Two pianos, a tornado of sound

Photos and story by MONICA MARCU

“Born at an early age, Grant Simpson deduced that earning a living as a musician and vaudevillian is preferable to working. He has been a full time professional musician and vaudevillian for over 30 years” – says on the website introducing the entertainers Annie Avery and Grant Simpson.

They certainly make an eclectic team that stormed a tornado of good music and fun last week at McBride Roundhouse Theater.

Annie is a passionate music teacher who pursued jazz studies (among others) and played for many years all over North America. She loves ragtime, plays piano and organ. Grant can join with piano, banjo or guitar, and also loves jazz and blues. The two performers are on a long musical tour from Whitehorse (where they reside), through cities in Manitoba, Alberta and BC.

The concert opened with two beautiful local talents – Coral Mazereeuw and Laurel Berg, who played fiddle, folk and gypsy music. They are fresh graduates from McBride Secondary High School just starting their musical and artistic careers. Coral is also making a coloring book for adults that should be published soon.

Between concerts and shows, the Simpsons teach classes of improvisation named “Four-handed Freedom,” a method for teaching students to improvise in groups. The Piano Tornado team has a prolific career and have played on trains, trolleys, festival stages, concert halls and even grain elevators. When not on tour, Grant and Annie, who are good friends and have played together for eight years, are part of the cast of the world famous Frantic Follies Vaudeville Revue in Whitehorse.

Their concert last week included traditional New Orleans stomps, rags and blues and classic stride, 1920’s swing, boogie, bop and some ballads. Songs such as “Blue Bungalow”, “You are not the only oyster in the stew”, or “On the last day of Pompeii”, were interspersed with laughter and good memories.

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