(Above photo: Jon Kimura Parker in concert with keyboards: top, in Iqaluit, early 90s; bottom, on Orcas Island, 2014.)
October 19, 2017
I’m writing about five musicians about the trials and tribulations of travelling with an instrument – or none, in the case of a pianist who doesn’t always get a great instrument upon arrival – and how complicated it can be. This is the fourth in a five-part series this week.
JON KIMURA PARKER
Main gig: Concert Pianist and airborne showman
Have you ever travelled with a keyboard?
Generally there’s a piano everywhere that I play. But in order to tour Baffin Island I took an electronic keyboard and an amp. It’s really weird setting one of those up and playing Beethoven on a really, really cold keyboard. If there isn’t even an upright, I have on occasion schlepped a Yamaha PC-88, folding stool, folding keyboard rack, music stand, two amps, and a ton of cables. If the balance isn’t right, I just adjust the knob! This is why I own a Suburu Outback both in Houston and on Orcas Island.
Your question: Have you ever had to cancel a concert because the piano wasn’t working properly?
If there is anything close to 88 keys, I’ll play. I once performed a Rachmaninoff Concerto on a piano where one of the F-sharp’s wasn’t working, and every time I was about to play it, I shot for an F-sharp an octave higher or lower. Not fun!
Yo-Yo Ma once infamously left his cello in the back of a New York City cab. (He got it back.) Have you ever misplaced the sheet music, crucial paraphernalia, or, god forbid, your actual instrument?
So I was once playing a recital in a high school gym in a small town in Ontario. I was playing a new piece by Canadian composer Alexina Louie, and just after making a detailed spoken introduction I realized I had left the sheet music in the Principal’s Office (serving as my “dressing room”) which was several hallways away. I thought it was too awkward to go and get it, so I just totally made up a piece, remembering only a few details from the actual one. I think the audience bought it. But I’ve never told Alexina this story – do you think she’ll be reading this?
How many instruments have you ever stuffed into a car or van?
I once rented a convertible for a summer festival in Seattle and managed to fit myself, two violinists, a violist and cellist in the car with all of their instruments, top down, cello dangling precariously off the left side. What a way to travel!
Tomorrow: Cellist Roman Borys