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Dueling pianos kick off GP Unitarian's concert series


Jody McVeigh Editor

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Photo courtesy of Anne Roberts Anne Roberts and Susan Weiss perform a dueling pianos concert Oct. 21.
October 12, 2017
Public performances are nothing new to Anne Roberts and Susan Weiss.

The pair met when Weiss joined Noteworthy, an a capella group Roberts started in 1978, “with a good friend,” Roberts said. “Two years later, someone recommended to Susan that she join the group. We sang together several years. When I retired, she took over as director.”

It’s not only where they saw talent in each other, but realized they worked well together, too.

As time went by, Roberts urged Weiss to join another group — Wednesday Morning Music Club, a women’s group formed in 1910 that meets monthly for lunch and music. Members include mostly pianists, as well as some vocalists, a flutist and violinist.

“It was good for me, because all of a sudden it encouraged me to practice,” Roberts said of the group. “Susan has brought back her piano skills. She is so good. As she evolved into this fine pianist, I suggested she play with me.”

The two jumped on the pair of pianos at Roberts’ house to play for friends on more than one occasion. They became so good and comfortable performing as a duo, Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church Music Director Joseph Palazzolo asked them to open the church’s concert series this year.

“Everything is a Dance” takes place 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the church, 17150 Maumee, City of Grosse Pointe. Roberts and Weiss plan to perform dances from Bach to Bernstein to “West Side Story” during the event. The pair plays on the church’s Yamaha, as well as Roberts’ Steinway.

They’ve been practicing since May.

“Our styles match,” Weiss said. “She’s a hard worker and loves to practice, like me.”

The pair selected their favorite songs to perform.

“The music from ‘West Side Story’ makes you appreciate Leonard Bernstein’s brilliance,” Roberts said. “He was just an incredible genius. Learning his music, you appreciate his brilliance.”

They’ll also take on “Danse Macabre” from Saint-Saens and a jazz number by American composer Richard Rodney Bennett, among others.

“It was serendipitous,” said Weiss, of Grosse Pointe Park. “It worked out so all the pieces we wanted to play are all dances .... It’s a little bit of everything. It will feel familiar. It will feel like it’s new. It’s very exciting.”

Roberts, who describes herself as a “major Gershwin fan,” said she is grateful for the joy music has brought to her life.

“I think of all the fun I’ve had — rehearsal piano with Grosse Pointe Theatre, playing with Grosse Pointe Chamber Music, solo work, the singing group,” the Grosse Pointe Farms resident said. “The joy in my life for music has been an unbelievable blessing.”

Roberts commented on the commitment it takes to perform — focus, concentration and practice.

“I have done quite a bit of in-home entertaining,” she said, noting this will be the first time since the ’90s she’s publicly performed on dueling pianos. “People really enjoy two-piano music.”

Added Weiss, “Two-piano duets are a very rare art form, because you have to have two pianos. Plus, there’s a connection that listeners feel between two pianists that’s very unique. That transpires to the audience. There’s a different level of excitement.”

Tickets cost $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Proceeds benefit the church.

“It’s pretty remarkable to achieve this at our ages,” Weiss said. “It’s very physical. We have much more of a sensitive perspective the older we are. We may lose physicality with arthritis and speed, but we gain wisdom and the ability to interpret music.”

For more information or tickets, call (313) 881-0420. Tickets also may be purchased online at gpuuc.org/upcoming-events.html.

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