Blind Pianist Brings “That Swing” To Benefit Concert At Galilee

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Often remade by artists including Rod Stewart, Harry Connick Jr. and Lady Gaga, time-honored songs like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” belong to what is affectionately known as The Great American Songbook and seem to reach every generation.

On April 28 at 6:30pm, Galilee Lutheran Church will host professional pianist Otis Stroup, who will perform a selection of classics most listeners will recognize while adding his own twist of jazz, audience rapport, and variations from the upbeat, boogie-woogie sounds of the Tin Pan Alley genre. All proceeds go to Lutheran Mission Society and Augsburg Homes to support the needs of people living in the Baltimore/Annapolis area.

Knowing how talented her younger brother Stroup is, Kay Klovstad wanted to serve her women’s group, Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), in a way that utilizes her fundraising background for the greater good.

“I don’t have any musical talent or any kind of talent that way,” explained Klovstad, “but I do enjoy getting things together and getting them going for the benefit of somebody else.”

Stroup was highly influenced by the old-time honky-tonk piano sounds of boogie-woogie music his mother often played when he was a child. He eagerly began studying the classical piano at the age of 9. Stroup maintained his classical training as he branched out on his own to play Top 40 music throughout his teens, after which he discovered the distinctive sounds of Tin Pan Alley — and he hasn’t looked back.

“Once I discovered that, I was kind of hooked,” Stroup said. “I liked it because it had really great melodies … it had harmonies that were very interesting, that were rather complex, and I enjoyed that very much.”

Between 1920 and 1950, New York City was a melting pot of creative collaboration, setting a precedence of music played onstage in theater and on the screen in film. While not a tangible book, the collection of the most popular songs from this time coined the salutation The Great American Songbook. Stroup is known for integrating the musical charm of that day into an interactive performance.

Past audience member and current event volunteer Pat Archibald appreciates that while Stroup a professional pianist, he’s also funny and engaging. Klovstad also acknowledged that audiences are energized during Stroup’s performances. Stroup’s focus, however, is to be a sort of conduit of music for audiences to simply enjoy.

“The ideal,” explained Stroup, “is to be totally engaged in the music and totally detached from it so that the performer doesn’t get too much in the way. … I hope that the audience feels like something has been shared with them.”

Tickets $15 each and a reception sponsored by Thrivent Financial will follow the performance. For concert information, contact Galilee Lutheran Church at 410-255-8236 or visit www.glcpasadena.org. To learn more about the many services of Lutheran Mission Society, visit www.compassionplace.org. For details about the senior services of Augsburg Homes, visit www.augsburg.org.

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