, written by another black composer/performer from Philadelphia named Francis Johnson. During the second half, the two will perform a transcription of Rhapsody in Blue for cornet and piano – it’s a magnificent piece that includes familiar themes which feature the cornet.
To see the program for this performance, click here.
Source: Philip A. Metzger