★★★☆☆ Kenan Henderson delivers a music lesson to an audience looking for a recital.

Flinders Street Baptist Church
March 11, 2016

George Gershwin was the most popular songwriter of his time and his music is timeless and still popular. Hence, I anticipate that the audience who attended Kenan Henderson’s Fringe show on a sultry Friday night in Adelaide were expecting an hour solo piano recital from the “Masters degree student at the Elder Conservatorium of Music”. What they got instead was about thirty minutes of pianism interposed with thirty minutes of stories about the man and his music.

The music programme was well chosen. The three Preludes were well executed and I enjoyed hearing Earl Wild’s rarely heard arrangements of Bess, You is My Woman Now, There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York and Oh Lord, I’m On My Way. Henderson was less secure on Jasbo Brown Blues and was perhaps too classical and didn’t swing enough on Promenade (otherwise known as Walking the Dog).

However, the big disappointment was what was described in the programme as the “Gershwin/Henderson” arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue for solo piano. Having tried and failed for years with my inferior seventh grade, small hands, and no technique to play the piece myself until I recorded an ugly version on cassette and threw the score into the piano seat to rot forever, I relish the chance to see anyone with talent play it properly (most notably Simon Tedeschi at a previous Fringe). Hence, I have to say it was a let-down to hear Henderson’s abridged version, particularly when he omitted the Agitato e Misterioso section that precedes the finale that sorts the real concert pianists from the seventh graders.

Henderson would have been much better served cutting the lecture and mastering the complete version of the piece and adding some of the other wonderful piano arrangements that exist of Gershwin’s popular tunes to the programme.

I’m sure Kenan is a cool music teacher, but if he wants to be a performer first and teacher second, he needs to be a risk-taker and push himself to the limits of his talent.        

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