It may be difficult for fans of the White Barn to grasp, but Nancy Garden — for three decades the creative force behind the annual array of actors and musicians appearing at St. Helena’s unique performance venue — will soon be making her last public appearance at the piano.
She will be stepping aside in typical Nancy Garden style, however. In other words, the audience should expect the unexpected.
A number of pianists, including Garden, will be showcased in the White Barn’s upcoming “Dizzy Fingers” musical event Saturday, March 9, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 10, at 4 p.m.
Taking his place at one of the White Barn’s two Yamaha baby grand pianos will be Antonio Iturrioz performing a Scriabin nocturne for left hand, Schumann’s “Scenes from Childhood,” a Chopin etude arranged for left hand, and “Movement No. 2” by 19th-century American composer and pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
Gottschalk’s work premiered in Havana in 1860 and was first heard in the United States in 1948. Iturrioz, a teacher and performer in the Bay Area and Europe, transcribed the second movement, originally for two pianos, and performed the entire symphony last month in San Francisco.
Curt Pajer, music director of the opera program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, will play a Schubert impromptu, a Chopin nocturne, then join Garden for a two-piano version of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.”
Elaine Elder and Garden will give a four-handed performance of a Schumann waltz and Schubert’s “March, Op. 121.”
Later, Garden and Linda Scheibal will perform selections from Gabriel Fauré’s “Dolly Suite” (four-handed) and fire up the second piano for Arthur Benjamin’s “Jamaican Rumba.”
Somewhere in the mix, pianist Michael Greensill will unleash a jazz medley.
Wrapping up the evening will be a lively finale combining audience participation and the musical talents of Scheibal, Elder, Iturrioz and Garden.
It could easily raise the roof.
The White Barn got its start in 1976 when Garden and her family celebrated the country’s bicentennial with “Valley Pie Jubilee,” an extravaganza that included music written by Ken Long and a local cast of at least 60.
It wasn’t until 1983, however, that the White Barn on Sulphur Springs Avenue was christened as an entertainment venue. Then, as now, the whole family was involved behind the scenes — with Garden frequently front and center. From the start, performances benefited local nonprofits and White Barn board members made desserts and hors d’oeuvres, took tickets and poured wine at intermission.
The White Barn series will continue, Garden said, but don’t look for her at the piano — she’ll be in the audience enjoying the show.
Tickets for “Dizzy Fingers” are $30. The performances help support the White Barn’s acquisition of a Yamaha baby grand piano. Otherwise, concerts this year benefit the Pathway Home, Rianda House Senior Activity Center, Get-on-the-Bus, and breast cancer awareness.
For reservations, call 251-8715.