with Dr. Del Parkinson (Professor, Boise State University)
By Helen Carter
Dr. Del Parkinson
On Behalf of the Boise Baroque Orchestra, Dr. Del Parkinson, piano performance professor at Boise State University, donated a concert to be auctioned off at the BBO’s fundraising Winter Celebration event. I leapt at the opportunity to bid but quickly realized I had a die-hard competitor in Margaret Henderson. We bid back and forth, until Margaret graciously allowed me to win.
I followed up with Dr. Parkinson who was eager to perform the concert. We decided to have it in my living room, since we have a nice piano. We invited all of our neighbors to a potluck in early April. We set up everything, sent out the invitations, and then COVID-19 struck. Dr. Parkinson understood the need to delay and offered to perform whenever we felt it would be safe, even if it had to be delayed to 2021.
As the pandemic raged on, we came up with an alternative: we decided to have the concert outside on September 22nd, using a Roland digital piano and an amp. It was quite a shift for Dr. Parkinson from performing at the Morrison Center on the nine-foot Steinway, but he said he would make it work.
On the appointed date, neighbors gathered in our front yard with chairs and blankets. Ava Gaylord, who lives in the neighborhood and studies violin with Paula Stern, performed first. Her two pieces, “In the Style of Mozart” by Amy Barlowe, and "Salut d’ Amour" by Elgar, put everyone in the perfect frame of mind. Then Dr. Parkinson performed the following, preceding every selection with a unique and personal story:
At the keyboard
For Grieg’s "Piano Concerto in A minor", he talked about his trip to Grieg’s home in Bergen, Norway, where he was allowed to play on the composer’s piano!
The funniest story was his performance of Chopin’s "Minute Waltz" many years ago at Ricks College. The event was held in the gymnasium with the purpose of welcoming new students with a program spanning the gamut of studies at the College. Dr. Parkinson represented the School of Music. The administrators mandated his performance be one minute, and no more. He tried to explain that “minute” did not refer to the duration of the performance but rather to the dance. Because they insisted on one minute, he practiced over and over again to decrease the duration from 1:45 to exactly 1 minute, all the while worrying that the performance was going to be incomprehensible. During the actual performance, he was distracted when the audience seemed to get restless, but he kept going, faster and faster. As he played the last notes, he realized they were counting down 10-9-8 … as the clock ticked toward 60 seconds. He finished at 59 seconds when the gymnasium’s buzzer rang! They were quite serious about the one minute! For our neighborhood concert, Dr. Parkinson played at the normal, beautiful, dance tempo, and we were all relieved. However, we had to hold ourselves back from yelling 10-9-8 …!
To introduce "Claire de Lune", he told how he performed it in Mexico at an outdoor concert. In the middle of his performance, the lights went out. He knew the piece by heart, so that wasn’t an issue. He kept going, with the atmosphere magically enhanced by the rising of the full moon as he closed out the piece! We didn’t have a full moon for our outdoor performance, but at least a few people in the audience had tears in their eyes.
Dr. Parkinson’s medley of songs from "West Side Story" had people humming along.
The evening’s performance ended with Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue". We’ve all heard the United Airlines commercials, but Dr. Parkinson gave us a more expanded version of the piece that emphasized the jazz and ragtime aspects. His story of the creation of the piece inspired some of us to do research on the Aeolian Hall in New York City where it premiered on February 12, 1924. That performance was special, and we felt grateful to have had our own special rendition of Gershwin’s classic in our front yard.
It was such a gift to be able to enjoy a socially-distanced outdoor concert with Dr. Parkinson, an amazing musician and educator. And what a wonderful way to support our Boise Baroque Orchestra!