A large Homecoming crowd could not get enough of the wonderful concerts featuring Graceland Maestro Jack Ergo and Friends held during the weekend in Carol Hall. Two additional concerts were added to accommodate lines of people who were hearing first-hand “buzz” about how great the concerts were. They all wanted that experience for themselves.
No one who attended the Jack Ergo and Friends concerts was disappointed. They were spectacular, and each unique, featuring music students and faculty, Jack’s former and current piano students, alumni and, and of course, the Steinway.
The concerts were love affairs between Maestro Ergo and Graceland’s new 9-foot, Steinway Grand Piano, and the overflow audiences ate it up. Jack brought out guest after guest and each performance was stunning. The Beethoven Symphony No. 5 arrangement for the four hands of Jack and Tom Morain gave Gracelanders a grand sampling of just how perfect the acoustics are in Carol Hall. Tom Morain is a man of many talents but he surprised even his friends with just how great a piano player he is. Tom is Director of Government Relations at Graceland.
JR and Carol Shaw attended at least two of the concerts and loved them. It has been talked about for months how there is literally not a bad seat in Carol Hall as far as acoustic enjoyment. It is true. The high “cloud” ceiling panels allow sound to rise naturally and it virtually eliminates reverberation. People exiting each concert were all smiles and telling those waiting in line what excellence lay in store for them.
Sixth-grader Joey Ladnier, of Lamoni, wowed the crowds, including JR Shaw, with his “Improvisation on a Jazz Tune,” including material he composed. He is a tremendous talent and a favorite in the Lamoni area. JR even mentioned Joey during his Shaw Center dedication speech.
Recent graduate Andrew Naylor, who also played violin at the dedication ceremony, played a Bach piece in Carol Hall and the sound was astounding, truly magnificent, just as architects and sound consultants said it would be. Andrew plays with an intensity that leaves his audience breathless. You could have heard a pin drop during his performance.
An ebullient Jack Ergo was obviously delighted with each of his guests. He bubbled over with the smile and humor he is so well known for in the Graceland community. His Chopin piece to open the concerts showcased the magnificent ranges of the new Steinway piano. Jack loves that piano.
Marissa Roberts, alto, and Tommy Ratkiewicz, tenor, performed the tune “America,” from “West Side Story” with an energy and style that delighted everyone. They danced and whirled across the beautiful wood floor of Carol Hall with a number that could have come straight from Broadway.
Jeff Benson, baritone, belted out a powerful Schubert piece, again, accompanied by Jack. Jeff could have been singing at Carnegie Hall, such was the quality of his performance.
Artist in residence at Graceland, Amy Stout-Jeffers, has a style and presentation that mesmerizes her listeners, and she did not disappoint. Her rendition of a piece by Ginastera was stunning.
Jacob, Clayton and Laura Allen, from Leon, played a “Stars and Stripes Forever” arrangement on the Steinway for six hands to end the concert with a bang.
Thank you Jack, and friends, and our new Steinway, for a series of concerts that christened Carol Hall with the brilliance it deserved.
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