Tickling the Ivories
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
|Corey Hamm - September 4 - 2017 - Roy Barnett Hall UBC School of Music|
The piano as a musical instrument has been in my mind as of
late. Thinking about it I realized I have quite a few photographs of people by
pianos either pianists or simply sitting by one.
My first introduction to the piano came at age 8 when my
parents took me to the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires for a concert featuring
My mother did not own a piano but my grandmother did. We
would often go in Tram 35 to my Abuelita’s flat and my mother would first
accompany my her (she was a coloratura soprano) and my Uncle Tony who was a
fine tenor. They would sing American musical songs. Then my mother would play
(she read very well) Chopin and in particular I have a fond memory of Beethoven’s
|Jane Coop at Cecil Green, UBC My inspiration for the Corey Hamm portrait|
My mother did not have access to a piano until she began to
teach at the ALCOA Aluminio School in Veracruz, Mexico in the late 50s. The few
students who attended the school did so at my mother’s home so a piano was
bought. When I visited her she would play at my request the US Marine Corps
In the late 60s she bought an upright piano a black
Bechstein. When she moved to live with us (Rosemary, Alexandra and Hilary) we
were having money problems so she sold the piano. I was heartbroken at her
decision. I have never forgotten her sacrifice.
|Filomena de Irureta Goyena (my mother) at the piano sometime in the late 30s in Manila|
Around 1998 our neighbour across the street on Athlone
Street (she was in her 80s) told us that she was looking for a home for her
Chickering baby grand. Her grandmother had given it to her when she was a
little girl. She offered it to us for $500. I was easily transported from her
living room to ours.
Shortly after we obtained the Chickering I decided to give a summer party featuring alto saxophonist Gavin Walker and pianist Eric Vaughn. It was a beautifully warm summer evening and I remember sitting at the front entrance smoking a Montecristo accompanied by Malcolm Parry.
My eldest daughter Ale who plays the classical guitar can
handle a piano nicely and she likes to play with my youngest granddaughter,
Lauren, 15, music for four hands.
Because of my mother’s sacrifice in selling her piano and my
deep guilt, a year and a half ago we had the piano restored by Mike Storey and
soon it will be tuned. The piano sits in what we call the piano room. We have
old lawyer’s stacking bookcases and my vermillion upholstered psychiatric couch
(the piano bench is also upholstered in the same material which also matches
the brand new red piano felts.
|Olena with Curtis Daily's baroque bass in our piano room|
Some reading this (and this is long) might notice some
photographs that have harpsichords.
For many years I was not impressed by the instrument. In
large baroque orchestras I could never hear it. Solo harpsichord playing left me cold.
All that changed when Alexander Weimann landed in Vancouver
to be the Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. He explained how
in many instances nothing he played as a continuo performer for a baroque
orchestra was written and he had to improvise. With the connection between the
harpsichord and my love for jazz my ears suddenly opened to the charms of the
Finally on taking photographs of pianists. This is really a
cliché. I discovered that all has been done before and the one exception was
the Stravinsky portrait by Arnold Newman. I ripped off the idea for a Globe&Mail
article on Vancouver artist Rodney Graham.
|Igor Stravinsky - Arnold Newman|
Some years ago I was asked by Vancouver Pianist Jane Coop
to take her portraits. I found a way which I liked (and so did she). It was
that method that I used a few days ago on Corey Hamm
. Another time I had to
photograph noted local pianist Robert Silverman who had recorded Beethoven’s 32
Piano Sonatas. I decided to skip the piano on that occasion.