Pianist plays on top of 6,000-foot mountain

April 30, 2011 

Pianist Peter Halstead and Dan McElrath are shown with a Steinway piano at 6,000 feet elevation, somewhere in the Chugach Mountains.

PHOTO COURTESY DAN MCELRATH / ALASKA PIANO SRVICES

Carl Battreall's new book has many fabulous photos of the Chugach wilderness, but none includes a grand piano.

In fairness, "Chugach State Park" was published before April 18, when Peter Halstead arranged to have a Steinway transported to a snowfield high in the Alaska mountain range, where -- dressed in a "yeti suit" -- he recorded a recital of classical music.

Halstead, a writer as well as a pianist, is known for performing Chopin and Liszt in the Himalayas. Find out more about that at his website at pianistlost.com/peter-halstead.

We heard about the unusual performance from the piano technician on the project, local jazz man Dan McElrath of Alaska Piano Services.

The project on April 18 was to "fulfill Peter's dream of performing piano upon one of the most remote wilderness peaks on earth."

Helicopters transported piano, piano player and crew to a location about 40 miles from Girdwood, McElrath reported. "We landed upon one of the most incredible sites I have ever seen, 6,000 feet in altitude, rolling thunder through the mountains as avalanches broke loose in the spring sunshine, no wind at all and about 45 degrees."

Halstead will be releasing a music video of the project soon. In the meanwhile, you can find out more and see some interesting iPhone video and stills at McElrath's site, alaskapiano.net.

Celebrating 10 years of music

The Russian American Singers will celebrate 10 years of performances with two concerts this coming weekend. Guests will include Russian conductor Pavel Sharomov and Alaska soprano Christine Renee Keene.

The music will include Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and some pop 'n' party fare. Receptions with a no-host bar will follow both shows, which take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. Patrick Church, 2111 Muldoon Road, and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 3900 Wisconsin St. General admission tickets are $25 at centertix.net.

Musical relief

The Arctic Wind Flute Choir and other flutists (34 at last count) will present a benefit concert for the Christchurch School of Music.

The building was so seriously damaged in the New Zealand earthquake of Feb. 22 that it can't be entered to retrieve items. Authorities have decided to destroy the building with everything inside -- including thousands of music scores in libraries, 36 pianos and other instruments -- some 200 in all.

The concert will take place at 7 p.m. today at Anchorage Lutheran Church, 1420 N. St. Admission is by donation, but donations can also be made to "CSM Earthquake Fund" at Wells Fargo Bank or mailed to CSM Earthquake Fund, Alaska Flute Studies Center, 4105 Turnagain Blvd., Suite V, Anchorage 99517.

'We Can Change the World'

Anchorage students attending Home Base After School Program have written a song, "We Can Change the World," and recorded a CD that they are selling to raise funds to build a home in Haiti.

They hope to use the money to build a house for a family in Haiti following that country's devastating earthquake in 2010. They will perform the piece at their CD release party starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the 4th Avenue Market Place, 333 W. Fourth Ave. The Home Base After School Orchestra will also have its public debut performance during the event.

Arctic Sirens' final show

The final cabaret show of the Arctic Sirens' season will be a fundraiser for Bridge Builders of Anchorage. The Kevin Barnett Trio will back up a cast that includes Peggy Monaghan, Paul Paslay, Destany Hawley, Janet Asaro, Buz Daney, Jennifer Brown and others.

The award-winning Bridge Builders program seeks to create a safer, friendlier city embracing all racial and cultural groups in Anchorage.

The performers are volunteering their time for the show, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Snow Goose, 717 W. Third Ave. Tickets are $20 and can be reserved by calling 245-7311.

In her words

June McAtee, granddaughter of A.H. Twitchell, profiled in Arts & Life on April 17, has published her own look at his accomplishments in the recent issue of Alaska Journal of Anthropology, vol. 8(1) 2010, pages 23-38.

"Reindeer and Potatoes on the Kuskokwim River: A Family History in Western Alaska" shares the edition with some other interesting articles, including Yup'ik and Russian accounts of the "Andreafsky Massacre" of 1855. You can order individual articles or the whole issue and past issues at alaskaanthropology.org.

Dancing to the mike

Congratulations to UAA dance teacher and local choreographer Kristen Vierthaler, who recently showed her rhetorical side by winning an award at the state Toastmasters competition in Juneau last month.


Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.

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