Speakeasy piano jazz-inspired classics set for Piano Society concert

Val Bembenek

A lively musical celebration of the Roaring Twenties, showcasing jazz and ragtime inspired piano classics of William Albright and George Gershwin will syncopate the stage at the Oracle Center for the Arts on Sunday, May 1.

Themed a “Speakeasy Rent Party,” Dr. Stephen Cook, Oracle Piano Society founder and artistic director, plans to energize the society’s Baldwin concert grand with classical works inspired by ragtime, Harlem stride and boogie-woogie including Gershwin’s first major classical work Rhapsody in Blue.

The concert begins at 3:00 p.m. with jazz-age decor festooning the Center, located at 700 E. Kingston St. in Oracle. Snacks will be served speakeasy-style, and party guests are invited to wear 1920s garb.

Tickets, at $30 per person in advance, are available at 623-295-9677 or by visiting www.oraclepianosociety.org. Free student tickets are also available.

In 1920s prohibition era Harlem, low-income tenants who were unable to afford their housing costs would host monthly parties with dancing, music and libation. Money raised would help them pay their rent, and the idea of “rent parties” carried on leading to the spread of Harlem-style piano playing.

Dr. Cook, an Arizona native, has performed concerts nationwide as well as abroad. He is passionate about classical piano, community involvement and development of musical events that emphasize both artistic fusion and alternative performance formats.

A portion of funds raised at the concert will help the Oracle Piano Society, a not-for-profit founded three years ago, make mortgage payments on the facility it recently purchased. In addition to a performance hall with theater seats it has a spacious lobby that will double as an art gallery. The society is also considering lectures, a film series, theatrical performances and musical story-time for young children as future activities in the art center.