Week 45-49

Week 49 (Week of March 1, 2021)

     Greetings to all SRC participants and friends!  I hope this finds everyone doing well and looking forward to Spring and days of sunshine and warmer weather!  Spring IS coming!

        This week, I’d love to turn our attention to yet another well-known and celebrated jazz pianist- certainly one that FILLED me with nostalgia and the “warm & fuzzies”.

Let’s learn about jazz pianist Johnny Costa!

Johnny Costa (born “John Costanza”; Jan. 18, 1922- Oct. 11, 1996) was nicknamed “the white Tatum” by jazz pianist legend Art Tatum himself!

While he did record a handful of jazz piano albums, Johnny is perhaps best known for his work as the musical director/pianist/arranger for the children’s television program 

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!  (hence my nostalgia and ‘warm & fuzzy’ reference!)

While Johnny began his musical journey learning the accordion at the age of 7, he was encouraged to learn to play the piano by his High School Music teacher, Frank Oliver, after he discovered that Costa had ‘perfect pitch.’  Costa went on to graduate from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in Music and Education.  

After graduation, he began working as the house pianist for a radio station in Pittsburgh, PA- eventually taking on the same role as house pianist at the Pittsburgh CBS owned television station.  

Johnny Costa was the musical director, arranger, and pianist for  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood from the show’s debut in 1968 until his death in 1996.

Fred Rogers had a great deal of respect and admiration for Costa’s musical talent, calling him one of “the most gifted musicians I have ever met.”  

Costa was a surprising choice for musical director for the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood program, as his intricate and musically complex jazz stylings were initially considered to be “too sophisticated” at the time for a childrens’ television program.  Costa accepted the job directly from Fred Rogers himself as the position would allow for him to stay close to his home in Pittsburgh and also because Rogers offered Costa in the first year the same salary amount that Costa needed for his son’s College tuition for that year.  

Costa believed that children could recognize and understand ‘good music’ and didn’t want to “baby” or ‘dumb down’ his own performance style for the show.  

Rogers agreed and the rest is history!

Johnny Costa and his trio (guitar, double bass and drums/percussion) during live tapings of the show were positioned in the television studio directly opposite the Mr. Rogers’ set, facing the action.  All of the music for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was performed live each episode, even the opening theme (“It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”) was never duplicated!

When Fred Rogers appeared in public, Johnny Costa was often with him to accompany him on the piano.  

Although Johnny’s career and talent was, at one point beginning to attract international attention, Costa did not wish to constantly be traveling away from his friends and family in Western PA.  He remained close to home and stayed in Pittsburgh, PA for the majority of his adult life.  

Throughout his career Costa would go on to record approximately 9 albums, one album notably being selections from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood 

entitled ‘Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’.  His album ‘A Portrait of Gershwin’ is also a delight for fans of Gershwin’s songs!

Costa died at the age of 74 from aplastic anemia.  Michael Moricz took over after his death as the musical director and pianist for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood until the classic Children’s show’s end in 2001.  At Moricz’ request, the show’s closing credits continued to list Johnny Costa’s name, alongside Moricz’, as the musical directors for the show.  


Let’s take a listen to some clips of Johnny Costa together:  

  1. Here is Johnny Costa performing the opening theme of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood:   https://youtu.be/Xx-ncTtaOJY
  2. A documentary clip featuring Fred Rogers & Johnny Costa:   https://youtu.be/xxZWCY-RXaQ
  3. Johnny Costa on his life and his musical career:   https://youtu.be/OqWK0ovbork


Now for your listening pleasure:  

    * Please enjoy this playlist for the entire Johnny Costa album “Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (1984):

        Album link:  https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_l4Z431yJfHuUQh2_rIzcJO2bebApMbnSQ


BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is your weekly piano concert from Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro.  

                             This week’s video is from his Saturday, Feb. 6th  Facebook live streamed online gig.  Enjoy-   https://youtu.be/wYPIH_Z_XrA





Week 48 (Week of Feb. 22, 2021):

A very warm hello to all!

This week, I would love to share with everyone a full length piano recital (approx 1.5 hours) that features a pianist who is known to be one of the greatest pianists of all time- Vladimir Horowitz!  Before you settle in for an amazing piano performance, let’s briefly cover who this performer was and why this concert in particular is notable among his many, many concerts and recitals throughout his decades of performing around the world!

