Piano playing across the ages
Visiting pianist Robert McVey performs both new and old pieces
His fingers pounded the piano’s keys. His body was attuned to the frenzied song – head shaking, eyebrows furrowed, arms an appendage of the piano itself.
The Georgia College Department of Music presented its visiting pianist Roger McVey in the Max Noah Recital Hall to an enthusiastic crowd last Thursday. The program consisted of four contemporary songs and one classical piece with an intermission in between.
Roger McVey has traveled the world playing as a soloist and collaborative pianist. He teaches applied piano, class piano, piano pedagogy, music history and piano literature at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls as an associate professor of piano. He previously taught at GC for one year. Other schools he has taught at include the University of Kansas, Mercer University and Macon State College. He is an avid listener of rock music and jazz – a fact that is readily apparent in his playing style.
“I’ve played in Athens and Statesboro for the past two nights, so returning to GCSU is a real treat,” McVey said.
McVey went on to thank David Johnson, assistant professor of music, and the GC Department of Music for inviting him to play.
“I have loved visiting Georgia College and being back in Milledgeville,” he said.
To the delight of his musical patrons, McVey played a collection of contemporary songs in the first half of his concert, followed by an extremely long “Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24” by piano master Johannes Brahms that lasted the entire second half of the show.
“This piece is one of my favorites of Brahms,” McVey said of “Variations.” “This is a very long piece, a very intense piece. Brahms squeezes all kinds of great techniques into this, resulting in 24 variations and ending in one glorious fugue. This fugue is sexy. It has it all.”
McVey’s playing style impressed many students, including sophomore art major Jennifer Clark.
“I loved his attitude,” Clark said. “You could really feel the energy, the emotion. I loved how he played mostly contemporary pieces instead of the regular, classical fair.”
Senior music education major Erica Wright agreed.
“I loved his choices of contemporary music,” Wright said. “You can really tell that he enjoys rock music, and that transcends into his playing, As a vocalist I never enjoyed listening to piano this much.”
Before “Variations,” McVey played contemporary selections “Suite para Piano” by Joaquin Rodrigo, “Etude no. 2: Defensive Chili” by Marc Mellits, “Lilac” by Wynn-Anne Rossi, “Toccatina, Op. 36” by Nikolai Kapustin and “Sepuluh Jari” by Gareth Farr. He introduced each piece to the crowd with a short backstory before playing, placing his audience in the loop.
His masterful rendition of “Sepuluh Jari” was one of the high points of the evening.
“It means ‘10 fingers’ in Indonesian,” McVey said. And then, with a smile, “Good thing it doesn’t mean 11.”
The dramatic song filled Max Noah with booming lows and enchanting highs, capturing the audience not only with its complexity but with the force in which McVey played it.
The end of his performance was met with appreciative applause. A handful of people, many GC students studying piano, remained to chat with the amicable musician.
McVey can be found online at rogermcvey.com. His third CD recording, “Perspectives,” can be purchased online at amazon.com and other CD retailers. Future musical performances held at the Max Noah Recital Hall can be found at events.gcsu.edu/concerts.