We just finished doing our 8th consecutive Ten Grands in Seattle. The Portland one has been going for 15 years. Whew! This year’s show was great, both in Portland and Seattle. Kudos to Michael Allen Harrison for organizing a strong, appealing show.
There were plenty of newbies on the stage in both venues this year. At the Schnitzer Hall in PDX and at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, we had the fiery classical playing of Colleen Adent, a piano teacher and arranger who was not shy about her rearrangement and slight jazzification of a staid classical composition.
Boogie Woogie piano abounded in both venues as Michael Kassehammer wowed the Portland audience, and his friend and stylistic brother from the north, Arthur Migliazza showed his own powerful left hand in the idiom.
JJ Guo demonstrated some monster classical technique in both venues and young Mac Potts showed that when it comes to a command of contemporary pop music on piano and vocals he has no peer. John Nilsen showed off a newly minted original tune (with vocal) that sounded like something from the James Taylor songbook. Really sweet.
But the killer surprise of the Ten Grands season happened last Friday in Seattle when late in the show, Shannon Cassady was introduced to the sold out crowd at Benaroya. She innocently announced the song as “Toccata by Emma Lou Diemer,” a title, mind you, that gave no hint of the musical maelstrom that was to follow. Shannon started her piece with shocking dissonances created by minor-second intervals, hands close together with a fiery intro that announced to the stricken crowd…”this will be no ordinary classical piece.”
Shannon proceeded with more fierce note clusters and breathtaking, percussive non-harmonies in a piece that was unlike anything we’d seen in two iterations of this year’s show. She finished the event with some careful string strumming and manipulations from inside the piano itself. It was brave and wonderful.
I asked her later backstage if that piano string strumming was notated in the music itself and she pulled the sheet music out then and there to show me the strange mystical markings that looked like no music notation i had ever seen. The audience reaction was big, and although some might have been perplexed, one thing is for sure. This was one of the most audacious performances I’ve seen in 15 years of Ten Grands.
And at sixteen years of age, I say you go brave girl!