Vladimir Horowitz was a Russian-born American pianist and composer who is celebrated for his amazing virtuosic piano technique and for the level of popularity and acclaim that he was able to achieve throughout his long concertizing career.  From a young age, his talent for the piano was clearly evident- notably commented on and applauded by a fellow Russian composer and pianist Alexander Scriabin, who was a piano teacher and close friend of Horowitz’s uncle.  When Vladimir was a young boy he was taught piano lessons by his mother and he later entered and went on to study at the Kyiv Consertatory in 1912.  For the next decade he went on to concertize around Russia, often paid only with bread and chocolate due the economic hardships brought on by the Russian Civil War.

In 1925, Horowitz emigrated to the West and after performances in Germany, France and England, Vladimir gave his United States debut in Carnegie Hall on January 12, 1928.

Critics in attendance at his first American performance especially praised his ability to excite and utterly captivate his audience.

Vladimir Horowitz is best known for his performances of Romantic Era classical piano works- works composed in the approximate period of 1800-1850.

It should also be mentioned that Horowitz was known to have an ‘unusual hand position’ when he played.  His palms often dipped below the level of the keys on the piano and he frequently curled his right hand pinky finger up in the air until it was needed.  According to NY Times music critic Harold C. Shonberg, this curling of the pinky finger until it played a key was “like the strike of a cobra”.  It has also been noted of his performance style that for all of the intensity behind his playing, he was known for keeping his upper body still and rather motionless, while his face remained calm and expressionless beyond a look of intense concentration.

The concert video I would like to share with you today (found below) is notable among his recitals and concerts throughout the years as it is his 3rd to last live performance ever during his Spring of 1987 European tour,  just shortly before his 84th birthday, on May 31, 1987 in Vienna, Austria.

A video recording of this performance, Horowitz in Vienna, was released to the public in 1991.

For context, his final performance of this last tour before his passing in the fall of 1989, was in Hamburg, Germany on June 21, 1987.

Here is what you will hear in this stunning Horowitz piano recital, along with the ‘time stamp’ in the video that each the work begins:

Mozart: Rondo in D major, K.485——————–begins at 1:02 in the video
Mozart: Sonata in B-flat major, K.333—————begins at 8:04 in the video
Schubert: Impromptu in G-flat major, Op.90 No.3–begins at 33:53 in the video
Liszt: Soirée de Vienne No.6 ————————-begins at 41:43 in the video

Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op.15——————–begins at 50:27 in the video
Chopin: Mazurka in B minor, Op.33 No.4———–begins at 1:08:09 in the video (just past the hour mark)
Chopin: Polonaise in A-flat major, Op.53———–begins at 1:12:00 in the video

Liszt: Consolation No.3 in D-flat major ————-begins at 1:21:00
Schubert:Moment Musical in F minor, Op.94 No.3–begins at 1:25:00
Moszkowski: Etincelles, Op.36 No.6—————–begins at 1:27:19


My own personal favorite selections in this concert would have to be the first Mozart (Rondo) as well as the Schumann selection that begins about 50 minutes in.

(‘Kinderszenen’ – ‘Scenes from Childhood’).

The most ‘recognizable’ of these works may be the Chopin Polonaise at an hour and twelve minutes in.

I hope you enjoy what may arguably be one of the best piano recitals you may ever experience by a piano MASTER! –   https://youtu.be/8ELwCdgGQLQ


BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is your weekly piano concert from Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro.

This week’s video is from his Saturday, January 30. 2021 Facebook live streamed online gig.  Enjoy-   https://youtu.be/8nYjq4WNJdQ


Week 47 (Week of February 15th): 

Greetings to all SRC participants and friends!  I hope this finds everyone doing well and staying warm and safe, despite all this winter weather!

This week I’d like for us to pay tribute to and learn about a jazz pianist ‘great’ who passed away just last week- Chick Corea.

Born in 1941 as Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea, Chick was a phenomenal jazz pianist and composer who passed away from cancer on February 9, 2021 at the age of 79.

In the 1960s Chick was a member of Miles Davis’s band and in the ’70s he formed a jazz fusion band, Return to Forever. The Return to Forever band brought the jazz-fusion genre boom of the 1970s into the arena of Brazilian, Spanish and other global influences.  One notable early album of Chick’s is his ‘Now He Sings, Now He Sobs’, released in 1968- a piano trio album featuring Chick on piano as well as a bassist and drummer.  This album went on to become a classic and well celebrated jazz trio album.

Corea also began partnering with vibraphonist Gary Burton in the 1970s and their partnership lasted for decades as they recorded several duet albums throughout the years.

Other notable musicians that Chick has collaborated with throughout the years include Herbie Hancock, Bela Fleck, Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehora and jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin.

