Mike Markaverich shared his considerable musical talent at Sarasota Music Club's November meeting.
I expect all of us who have normal vision have at some point tried to experience blindness by putting on a blindfold and attempting to navigate our way through our own house, or some other familiar setting. Even though we knew where we were and, moreover, knew that we always had the option of removing the blindfold and “regaining our sight,” it was a daunting feeling, not knowing exactly where a wall or chair or stairstep would be.
So, our hearts go out to Mike Markaverich, who plays piano without being able to see the keys. Organists Jean Langlais and Helmut Walcha, composers Francesco Landini and Joaquin Tarrega, jazz/pop pianists Stevie Wonder, Marcus Roberts and Ray Charles, and vibraphonist George Shearing, to name but a few – all dealt with blindness and succeeded brilliantly, as has Markaverich.
But wait! Think about it a moment – a piano has 88 keys, with the keys equally spaced a fraction over 7/8ths of an inch apart, all arranged in a straight, horizontal line 30” above the floor. This is standard all over the world. Once the player is seated in front of a piano, he knows exactly where each key and pedal is. They don’t move around! Here’s a world in which Mike can relax, and simply do! How fortunate that these musicians found an instrument that gave them such freedom. Merely finding the instrument, of course, is not enough. There has to be an immense number of hours of practice, and some innate talent and creativity, to succeed as well as these greats have. Most of us, with or without the blessing of sight, do not achieve such excellence at the piano. So, we should celebrate Markaverich’s accomplishment on its on merit, with blindness not really a factor.
Mike plays with assurance, bouncing from one end of the keyboard to the other, frequently inserting little “quotes” of other pop or classical tunes, which bring little chuckles of pleased recognition from his audience. His program consisted of eight popular songs, mostly familiar, such as: “So Nice To Come Home To,” “You And The Night And The Music,” and “Secret Love.” In addition to the little melodic “quotes,” he enjoyed playing several measures at a time in the style of previous jazz piano greats, including one of my favorites, Errol Garner. A subtle rhythmic shift, a slight change in phrasing, and suddenly you were hearing Oscar Peterson or Dave Brubeck, again eliciting murmurs of recognition.
To add to the pleasure, Mike frequently sings as he plays, a verse or two in his pleasant baritone, and then a bit of scat singing that would make Ella proud.
I wanted only two more things in this fun program...a slow ballad and a jazz waltz. But he only had an hour, not nearly enough to showcase all of his considerable ability.
My thanks to the Sarasota Music Club for another winning program!