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Posted on Fri, Jul. 01, 2005


Neighbors: Thompsons enjoy sharing their music



In our "Neighbors" series, we give you a personal look at the people who are serving your community. If you would like to nominate someone for this column, contact Tanya Rose at 925-779-7139 or e-mail trose@cctimes.com.

Name: Eric and Catherine Thompson

Age: Both are 39

Residence: Brentwood

Education: Degrees from San Francisco State.

Occupation: Professional pianists who perform regularly around the Bay Area. They just formed Piano Duo Polyhymnia, which is the formal name of their enterprise. Catherine also teaches music at Los Medanos College and teaches home piano lessons. And Eric teaches and works as a computer consultant.

Family: The Thompsons are married, and have a 4-year-old daughter, Lea.

Background: They open their home to local residents, and for $12 apiece, patrons get complimentary wine and "nibbles," along with a classical music concert. The Thompsons have been hosting recitals in their home for some time -- just for friends -- and have decided to take it to another level. Last Saturday, they had 46 patrons in their living room, listening as the Thompsons played Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak -- and the list goes on. Sometimes they play duets, and sometimes they play on two pianos at the same time.

"We've been doing this for about 10 years," said Eric Thompson, "where people could come and read poetry or play an instrument and there would be an audience. Now, we give it an official name."

They'd like to play other venues, too, but both say they like the intimacy with the audience that comes with playing in a living room.

What do you think people will get out of this? "This is a way to make music, especially classical music, a little less stiff and formal," said Eric. "We like the idea of bringing the music to people in a comfortable atmosphere. For example, when we play, we tell some stories in between songs, maybe give a little history on the piece. And if someone coughs or talks a little, no one's going to glare at you like they would in a more formal setting."

What is the format? "Both of us play solos and then duets, and then play on two pianos. People will get a lot of variety," Catherine said. "Also, we plan on doing this every few months, so we have time to come up with a different program each time. We'd like it to be fresh and interesting. We tell jokes and tell stories, which brings us closer to the audience."

Why is this important, in this day and age? "I think that in America in particular, there's been a tendency to ignore our cultural past and toss it all off for popular culture," Eric said. "So what we're doing is trying to give people access and a certain understanding of classical music. Kids want to hear rock 'n' roll and that's fine, but as we get older, we should have access to everything."

What's important about live performances? "With new recording technology, you never hear anything with mistakes and that, in a way, takes away from the intimacy," Eric said. "There's also something about interaction with an audience that you don't get with a CD or even with a large audience, like in an arena."

How did the Saturday concert go? "Fantastic," Catherine said. "We're already planning one for November. We also play regularly at the college (LMC) and other places."

How can people reach you? Call 925-513-7156.

-- Tanya Rose





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