In 1986 Corea formed the Chick Corea Elektric Band (the trio reduction of the band called ‘Akoustic Band’) and between 1986 and 1994 they released a total of 10 albums!

In 1992, Corea started his own music label, ‘Stretch Records.’

In the latter years of his career, Chick explored contemporary classical music, writing his first piano concerto which was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1999.

This piano concerto was an adaptation of one of his best known and well loved pieces, “Spain”, adapted for a full symphony orchestra.

A frequent performer at The Blue Note jazz club in NYC, Chick Corea kept up a busy touring schedule well into his late 70s.

Throughout his career Chick recorded nearly 90 albums and earned an impressive total of 23 Grammy Awards.

Although much more could be said regarding Chick’s life and his works, I would encourage you to look into Chick Corea further if this has piqued your interest.

Youtube is so very full with many of his amazing recordings!

Let’s take a listen to several of his works together (I had trouble choosing!)

  1.  “Windows”- One of Chick’s most popular jazz compositions, this has gone on to become a ‘jazz standard.’  It first appeared on jazz saxophonist Stan Getz’s 1967 album and later appeared on the 1988 re-release of Chick’s 1968 album, ‘Now He Sings, Now He Sobs’ .


  1.  “My One and Only Love”-  A pop standard song (not composed by Corea), Chick recorded his version in 1968 on his ‘Now He Sings, Now He Sobs’.  Here is a live performance!


  1.   “Armando’s Rhumba”- another of Chick’s compositions that later went on to become a celebrated jazz standard.

Piano Class Students should take note of the direct manipulation of the piano strings in the beginning of this piece, as we learned about when we studied John Cage and prepared piano!


  1. ” ‘Round Midnight”- A personal FAVORITE video of mine that features the collaboration between jazz vocalist ‘great’ Bobby McFerrin and Corea.  An overall fantastic jazz standard tune!


Bonus Chick Corea:  If you are still wanting more, I would encourage you to also check out this NPR Tiny Desk Concert recording from 2016 that features both Chick and vibraphonist Gary Burton at their best.  A 20 minute mini-concert:  https://youtu.be/15IHNYq6stw


BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is your weekly virtual piano concert from the great Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro.

Today’s video is from his Saturday January 23rd- Facebook live streamed gig.  Enjoy!     https://youtu.be/20Uk5P7b8mM



Week 46 (Week of February 8): 

        A very warm hello to all SRC participants and friends.  I hope this finds everyone doing well, especially after last week’s massive snowstorm!

Wishing you all a warm and cozy place to watch the snowfall over the next few days.  It looks like we’re in for more!

This week in celebration of Valentine’s Day this coming Sunday, let’s take a look (and a listen!) at a classic French love song, “Plaisir d’amour.” (Pleasure of Love)

This beautiful love song, frequently performed and studied by classical vocalists, (myself included!) was written by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini in 1784.

The text is taken from a poem by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian (1755-1794).  In its time, the song was greatly received with praise and acclaim!

In 1859, French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz arranged “Plaisir d’amour” for orchestra.

Let’s take a look at the French lyrics to “Plaisir d’amour” with English translation:


“Plaisir d’amour”- French Lyrics-

Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,

chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

J’ai tout quitté pour l’ingrate Sylvie,
Elle me quitte et prend un autre amant.
Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

“Tant que cette eau coulera doucement
vers ce ruisseau qui borde la prairie,
je t’aimerai”, me répétait Sylvie,
l’eau coule encor, elle a changé pourtant.

Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment,
chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.


Now the English Translation to “Plaisir d’amour”:  

The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,
The grief of love lasts a lifetime.

I gave up everything for ungrateful Sylvia,

She is leaving me for another lover.
The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,
The grief of love lasts a lifetime.

“As long as this water will run gently
Towards this brook which borders the meadow,
I will love you”, Sylvia told me repeatedly.
The water still runs, but she has changed.

The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,
The grief of love lasts a lifetime.


Let me share with you three different version of this beautiful French love song:

1.  Andrea Bochelli ‘s cover of “Plaisir d’amour”:  https://youtu.be/LDJ9wIUoEd0

2.  Acapella group “The King Singers” cover (one of my favorite recordings of this song!):  https://youtu.be/ZCXCcrXkDxc

3.  For the female perspective, opera singer Kathleen Battle’s version:  https://youtu.be/EMxkLWBx3RM


But wait…there’s more!  Perhaps more of you would be more likely to recognize this song!

The melody to the popular and more recent “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”, made popular by Elvis Presley in 1961, was based off of the melody of “Plaisir d’amour”!

