CLEARWATER - The Florida Orchestra and North Suncoast Associates shared their world of beautiful music with guests Oct. 11 during their "Evening of Fantasy" fundraiser held at the ethereal Kapok Tree Pavilion. The highlight of the night was a recital by internationally acclaimed concert pianist, Jon Kimura Parker, who displayed his wizardry in technique and playful imagination. The night truly was fantastical from beginning to end.
Guests entered the Kapok's heavenly garden through an almost secret gate, then sipped champagne and mingled in front of a breathtaking wall fountain, seemingly plucked from Atlantis. Its azure blue waters danced to the music of violinists Evelyn Pupello, and Linda Hall along with Rebecca Bialosky's cello.
The champagne reception ended when the peal of dinner bells could be heard and guests were ushered into the Kapok's sumptuous dining room for a delectable meal, featuring tournedos meuniere and chicken calvados stuffed with apple and walnuts.
After a dessert of Black Forest cherry cake the real treat of the evening was served.
Seated at a Steinway, Parker, who is an Officer of The Order of Canada, began with Mozart's Fantasy in D Minor, raising the expectations of his rapt audience. He held us mesmerized throughout the recital with more piano fantasies from Schumann, and Schubert.
Parker ended the musical program by striking a chord within everyone's hearts and memories, playing the Wizard of Oz Fantasy, an arrangement of songs originally composed by Harold Arlen for the movie, but arranged for piano by Parker's former Julliard classmate, William Hirtz. Parker, like Mozart, often mixes popular songs of the day with the classics.
Guests were clearly enthralled with him. Parker first performed at age of five in his native Vancouver's Youth Orchestra. He entered Julliard in 1979 and has since won many major international awards and has played with many major orchestras worldwide. He gave two command performances for Queen Elizabeth II, and was invited to play for the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan. He also gave special performances for the United States Supreme Court.
Parker is an active media personality and played himself in a guest appearance on the Disney Channel's "Under the Umbrella Tree". He hosted two seasons of the classical music television series "Whole Notes," on Bravo! Canada and CBC Radio Two's five-part series "Up And Coming". Parker was also seen on CNN performing in war-torn Sarajevo during the Bosnia conflict.
Parker is Professor of Piano at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, where he resides with his wife, violinist, Aloysia Friedmann and their daughter Sophie. This year begins a two-year appointment for Parker as the E. Stephen Purdom Distinguished Visiting Artist at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University.
The busy Parker has appeared with The Florida Orchestra in the past performing Prokofiev's "Piano Concerto No. 3;" Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2" & No. 3;" Gershwin's "Concerto in F"; and Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1."
The sponsors and organizing committee for the Evening of Fantasy have raised the bar for those who will come later to raise funds for the Orchestra. Proceeds from the $125 per ticket evening will advance the Florida Orchestra's education and outreach programs.
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