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NGCSU celebrates piano's birthday with a little music
Joe Chapman, pianist and director of keyboard studies at North Georgia College & State University, will perform pieces showcasing the history of the piano to celebrate its 300th birthday.

Tricentennial Celebration of the Piano: 1709-2009

With Joe Chapman, pianist and director of keyboard studies at North Georgia College & State University

When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Hoag Auditorium, North Georgia College & State University, 82 College Circle, Dahlonega
How much: $5 adults, $2 children
More info: 706-864-1423

Tickling the ivories has been a passion, pastime and profession now for 300 years.

Count Joe Chapman, a North Georgia College & State University music professor, among those who have made the piano a lifetime pursuit.

The director of keyboard studies plans to pay homage to the beloved instrument with "A Tricentennial Celebration of the Piano: 1709-2009," a presentation set for 8 p.m. Monday in the university's Hoag Student Center auditorium.

"I thought (the anniversary) would be a good thing to make the public aware of," Chapman said in a phone interview Tuesday. "What I had to do was find music that would represent through the time."

He will open with a Bach toccata composed in 1709, originally intended for the harpsichord but now commonly performed on the piano.

Chapman, also a concert pianist, then will trace the evolution of piano music through the work of well-known composers such as Wolfgang Mozart, Ludwig Beethoven, Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt.

The program also will feature experimental techniques used in the 20th century, including Henry Cowell's "The Aeolian Harp," which requires Chapman to play the strings inside the piano by hand.

The program culminates in a premiere performance by a new composer, Cody Brookshire.

"The piece is actually in progress," Chapman said. "I think it's actually about to be finished in the next few days. I'm playing portions of it that were finished around Christmastime."

The piano was born in 1709, when Italian inventor Bartolomeo Christofori replaced the harpsichord's plectra, which plucked the strings, with hammers designed to strike the strings directly.

The new instrument, capable of producing very soft to very loud sounds, was first called pianoforte, Italian for soft-loud.

"Eventually, they dropped the loud (part of the word) off, so in translation, in Italian, the word piano means soft," Chapman said.

Admission to the concert is $5 for adults and $2 for students. Students and employees at the Dahlonega college are admitted free with a current university ID.

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