From Beethoven's 9th Symphony to George Winston's "The Cradle"
Casey often gets asked by fans and media what songs have moved him the most or influenced him the most. Of all his musical experiences he can narrow it down to a couple of moments that contributed to his decision to become a professional musician. It was his grandmother who got from Reader’s Digest a record of Beethoven’s 9th symphony which she gave Casey to listen to on her record player. The music blew Casey’s mind and forced him to ask his mother to get him lessons on any of the instruments that could get him to play what he heard. In his parent’s bedroom there was a Wurlitzer Electric Piano so Casey’s mother booked him piano lessons on Wednesday’s after school for 50 cents. His affection for the instrument kept growing and he decided to become a professional pianist. He decided to study music and piano.
It was during Casey’s university years that he was introduced to the music of the American pianist George Winston. Casey attended his first concert of George Winston in 1989 in Lynchburg Virginia, VA. Winston is considered the godfather of new age solo piano music but Winston prefers to describe his music as “rural folk piano”. George Winston was born 1949 in Michigan but grew up mainly in Montana as well as in Mississippi and Florida. In 1967 Winston began playing the organ but switched to acoustic piano after hearing recordings from the 1920s and 1930s by the legendary stride pianist Thomas “Fats” Waller and the late Teddy Wilson. In addition to working on stride piano he came up with his own melodic style of instrumental music on solo piano, called “rural folk piano”. He recorded in 1972 his first solo piano album but the most successful albums came from the 1980s and 1990s: “Autumn” (1980), “Winter Into Spring” (1982), “December” (1982), “Summer” (1991), “Forest” (1994) and many others.
On a rainy Monday night in half a full auditorium in October 1995 in Utica, NY, Casey attended another concert of Winston. Winston walked onto stage in his traditional socks-no-shoes and flannel shirt look, sat down at the piano and quietly announced “This is a song by Larry Young called “The Cradle”. It was the only time Casey remembers listening to a song and not breathing without realizing it. He caught his breath somewhere around measure 30. Casey was already working and playing concerts as a young pianist back then so he added the song from Winston’s album “Forest” to his own set list back in the 1990s.
After leaving the United States and moving to Europe, Casey played “The Cradle” the last time in Gdansk, Poland at “Il Taverna” in 1999. Casey stopped playing the song all those years because he did not personally experience the breathtaking awestruck feeling he experienced when Winston played it. Friday March 15th 2019 Casey played a concert in Berne, Switzerland and spontaneously added the song to the set list because a lady who was at the concert in Gdansk in 1999 was there in Berne too after all those years. Casey played the song out of fondness of the memory and as a tribute to his hero, main inspiration and friend George Winston whose music was crucial to shaping who Casey became as a composer and performer. George Winston’s music has always been and still is a great source of inspiration to Casey.
In October this year Casey returns to Upstate NY and plays some concerts. You can find the concert schedule here. More concerts will be added soon.