There’s a bit of trivia for you to share!

Take a listen to these two versions of the popular “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”- See if you can now hear the melody for “Plaisir d’amour” overtop of this famous love song!

1.  The well known Elvis version of this song:   https://youtu.be/vGJTaP6anOU

2.  A favorite singer-songwriter of mine, Kina Grannis, covering this song-  https://youtu.be/COFgTynydQE

Hope you enjoyed learning about both of these famous love songs!  Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!


BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is your weekly virtual piano concert from the great Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro.

Today’s video is from his Saturday January 16th Facebook live streamed gig.  Enjoy!    https://youtu.be/f6w_o3sdEmQ





Week 45 (Week of February 1):  


Greetings to all SRC participants and friends!  Hope this finds everyone enjoying today’s falling snow from somewhere safe and warm!

Today I’d like to bring back one of our website mini-themes, “Weird, Wacky and Bizarre Instruments.”


To date, for this fun mini theme, we have looked at such oddball instruments as the theremin (Week 19), the octobass (Week 24), the Great Stalacpipe Organ (Week 30), and the Zadar Sea Organ (Nov. 16th).  Today, I’d like to highlight a very bizarre custom made guitar- the Pikasso Guitar (yep, that is the correct spelling).


Some may remember that in Week 19 of our website content I paid tribute to the Pat Metheny Band’s pianist, Lyle Mays, upon hearing of his passing.  Well, this week we loop back around to the Pat Metheny once again as we discuss this strange guitar!  The Pikasso Guitar was designed by a renowned Canadian luthier (a craftsperson who builds and repairs string instruments) Linda Manzer and was custom made for jazz guitarist Pat Metheny at his request in 1984 for a guitar that had “as many strings as possible.”

This instrument was dubbed “the Pikasso guitar” as it was inspired by and modeled after the cubist works of the legendary artist Pablo Picasso.


This wacky-looking guitar has a whopping 42 strings that are arranged in 4 string sections with 4 necks to the guitar and 2 sound holes.  When the 42 strings are strung up to high tension and tuned to concert pitch, the Pikasso guitar is under approximately 1,000 lbs of pressure.  The instrument itself weighs just under 15 lbs and has 2 holes for mounting the guitar on a stand so that the guitarist doesn’t have to hold the guitar while playing (although it can still be played resting upon the player’s knee).  In fact, while crafting the Pikasso guitar, Manzer invented “the wedge” body geometry on the guitar in order to enable Metheny to be able to clearly see all of the strings while he played.  This means that the body of the instrument is tapered so that that the side closest to the player is thinner than the side that rests on the player’s knee.  This allows for the player to have a more ‘aerial view’ of the guitar, as the top of the instrument leans back.  Later in the 1980s, Manzer began using this wedge-shaped body design, dubbed “the Manzer wedge”, for all of her guitars.


This monster of a custom made guitar took Linda Manzer two years to finish and approximately 1,000 work hours to build. Metheny would go on to play the Pikasso guitar on such albums of his as Imaginary Day, What’s It All About, and Beyond the Missouri Sky.  Pat Metheny would also go on to feature Manzer’s baritone guitar on his 2004 album and together Manzer and Metheny also would go on to co-design a custom limited-edition line of 30 Metheny-Manzer signature model guitars.


Let’s take a look (and listen) at this instrument together.

First, here is a brief interview of Linda Manzer from a guitar show- where she shows off a Pikasso Archtop guitar.  Very interested to hear her describing this guitar and demonstrating on this similar instrument.  https://youtu.be/CH1afvX6YHY


Now, let’s take a listen to Pat Metheny himself playing the Pikasso guitar.  Pat Metheny is such a talented and skilled guitarist that he makes playing the complicated and intricate Pikasso guitar look like a breeze!

  1. Pat Metheny improvising on the 42 string Pikasso guitar:  https://youtu.be/aNkTMyuP2zM
  2. Pat Metheny’s song “Into the Dream” off of his Imaginary Day album that features the Pikasso guitar:  https://youtu.be/SWAyf3Ywyeo


Bonus Video:  As always, here is your weekly virtual piano concert from the great Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro.

Today’s video is from his Saturday, January 9th Facebook live-streamed gig.  Enjoy! –   https://youtu.be/BDogcD7bEOk









Beer-Making – June 6, 13, 20, 27

Beer-Making Workshop Catherine Segal, Senior Resource Center Board Member and beer aficionado, led us in a beer-making workshop last month! The class started with mashing, separating, boiling, stirring, and fermenting. Everyone was very busy planning the different...

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