By Kari Miller
I have big news to share: we have been approached by an internet celebrity to collaborate in a unique project. Nora, The Piano Cat, is learning to play the organ and we have been invited to help! (If you have never heard Nora play you are in for a real treat. Check out her performance below of the CATcerto composed for her by the Latvian composer Mindaugas Piecaitis.) Things are still in the early planning stages, but we hope to put together a special, multi-media event that will showcase her incredible achievements as well as highlight the wonders of the organ. You could not find a more perfect performer to catapult the organ out of its dreary, churchy shadows; it’s pretty much a given that whatever Nora does will instantly become a viral internet sensation. What better way to advocate for the instrument we love and raise the profile of our chapter?If you are wondering: why us? – the answer is simple. It’s that old story of the strength of personal connection. Nora has an old friend here, Schatzi, who has been telling her for years all about the wonderful, friendly, creative people in our chapter. Schatzi is the cat who keeps the Austin Organ factory running so “purr”fectly. It was probably Schatzi’s tales of fun at the factory that piqued Nora’s interest in the first place. Of late, Schatzi has been helping Nora learn organ terminology – so confusing, even to a cat – and giving suggestions for listening that will elevate her taste from old standards like “Three Blind Mice” to the more complex and exciting “Cat Fugue” of Scarlatti, or the inimitable (except by cats, of course) “Cat Duet” attributed to Rossini.
Needless to say, Nora is fascinated by the new challenges presented by the organ. She is eager to develop her pedal technique and practice her swift leaping and pouncing from manual to manual. She has some quite original ideas for specialized (and cute) techniques to play on several manuals at once. Although she taught herself to play the piano simply by observing and listening, she thought, given the complexities of the organ, that a few lessons would be helpful. She applied for a Jolidon Organ Study Grant and her request was immediately granted. Christa Rakich stepped up to take on the daunting task of designing an efficient course of study for the talented feline. Christa’s love of ensemble playing, her interest in new music and her ability to improvise in a variety of styles [plus her love of cats!] make her an excellent match for Nora. Once lessons are underway, Christa will begin the happy work of planning the concert, choosing repertoire, engaging assisting artists, and deciding on the optimum format for what will undoubtedly be a truly spectacular event in the life of our chapter.
We have yet to choose a venue for the event. We will need a comfortable church with a good video setup and sound system, preferably non-carpeted (cat + carpet = catastrophe) and spacious enough to handle the large crowd which be drawn to such an amazing event. Like all cats, Nora likes to climb to a high perch and look down on the rest of the world, so a loft situation might be ideal. Nora refuses a fee and has even volunteered to take care of any vermin lurking in the organ chambers. The date is undecided at this point, but we are thinking that next spring, after Easter, would be ideal. Nora will of course need some time to develop her skills, but we want to be sure to catch her talent at its fresh, original best. She is currently enjoying only the fourth of her nine lives, so no worries there.
This exciting journey for the Greater Hartford Chapter is just beginning; there will be much more to come. Right now only one additional thing needs to be said: “April Fool’s!”