Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: High-Caliber Pianists Stir Up Storms of Notes in Ashwaubenon

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Opening a jar of pickles must be a breeze for Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe.

In concert, they play up storms with phenomenal hand strength as Anderson & Roe Piano Duo.

Bristling notes flew Saturday night as the duo performed at Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center as part of the Brown County Civic Music Association season. It was the first concert for the association at the Ashwaubenon PAC, and the 700-seat hall was almost packed.

The evening ended with two encores amid standing ovations.

Anderson and Roe are wholly impressive in look, presentation and performance.

Between-selection explanations of works were trips to upper reaches of intellect. One work was described as “a call for a higher wisdom… a divinity that lives in us all.” Another was called a “rollicking, celebratory, redemptive take.” Also spoken of was “the inalienable light of the human spirit.”

And how is this as a question from the stage to the audience: “How many of you have been successfully seduced by someone?” That was part of an introduction to set the scene for the performance of an interpretation of “Carmen.”

Anderson and Roe are compatible and like-minded on stage. Their performance erupts when in abstract explosions, glides in romantic huggies and romps in mischievous show pieces.

He looks natty in suits, she flashy in flowing gowns. They are top-grade concert pianists, after all.

They looked quite comfortable in the hall, which easily suited their vibrant piano sound.

Most of what Anderson and Roe perform is adapted/interpreted/finessed by them. Take “West Side Story Suite.” They sit side by side, sometimes playing over each other’s hands, bop different parts of the piano with their hands, switch places with body rhythm kicking in by the movee and encourage audience handclaps when fitting. As they pore over notes, they become akin to a human lava lamp, only much faster.

Along with one piano/side-by-side four-hand pieces, Anderson and Roe play two-piano, four-hand works (the individuals playing different parts). For an encore piece, a Latin mover, they played side by side and took turns playing strings in the guts of the piano as if plucking a cello or something.

They spoke of a quest for works that “transcend” and induce a “hope for awe-inspiring sense of timelessness.”

Time with Anderson & Roe Piano Duo is well spent.



Part I

Anderson/Roe arrangement (two piano): “Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs” by Leonard Bernstein

“Hallelujah Junction” (two piano) by John Adams

Anderson/Roe arrangement (one piano) “Hallelujah Variations” based on a theme by Leonard Cohen

Anderson/Roe arrangement (two piano); “Let It Be” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Part II

Anderson/Roe arrangement (one piano): “West Side Story” (“Mambo,” “Tonight,” “Somewhere,” “America”) by Leonard Bernstein

Anderson/Roe arrangement (one piano): “Ballet” from “Orphée et Eurydice” by Christoph Willibald Gluck

Anderson/Roe arrangement (two piano): “Carmen Fantasy for Two Pianos” by Georges Bizet


A Latin rhythm piece (one piano)

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (two piano)


NEXT (for Civic Music): Seraph Brass (replacement for the canceled Solid Brass Ensemble concert) Tuesday, April 24, Ralph Holter Auditorium, Green Bay West High School.

NEXT (for APC): “Late Nite Catechism,” April 14.

VENUE: Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center is located in the northwest sector of the Ashwaubenon High School campus at the corner of Willard Drive and South Ridge Road. The look of the hall is that of a community/school district making a statement: The performing arts count. The facility’s design is by Bray Associates Architects, Inc. of Milwaukee and Sheboygan. The theater includes a theatrical slope. The basic floor is gray with patterned grays in the carpeting. The 700 seats have tan plastic backs, muted green fabric seat cushions and oak arms. Key elements are wood panels on walls and curved acoustical clouds in the ceiling for sound purposes. The basic stage is 26 feet high and 49 feet wide, with a section that bows out almost 18 feet being a covered (or uncovered) orchestra pit. The stage curtain is different from the standard rich red; it is rich green. The lobby – lighted by a series of white, circular fixtures, curves around the rear entrances of the theater. The space includes chest-high tables and ticketing, concession and coatroom areas. The facility was completed in 2016.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.

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