'Frothy' music on tap for special concert
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Oakland, Calif., pianist Margret Elson will give a concert of songs and dances by Chopin, Bach and others at Peninsula College’s Maier Hall in Port Angeles this Friday. The event is a benefit for the Sierra Club North Olympic Group.

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Dancing in the aisles is perfectly all right, pianist Margret Elson says.

The internationally known performer and artists' coach likes nothing better than to see her audience move to the music.

Elson is founder of the Center of Artistic Counseling in Oakland, Calif., as well as a pianist known for her interpretations of Chopin and Bach.

She is also a piano teacher who had Darlene Schanfald, now of Sequim, as a student four decades ago.

The two women have been friends ever since, which is how Elson came to plan this Friday's 7 p.m. concert of “Dances, Songs & Chopin” at Maier Hall on the Peninsula College campus at 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.

Special occasion

At this point in her life, she performs only for the benefit of young musicians and conservation groups.

So when Schanfald asked if she might be willing to do a fundraiser for the Sierra Club's North Olympic Group — of which Schanfald is a member — Elson asked: When?

Tickets are $20 to benefit the local Sierra Club, which Schanfald said has about 800 members in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

They are available in advance. Ticket outlets include Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St., Sequim; Port Book and News, 104 E. First St.; and www.brownpapertickets.com.

Any left over will be sold at the door.

Elson's Port Angeles concert program — a Bach partita, waltzes by Chopin and Mischa Levitski, “Canciones y Danzas,” by Federico Mompou — “is all the stuff I love,” the pianist said. “It's very romantic.”

Elson added that nothing gives her more joy than when people move to the music.

“Come and dance,” she said.

This is an evening of music by Chopin, the composer Arthur Rubinstein called “the perfume of the piano,” and by two lesser-known men.

There's Mompou, a Barcelona-born composer whose music is, in Elson's word, “sensuous.”

And there's Bach's set of dances called Partita VI, Chopin's Waltz in E minor and Levitski's “Arabesque Valsante.”

'Frivolous,' 'frothy'

The latter is “a fun piece,” just over three minutes, Elson noted. “It's frivolous. It's frothy.”

A pair of Chopin's nocturnes, his Impromptu in G flat major and his Ballade in F minor fill the second half of the concert.

Elson didn't always love to play. Growing up on West 96th Street in New York City's Manhattan, she started piano lessons at age 6.

“A Jewish child in New York: There's wasn't a choice. And if you got into Juilliard, you went to Juilliard.”

Which she did. Elson was a piano scholarship student for 10 years at the school.

But “after I graduated, I dropped it,” she said.

“I came to California; I didn't want anything to do with it.”

Elson went on to earn master's degrees in political science and journalism from the University of California at Berkeley.

But after some years passed, she realized those fields were not for her.

She returned to music, to teaching piano — and earned yet another degree, in clinical psychology at JFK University in Orinda, Calif.

She has used it to develop the field of musicians' wellness.

Her first book, Passionate Practice: The Musician's Guide to Learning, Memorizing and Performing, is in its third printing, and now, Elson is writing The Couch and the Piano: Tales of Demons and Redemption, which contains case studies of her work with traumatized musicians.

'Refining of the music'

After all these years — and a dual career — Elson still delights in the piano.

“I love the refining of the music,” she said, “and I love to play for people.

“For me, it's community.”

For information about the Sierra Club's North Olympic Group, phone 360-681-7565 or email darlenes@olympus.net.

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 02. 2013 5:48PM
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