This article from the Daily Herald covered my collaboration with the students of Glenbard South High School in 1999. The concert was one aspect of the publicity I did for the release of Deja Views. The paper called it Celebration of Creativity
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PIANIST KEN PEDERSEN CELEBRATING “SPRING SOLSTICE” AND NEW DEJA VIEWS CD WITH 4/21 CONCERT IN GLEN ELLYN FEATURING HIS TRADEMARK “PARAMETER IMPROVS”
Local pianist and composer Ken Pedersen, known for his innovative “Parameter Improvs,” will celebrate his new nationally-released album, Deja Views, with “A Spring Solstice Concert: A Celebration of Hope” on Wednesday, April 21, 7:30 p.m. at the Glenbard South High School Auditorium in Glen Ellyn, Park Avenue and Butterfield Road (use Entrance 6). Tickets are $3 and are available at the door or by calling Symark Records in advance at 630-545-0776 or 800-616-0299.
“Of course, there is no such thing as a ‘spring solstice’,” states Pedersen, “because the official solstices come in the winter and summer. But spring is a special time of the year when hope is rekindled as warmth and rains bring nature’s rebirth with blossoms and greenery. A solstice is a turning point so we have declared a Spring Solstice as a time to both celebrate as well as reflect on what has gone before and what the future holds.”
Pedersen’s contemporary instrumental music bridges between the formal elements of classical, the peace and repose of “new acoustic,” and the improvisatory nature of jazz. In his concert he will perform his solo piano compositions and will collaborate on-stage with Chicago musical theatre actor and singer Allan Chambers. In addition, as part of his effort to involve each community in his shows, Pedersen also will perform with wind and string instrumentalists
from Glenbard South High School (most are Illinois Music Educator Association winners). Pedersen, who was born in the area and lives in Glen Ellyn, is a former president/boardmember of School District 89 (the K-8 district that feeds Glenbard South).
The concert will feature material from Pedersen’s just-released Deja Views CD — “Memory Awakened,” “Birth of Hope,” “Mind Candy,” “Reunion,” “Reminiscence,” and “Quest.” Each tune explores one of life’s major experiences. Although these pieces were written by Pedersen, he used famous classical melodies — by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, Dvorak, Schumann and Chopin — as the jumping off point for his own compositions. “I tried to capture both the essence of what is great about classical music, but also what listeners today enjoy about contemporary instrumental music with its exploration, freshness and vitality.”
He also will perform material from his first album, Walden, which celebrated Henry David Thoreau’s book of the same name and the natural splendor of Walden Pond. Additionally Pedersen will present material written specially for his high school guest performers.
Pedersen will perform at least two “Parameter Improvs” (structured improvisations) at the concert. This is a technique he has been developing over the past two decades. Always popular with concert-goers, parameter improvs are spontaneous compositions based upon audience suggestions, such as a nature image, an emotion or an idea. Other times Pedersen puts numbers in a hat (the numbers correspond to tones on the musical scale) and has audience
members draw them out. Using these randomly-selected notes as the basis for his parameter improv, he leaps into the unknown developing the main melody and counter-melodies as he goes.
“It’s a challenge to create improvised pieces in which the audience sets the parameters,” explains Pedersen. “However, the audience enjoys them and it also gives them a framework in which to interpret my playing. Parameter suggestions can vary widely. At my Walden concert in Boston last year, one of the suggestions was ‘Thoreau riding a mountain bike around Walden Pond.’ Now that’s a parameter! Creativity works best when there are limits, and setting limits helps me build structure into a piece.”
Allan Chambers, who will join Pedersen onstage, is a well-known Chicago-area musical theatre performer and director. His recent roles include Olizar (“the angel of death”) in “Fat Tuesday” at the New Tuners Theatre, and Jean Peghulla in “The House of Martin Guerre” at The Goodman Theatre.