KEYBOARD CLASSICS FOR CHILDREN, by Roy Eaton, Summit Kids, $16.99, www.summitrecords.com; all ages.
24/7+7 THE COMPLETE PRELUDES OF CHOPIN, GERSHWIN, AND STILL, by Roy Eaton, Summit Records, $16.99, www.summitrecords.com; all ages.
It was about 6:20 in the evening when I sat down to read the daily newspaper after a long, exhausting day of meetings at school. And there it was, a small little mention of a solo piano concert at Lake Forest College featuring Roy Eaton. I wondered, is this the same Roy Eaton who recorded the exquisite "Keyboard Classics for Children?"
The concert started in 40 minutes so I quickly got ready and drove over to the beautiful, 100-year-old Holt Chapel on the campus. I was a few minutes late, but luckily Eaton had not yet started. I brought my CD along in hopes of getting an autograph and as soon I walked in I knew it was the same Roy Eaton.
The small and quiet audience made it easy to be swept away with the beauty of the music and the depth of Eaton’s artistic interpretations. Not only was it a concert, but it was also a master class of sorts. The first half of the performance was titled Preludes, Preludes, Preludes and featured works by Chopin, Gershwin and the not-as-well-known contemporary composer William Grant Still. One of the most interesting aspects of the concert was that Eaton would, for example, play a Chopin prelude and then demonstrate how Gershwin was influenced by the master’s work. The second half of the concert had a completely different feel as Eaton played six Scott Joplin classics and helped put Joplin’s career in historical perspective.
Solo piano music has long been a favorite of mine. Whether it is classical, jazz or contemporary, there is something magical about the depths of emotion the instrument can deliver. And in the hands of Eaton, the timeless pieces performed on "Keyboard Classics for Children" reach new heights.
When you think about it, music starts the same way for every musician—simply as notes and other music symbols on the page. It is the expression that the musical artist brings to the piece that heightens the aesthetic experience for the listener. And this is where Eaton excels. Except for an original piece and a couple of short, lesser-known pieces, I have heard all of these classics before. But I am hard pressed to think of anyone who brings them to life with such passion and personality.
"Keyboard Classics" opens up with Bach’s "Prelude and Fugue in C Major," which sets the stage for Mozart’s "12 Variations on ‘Ah vous dirai-je Maman’ " (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star). Again, I have heard this piece countless times, but the way Eaton approaches the music takes it to a joyful, playful place that would even have Mozart himself smile with delight.
What struck me on "Keyboard Classics" and was confirmed when I heard Eaton in concert was the ease at which he moves from the challenges that each composer presents. His interpretations of Debussy’s "Children’s Corner—Little Suite for Piano" and Schumann’s "Scenes from Childhood, op. 15" on "Keyboard Classics" prove that he is not only a technical wizard on the piano but also, and more importantly, is able to find the heart and soul of each piece.
Beautiful music is like sunshine on a spring day in May. It warms our heart and helps us see the good things in life. And with a culture that pushes all kinds of junk on our children, we as parents need to take charge and feed them with that which will nourish them.
Here is an easy remedy: Add "Keyboard Classics for Children" to your children’s musical diet and know that they will be well fed. It works great for adults, too.
Visit Eaton’s Web site, www.royeaton.net, and take time to read his personal story, "I Am My Mother’s Vision." It will restore your hope and remind you that we, the parents, remain our child’s most important teacher.
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His Web site, BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children’s music. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.