Pianissimo

Michael Zarling and Scott Koljonen, left, rehearse for the annual Pianissimo concerts in 2015.

Courtesy photo

The piano madness returns this weekend at the University of Montana School of Music.

Concert-goers can expect "everything from one pianist at one piano to three pianists at one piano to five pianists inside of one piano to 10 pianists on five pianos," said music professor Christopher Hahn. "We kind of have everything in there."

It's the eighth year he's spearheaded the piano-centric concert, which thrives on creating two evenings and two programs that show off the endless variations possible with the instrument.

"It's amazingly versatile," he said. "I think there's something about watching people play the piano that is still amazing." He's "still incredulous" when he sees someone working a keyboard.

Hahn keeps his eyes and ears open all year-round, looking for compositions and arrangements that would suit the program well - and it's focused on entertainment.

He thinks of this year's program as "Top 20" of classical piano music, fitting in Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre; Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; and Flight of the Bumblebee in a boogie arrangement.

He said there's a loose Halloween/fall theme, encompassing the above compositions plus Copland's Hoedown, which has a bit of a harvest theme.

Another recurring piece is a pop-music mashup with five musicians arranged around a piano with the lid off. Some are strumming strings. Some are plucking them. They thumb the wood to make a bass line. (He didn't want to give away the tunes involved, but one is a dance track and another is a classic rock hit.)

Hahn doesn't time the program, but he wants to keep it energetic, especially in the stretch after intermission.

The players this year include Hahn and fellow faculty member Steve Hesla, in addition to students.

One student, Megan Makeever, is performing an original song for piano and voice.

Plus there are skilled pianists from the community: Dorothy Beck-Peterson, Scott Billadeua, Aneta Panusz, Scott Koljonen and Paul Nonnenmacher.

The concert is a fundraiser for the UM Keyboard Society. The proceeds help pay for new pianos and maintenance of the existing instruments.

"It relieves a burden on the budget in that regard," he said.

The concert has drawn large crowds, and it's recommended that you purchase tickets in advance. That also means you don't have to wait in line and will have your choice of seats.

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment Editor for The Missoulian.