Article Published: Sep. 8, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 8, 2011
The sounds of piano music will fill the Ashe Civic Center on Saturday, Sept. 10, with the Tickling the Ivories concert.
The Ashe County Arts Council sponsors the 11th annual concert featuring six pianists. Performing on the arts council’s nine-foot Steinway grand piano will be Michael Bell, Marc Hoffman, Sherry Hoffman, Joseph Pennington, Betty Upchurch and Larissa Venzie.
Tickling the Ivories will feature a diverse repertoire, with music ranging from classical to church and sacred favorites to show tunes, and original compositions. There will be duets and four-hand works, as well as solo selections. And for something new, a different kind of keyboard, the marimba, will be featured this year.
Bell is a well-known musician in Ashe County. He attended Oberlin Conservatory and is currently the accompanist at the Jefferson United Methodist Church. He has performed with the chamber ensemble, Harmonia Baroque, whose performers include Appalachian State University music faculty.
Bell and his wife, Joanie, are owners of the Greenhouse Crafts in Glendale Springs.
Pennington is a senior at Ashe County High School. This is his second appearance on a Tickling the Ivories Concert. Pennington has studied piano for six years, sings with the choral society and is active in ROTC and student government. He plans on attending Appalachian State University with a double major in music and piano and a minor in French.
Hoffman is a composer, performing musician and author of educational and children’s books. A graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts with a degree in composition, Hoffman’s concert works, jazz charts, songs and film music have been performed across the U.S. and in the U.K., Europe and Israel.
His original instrumental recordings include “Long Way Home,” “JAZZ” and “Late September.” Vocal recordings include “Christmas Time,” “I Will” and “Dream of God,” featuring the lullaby “Sleep Little Child,” on which a book, published by Virillion Music Publishing, was based.
Hoffman lives in his hometown of Salisbury, with his wife and daughter.
Sherry Hoffman is one half of the duo “Solid Stride” with her husband, David Hoffman. Sherry graduated from the Manhattan School of Music, and for 30-plus years has been involved in the musical community in and around Grayson County. She, along with her husband, has been involved in the Highland Camerata, New River Chamber Singers and has performed in the arts council’s Coffee House series.
Upchurch is making her first appearance at Tickling the Ivories. She began playing the piano at the age of 5 and later earned a music degree at St. Andrews College. She has been involved professionally in music in churches and schools, as well as community events for 50 years. Upchurch released her first CD in 2009 titled “To God Be the Glory.”
She is presently the accompanist/director for the early worship service at Jefferson United Methodist Church.
Venzie is a consummate musician, marimbist and performer; she creates music that has warmth, depth, character and beauty. Venzie holds a master’s degree in percussion performance from Itaca College.
Seh has performed professionally and teaches in Virginia.
Tickling the Ivories began in 2001 as a fundraiser event for the arts council. Thirty-five pianists have been featured during the years showcasing the best in regional keyboard talent and piano literature.
Bell and Sherry Hoffman have performed on all 11 concerts, their piano duets and piano four-hand selections are perennial favorites.
“Getting together with other musicians is rewarding, and working on new repertoire each year is an exciting challenge. Tickling the Ivories is a concert not to be missed,” Bell said.
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m., with advance tickets available at the Ashe Arts Center or by phone with a credit card. The tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for students. For more information, contact the arts council at (336) 846-ARTS.