I had the opportunity to work with another young and talented musician this past weekend at the First Presbyterian Church in Wilkes-Barre. Christopher's father was showing me a video on his phone a few weeks ago of his son playing the Steinway Baby Grand piano during a recital. Not only was Christopher extremely talented, this little guy was very determined, focused, and calm. How would I know he was calm from a cell phone video? Easy... Christopher was one of the few kids in the recital to use the foot pedals, and apparently the facilitators didn't think it was necessary to lock down the wheels, so the Steinway started rolling away from Christopher as he was playing. He just rolled with it and finished his piece. I don't know for certain, but I think it was Fur Elise, a favorite of mine!
Upon seeing this video, discussions immediately turned to a photo session of Christopher on the Baby Grand, and the next thing I know, we were hauling camera and lighting gear into the church on a Sunday afternoon!
The young musician remained pretty quiet around Heather and I, occasionally watching us set up stands and lights with a slight turn of his head. I got a few smiles out of him. A few head nods. And later a few almost giggles. But mostly, he was just focused on playing the piano. He handled himself like a professional the entire time. If we needed to adjust the boom arm that was hanging over him, he would follow my direction, get up, walk back to his parents, and return as soon as I asked. And would immediately resume playing some complex pieces on the piano.
We moved lights around and worked in as many looks as we could in the amount of time we had to work with. Christopher just kept on playing, and playing very, very well. There we were. Working. Moving lights around. Camera over here. Camera over there. Christopher just kept playing. Who else can say they had a chance to work on location while someone played classical piano music the entire time? A camera gets you access to some cool places, wonderful people, and magical sublime moments.
I needed to shoot over or through the body of the piano, so we needed to lower the sheet music stand above the keys. I was curious how Christopher would handle this as up until this point he was working from his sheets. It didn't faze him in the least. If anything, the music became more fluid and elegant. I think the sheets were slowing him down.
I told him that he had more musical talent and ability in his pinky finger than I had in my whole body. Well, the little wise guy then started playing with only his pinky fingers. Sigh... Gabby tried to teach me Heart and Soul once. I think I had to learn 5 keys. In spite of her penciling in the sequence on the keys, and even writing it on the back of my hand, I still couldn't get it. And here I'm being elegantly mocked by a miniature Beethoven.
We were starting to run out of time for our shoot and we had gone through several looks and angles and lighting set ups, and then I had the stroke of obvious genius-- don't fire the flash in the piano... PUT the flash in the piano! In these last two shots, Heather is standing camera left with a gridded speedlight keeping it on the pianist as he moved about behind the keys, there is a 24" softbox boomed right above Christopher, and down in front of me, in the body of the piano is another speedlight giving us that beautiful warm glow out of the body of the Steinway. It might sound silly, but I feel like if classical music had a color, that's it right there. Probably because it's the same warm tone of so many string instruments.
When everything was done, the cars packed, the doors locked, and the music was over... the quiet little pianist gave me five.
Thanks for stopping by!