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Piano gets its own year at Shepherd

April 15, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Marvin Hamlisch will play a Fazioli grand piano at Frank Center Theater at Shepherd College Sunday afternoon.Hamlisch, composer of Broadway shows and dozens of film scores, has been honored with Grammy, Tony and Academy awards for his work.

The "rare" Fazioli has been the focus of the college's declaration of school year 2003-04 as the "Year of the Piano."

Friends of Music, a nonprofit organization created to support musical excellence at Shepherd College, has been raising funds to support the purchase of the instrument, which Department of Music and Theater chairman Mark McCoy first read about in a book, Thad Carhart's "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank."

Paolo Fazioli worked at redesigning the piano, McCoy said. His instruments, available since the 1980s, have soundboards made from spruce from the forests of Italy's Fiemme Valley, the same valley in which the red spruce of Stradivarius' violins grew.

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McCoy, looking for a piano to replace the college's aging Steinway, first heard the Fazioli in a Leesburg, Va., piano shop.

"I was stunned," he said.

He described the Fazioli as having "a far richer sound than anything you've ever heard."

Scott Beard, coordinator of keyboard studies at Shepherd College, agrees. He will play George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on the Fazioli during the Shepherd Wind Ensemble's final concert of the season Friday, April 30.

With its burled wood, the grand piano is an incredible looking instrument, Beard said.

He played the Fazioli in concert earlier in this "Year of the Piano."

"You don't have to work as hard," he said. "You just kind of sit back and let the piano do its thing."

Beard described the Fazioli as having an incredibly beautiful singing tone - a clean, bright sound. "It really is a glorious instrument."

Would an average listener be able to hear the difference?

"Yes," McCoy said. The bass notes sound like real pitches, the notes of the upper register are clear and warm, and the middle register has "a remarkable warmth of tone," he explained.

McCoy said he wanted an artist of stature to play the Fazioli in the season's final concert. He decided that Marvin Hamlisch is the one for the job.

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