Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tony Caramia and an intimate evening with an American theme

First published October 13, 2011

"It's like you're in his living room." This was the reaction of one audience member to Tony Caramia's recital, An American Journey. Caramia brought everyone in the O'Donnell Auditorium into his living room by his stories about creating this particular "themed recital." With music teachers and students in Lincoln attending the NMTA 2011 Conference, they were given a wonderfully fun evening of music by attending Caramia's recital tonight, October 13th.
The audience entered to the sounds of Meredith Wilson's Orchestra playing and covers from late 1800s-early 1900s song covers, a setting of the mood, both aurally and visually. Caramia began with an "American Beauty Rag" and a slideshow of rag sheet music covers from all over America.
But Caramia made it an intimate setting when he began describing how he comes up with his themed recitals. "Titles intrigue me," he said,"and 'sonata' just doesn't appeal to me." Instead, he starts with a title like "Accent on Rhythm," fascinated by that title, it led him to find American titles from the same publisher, and he began a search through IMSLP, NAXOS, and, "everybody's favorite," Google. A delightful discovery that Caramia shared was Manuel Blancafort's Homage to Chaplin fromAmerican Souvenir. "For the younger people: If you don't know who Charlie Chaplin is, try a Google search of him," Caramia advised, "this piece gives a great musical tribute to his humor and his compassionate side."
Caramia shared the themes of some of his past recitals. "One year I chose to do 'Ballads and Ballades,' I played a lot of Jazz ballads with some Classical ballades.... Another year, my theme was 'Preludes,' so I did all Preludes, none of the Fugues." Last year, Caramia said that he chose to celebrate two birthdays. In honor of Chopin's 200th birthday, he sought out and performed, not the works of Chopin, but works of other composers written in honor of Chopin. "The second birthday I celebrated, was my own." He said as the crowd chuckled, "I played pieces from 1950, like the great music of 'Guys and Dolls' and a wonderful piece by Norman dello Joio."
The last half of the program consisted of some Jazz improvisations based on songs about certain American cities which Caramia called "a jazzy jaunt through St. Louis, Chicago, New Orleans, and Manhattan." All the while, the improvisations were accompanied by a slideshow of artwork on covers of songs about the cities in question.
As the lights faded out completely, Caramia performed an improvisation on "America the Beautiful," and the slideshow presented covers of American or patriotic songs from the Civil War era, World War I, and everything in between, ending with several picturesque covers for various editions of "America the Beautiful."
Caramia gave this Lincoln audience an intimate, fun evening, and the musicians in the audience could learn from him how to program a themed recital as well as how to incorporate visual media with their own performances. He also demonstrated wonderful technique as his hands seemed to simply toss of the notes effortlessly creating energy and rhythm in the music.
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