Piano Ensemble Memories
by Carolyn Britton
The Piano Ensemble class has been in existence for over thirty years. When it began, the students played their recital in North Hall Auditorium on one 7 ft. Steinway and an ancient 6 ft. Mason & Hamlin which had to be brought over for the concert. The sounds of the two pianos certainly did not match but the students had a wonderful time performing in spite of this. When the Fine Arts Building was built in 1973, the Music Department proudly acquired the two 9 ft. Steinways. William Abbott and Carolyn Britton picked them out at the Steinway factory in New York where they had a memorable lunch with John Steinway, himself!
Over the years, the students have performed almost all the standard repertoire for two pianos and many piano duets as well. The instructors, Carolyn Britton and Lillian Tan, have tried to limit the choice of pieces to those originally written for the medium or occasionally an arrangement made by the composer. Works for as many as four pianos, notably the Paris Suite by Milhaud, and works for two pianos and four players such as the Rondo by Smetana have appeared on the program. Other outstanding performances were of La Valse by Ravel, En Blanc et Noir by Debussy, very early works originally for two harpsichords by Mattheson and Pasquini, and very new works in manuscript, notably the Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues by the American avant-garde composer, Frederic Rzewski. The piano ensemble concert this year is scheduled for Sunday, May 7th at 8:00 p.m. in Abbott Concert Hall.
UWRF alumni often comment that among their most memorable experiences while students was their participation in Piano Ensemble class. In 2003, one of those alumni made a remarkable gift to the music department. Mary Ella Jerome, through the Mary Ella Jerome Foundation, granted the funds to keep these concert grands in like-new condition. With her support and the dedicated efforts of Michael Drost of Three River Piano Service in River Falls, not only have the pianos been restored, but climate-controlled housing for each piano has been provided as well.
The Music Department acquired an additional Steinway 7 ft. grand through the generous gift of the estate of Wayne Tyler, former member of the English Department. This beautiful rosewood piano is housed in North Hall Auditorium and affords another performance site for students, faculty and guests.
Piano Ensemble Photos
Contact Carolyn Britton by e-mail at UW-River Falls (firstname.lastname@example.org). Dr. Britton may also be reached by phone at 715-425-3389, please follow voice-mail instructions to leave her a message.
Roger McVey can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 715-425-3389.
The UWRF Piano Ensemble is open to piano majors and minors, as well as non-majors with previous piano experience. Piano ensemble occurs in the spring semester. Students work together in duets, duos, or larger keyboard ensembles – in the past we have even performed pieces for up to 6 pianos! These student groups are coached weekly by UWRF piano faculty Dr. Roger McVey and Dr. Gail Olszewski. At the end of the semester, all participating students perform in the Piano Ensemble Concert, on our two fabulous 9 foot Steinway concert grand pianos.
For further information, please contract Dr. Roger McVey at 715-425-3389 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org