A press-conference preview and an emergency Maryland Symphony Orchestra solo performance later, pianist Eric Himy will give the Hagerstown concert he intended to give all along.
Himy (rhymes with steamy) has performed at major concert halls around the globe, having played his first concert at age 10. He was a guest soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra by the time he was 15.
Himy will return to The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown on Tuesday, March 8, for a concert in Hagerstown Community Concert Association's yearly series — a show HCCA president Franklin P. Erck III booked in 2009 after meeting Himy at an industry function in Nashville, Tenn.
"He came up to me and said, 'You're from Hagerstown, I know Elizabeth Schulze,'" Erck recounted. "I'd love to play with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.'"
Well, it just so happens Erck is also on the MSO board.
"What I'll do," Erck recalled saying to Himy. "I'll book you for the '10-'11 season, and we'll get some people to hear you play."
Himy was good friends with fellow Juilliard School-trained pianist Jeffrey Biegel, who has performed with the MSO twice. He said Biegel recommended him to MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze and he had been hoping to play in Hagerstown ever since.
But chance brought Himy to Hagerstown sooner than expected.
Himy performed a 15-minute preview during a press conference the HCCA staged at The Maryland Theatre in January 2010. He didn't expect he'd be back in Hagerstown soon.
But less than two months later, one of the MSO's scheduled guest soloists, pianist Thomas Pandolfi, fell ill just before a performance.
Erck remembered Himy, who lives in McLean, Va., and suggested the MSO tap him to fill in. Himy said he got the call 12 hours before showtime.
"I told him, 'You better be careful what you ask for because it may come true,'" Erck said.
Himy was asked to perform Chopin's First Piano Concerto cold — no time for rehearsal ahead of the performance.
The good news? Himy was scheduled to play the concerto later that year.
The bad news? Himy was scheduled to play the concerto later that year.
"Basically, it's like calling someone for the prize fight when they're still in training," Himy said.
But his performance won local fans. "He got a standing ovation on Saturday and Sunday nights," Erck said.
On Tuesday, the audience will be able to relive some of that moment. Himy said he will play a portion of the second movement of the same Chopin concerto he played for the MSO last year, though this version will be his own arrangement.
The program mirrors a concert he gave in Malta in January before the antigovernment protests in Libya caused evacuees to flee there. The Malta performance is the same material he said he plans to use for an upcoming DVD. He's also releasing a new Chopin CD in the spring.
The first half of his concert, "Gershwin in Paris," will open with Himy's arrangement of George Gershwin's "American in Paris." He'll also perform Gershwin's Three Preludes and music by Debussy. The program's second half is a tribute to Chopin and Listz.
These composers belong to what Himy called the "golden period" in piano; they are among his favorite composers to play.
"I like the ones who exploit the resources of the instrument, know how to write for piano with great color and imagination — those are the ones I play best and gravitate to because they employ my best resources," he said.
Himy was introduced to music as a child.
A baby boomer from Brooklyn, N.Y., Himy started playing the piano when he was child, an experience he described as unorthodox.
"Rather than the hard-core virtuoso, prodigy with stage parents," he said. "It was nothing like that."
Himy was introduced to music by his mother, who was born in the Andalusia region of Spain. She purchased an upright piano when she immigrated to New York.
"Actually, she wanted lessons for herself, but then I kept pushing her off the bench," Himy said. "Finally she relinquished it to me. From then on it was fun. It came easily."
His initial piano teacher was his father, an electro-chemical engineer and a hobbyist guitar and violin player who knew enough about music basics to teach him the fundamentals. Himy would go on to study with private teachers in New York and California.
He graduated from University of Maryland with degrees in biochemistry and music and went on to earn a Master of Music from The Juilliard School.
He's since spent his life trying to take the music to the next level.
"The page is not the endpoint, but the launching point," Himy said. "In a sense, jazz musicians are liberated because sometimes, there is no printed page. But that goal is one classical musicians should strive for, so that they can make that connection."
"Otherwise," Himy said, "it's something that is so delicate and not touchable, flat — just to be seen behind glass and not be experienced. There's no purpose or value."
If you go ...
WHAT: Pianist Eric Himy, presented by the Hagerstown Community Concert Association
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
COST: Individual tickets cost $25; season tickets for the 2010-11 series cost $45.
CONTACT: For tickets, call 301-582-2734.
Hagerstown Community Concert Association 2010-11 series ends in April
2003 Nashville Star winner Buddy Jewell performs 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, at The Maryland Theatre.