One night in the early 80’s, after returning home from a piano solo gig at The River Café in NYC, (where I still play), I sat down at the piano to do a free improvisation and turned on a little cassette recorder “just in case”. Near the end of the free piece, and to my surprise, out came a flowing melody with a fast accompaniment of rolling triplets – “Not sounding at all like me”, I thought, but more like something from early 20th century France, that time and place in history so well known for its artistic foment. I resolved to one day make a piece out of it and call it Paris 1911.
As this idea grew, I included my own chamber orchestration of Knoxville: Summer 1915, and I orchestrated two pieces from my previous solo album “The Art of Aging, and added new works written , for this event.
From the beginning, this performance was meant to be more than a concert alone. To the music was added beautiful lighting by Richard Logathetis, projected images from the Library of Congress historical archives, curated by John Jordan, and original poetry by Donna Reis and Tom Miller. Thus the name “Music Event”.
Finally in 2005 I put pencil to paper, thinking of the poets, the revolutionaries, the painters and sculptors, composers, dancers, everybody who was shaking up their world in Paris at that time. For me the piece was also unique in that it was the first work in which I just allowed myself to be “led” by the music itself … really.
Soon, The Tree of life, an age old metaphor for the many facets of life, began to emerge as the central theme of a performance event in which Paris 1911 would be the defining piece.
Each place Paris 1911 took me seemed to allude to one of the branches of the tree of life, becoming the loose structure of the program. It grew with the speaking voice of jazz singer Vivian Lord uttering terse comments by poet Donna Reis, (not included on the album because of time constraints), the operatic soprano voice of Jody Weatherstone singing works I wrote for her - including my chamber orchestration of Samuel Barber/James Agee’s Knoxville: Summer 1915 - one of my pieces that included chorus conducted by David Crone, projected historic images from the Library of Congress collections, curated by photographer John Jordan, and a dash of staging with stunning theatrical lighting by designer Richard Logathetis. With all this I felt it should be thought of more as a music event rather than a concert.