Sunday, February 18, 2018

Piano party: Longview Symphony sets March 2 fundraiser

By Becky Bell
Jan. 31, 2018 at 10:30 p.m.

Fun Pianos!, a traveling dueling pianos show, is the highlight of Pasta & Pianos, a fundraiser for the Longview Symphony. Randy Maines, the symphony's vice president of production, said a big part of the entertainment will be the piano players making jokes and doing comedy, but the main attraction will be the variety of music they will play. Special to @play

This is not a concert. Those are the cautionary words the Longview Symphony's website offers about a new fundraiser the organization has set for March 2.

"The Fun Pianos! show is not a concert. These guys lead a musical party," the website says.

Pasta & Pianos will feature Fun Pianos!, a traveling dueling pianos show by 176 Keys. Set for 6:30 p.m. March 2 at the Longview Hilton Garden Inn on Hawkins Parkway, tickets are $75 each. A table of 10 can be purchased for $1,000. Tickets are available until Feb. 13.

This is the first fundraiser the Longview Symphony has had for several years, said Amy McCarty, chairwoman of the event.

"This is new for us," she said. "Everyone knows the symphony plays classical music, but we also enjoy other music. There will be two pianos and they will be in the center of the room. They will play any kind of music and kind of joke and get everyone to sing and dance and have a lot of fun."

McCarty said the symphony is ending this season with something fun, as next year marks its 50th anniversary.

Randy Maines, vice president of production for the Longview Symphony, said a good way to describe the upcoming dueling pianos is to think of Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans, because the entertainment there is like this event.

"This is very much a show about audience participation," Maines said. "Everybody has fun at it. This is not something anyone should be afraid to go to, because they are just a blast."

Maines said a big part of the entertainment will be the piano players making jokes and doing comedy, but the main attraction will be the variety of music they will play.

"These guys can play basically anything, especially rock and roll music and really they may do the chicken dance, whatever the crowd goes for."

Sam Ferguson, who owns Fun Pianos!, said modern day piano dueling began in the 1980s in Dallas, and the old piano duels began in the 1930s in New Orleans.

Coincidentally the two piano players who will be in Longview for the show are from those places: Joel Henry is from the Dallas area, and Amanda Gunnels is from New Orleans.

Although any number of songs may be requested by the audience during the show, there are a few things that usually get the crowd going such as "Old Time Rock and Roll," a little bit of Garth Brook's "Friends in Low Places," and of course, "Sweet Caroline," made famous by Neil Diamond. But the direction of the show is something Ferguson said can't be determined until the night of the show.

"As far as the rest of the show, we only know when we see the crowds," he said.

Ferguson said his company started in 2003 as the first national traveling group of its kind.

Maines said the shows are so much fun and anyone who wants to know more about the show before they go can go to the Facebook page Fun Pianos — Traveling Dueling Pianos Show by 176 Keys to see for themselves.

"Facebook shows the audience members (at the Fun Pianos! show) getting out of their seats. They are just having a blast," Maines said.



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