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Historic piano key to cinematic ISO event

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Anthony Wing isn’t one to make things easy for himself.

When he performs the 2nd and 3rd movement of Mozart’s 21st piano concerto at The Imperial Theatre this weekend, he won’t be playing an ordinary piano.

Instead, he’s challenged himself to perform on a replica of the 1780s Viennese grand piano that Mozart used to debut the piece 235 years ago.

“It’s wildly different from a regular keyboard,” says Wing who will be one of the soloists at the International Symphony Orchestra’s “At the Movies” show.

“It sounds so different, a cross between the sound of a piano and the sound of a harpsichord,” he explains.

Wing found the rare piano in the studio of Michigan’s Tom Ciul who builds historical keyboard instruments.

It’s the piano that Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven used to change the music world, said Ciul. “It’s not related to the modern grand piano at all.”  Rather than foot pedals, it uses knee levers to modify its tone.

Although Wing has been practicing for his 12-minute solo performance four to five hours a day for weeks on a regular piano, the rented 18th century piano he will play only arrived in Sarnia a week ago.

“It’s a huge undertaking but I love it,” said Wing. “This is how the concerto was intended.”

Wing began playing piano at age eight and attended McGill University as a piano performance major.  For years, he pursued other interests, was a speech writer for the Ontario government, learned how to competitively shuck oysters out west and finally returned home to Sarnia where he is now executive director of the ISO (International Symphony Orchestra).

On top of organizing all ISO events and programs, he’s pitched in on occasion and “quietly helped out on the piano at times.”

On Friday in Port Huron and again on Saturday in Sarnia, Wing and ISO musician Ann Lemke are the two featured soloists while the orchestra performs a medley of movie scores that includes music from Harry Potter, Fantasia, Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. Mozart’s 21st piano concerto is the score from the movie Elvira Madigan.

The ISO has never planned such a family-friendly performance, said Wing.

At the Movies is an attempt to welcome more young people and their parents into the ISO fold. The international symphony has been focusing on building a younger audience in both Canada and the U.S. for several years with summer youth programs and youth performances at its new ISO Bar on Christina Street.

At the Movies will kick off with a video produced by The Journal’s Troy Shantz who interviewed about a dozen singers and musicians about their favourite films and scores.

“We are so excited for this show,” said Wing.  “We think our audience will really enjoy it.”


WHAT: At the Movies featuring Anthony Wing and Ann Lemke

WHEN: Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22.   7:30 p.m. both nights.

WHERE: Northern High School in Port Huron Friday and The Imperial Theatre Saturday.

TICKETS? $39 (adults); $37(seniors); $14 (students and children). At or call 519-337-7775.

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