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Clarksville: Tickling the ivories, dueling pianos concert unites family

From left, Marianne Lauffer, Heather Adelsberger, Molly Orlando and Peter Lauffer all will be performing in Family Meeting: Dueling Pianos on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church in Clarksville.
From left, Marianne Lauffer, Heather Adelsberger, Molly Orlando and Peter Lauffer all will be performing in Family Meeting: Dueling Pianos on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church in Clarksville. (HANDOUT)

When two local families donated grand pianos to the St. Louis Catholic Church in Clarksville, the idea for a concert was born. Heather Adelsberger, the artistic director of the church’s concert series, was no stranger to innovative ways to incorporate pianos into performances. In fact, she earned her master’s degree in collaborative piano.

She actually was exposed to the wonder of duo pianos at a much earlier age. Adelsberger grew up in a family of church musicians in central New Jersey. Her parents devoted their careers to a variety of musical pursuits from piano teacher to jazz piano player but their pairing as a duo piano team is particularly notable.

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Adelsberger seized the opportunity to put together a performance that utilized both donated instruments while sharing her parents’ talents with the Clarksville area.

“It seemed like a great occasion to feature the instruments in a light concert,” Adelsberger said.

Family Meeting: Dueling Pianos will be held on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church, featuring husband and wife duo pianists Peter and Marianne Lauffer. A treat for the ears and the eyes, the concert combinations will include piano duets, with two players at one instrument, and piano duos, where two players each have their own instruments. To really make things interesting, one piece will be performed by eight hands at one piano.

The feature performance will be a special arrangement of Gershwin’s iconic “Rhapsody in Blue,” which will be played by father and daughter. Mother and daughter also will perform together. Additionally, Adelsberger will play with her duo partner of seven years, Molly Orlando, owner of Opal Music in Alexandria, Virginia. Other musicians will perform classical and pops selections on the grand pianos, composed and arranged for multiple pianos and keyboardists.

“It’s something I have always wanted to do,” Adelsberger said. “Watching my parents as duo partners, and marveling at them over the years, I am excited to get to do the concert with them.”

The Lauffers, who both came from musical families, shared their passion for music with their two daughters. Music was everywhere as Heather and her younger sister Shannon grew up.

“They listened to piano lessons while eating dinner, Marianne Lauffer said. "They sat at the top of the stairs listening to Peter rehearse with his bands. They sang in Peter’s church choirs on Sundays while I accompanied. They came to all of the concerts. They took music lessons at Westminster Conservatory of Music all the way through high school. Heather was the pianist, Shannon the violinist. These were joyful years of making music together and sharing this special bond as a family. With four pianos in the home, no one had to stand in line to practice.”

Peter and Marianne, who met while studying at the Indiana University School of Music, credit their pursuit of playing duo piano to one of Peter’s former teachers. After marrying, the couple was invited to teach at Westminster Choir College. The conservatory’s director, Louise Cheadle, who was a frequent performer with her husband Bill, encouraged Peter and Marianne to do the same. They have been making music together for more than 40 years.

“The opportunity to play with others is a very joyful experience,” Marianne Lauffer said.

Today Adelsberger carries on the family “business” by serving as an organist, choral conductor and music educator in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. She holds an undergraduate degree in piano performance from the Catholic University of America and a master of music from the University of Maryland. Her parents joined her in performing at both of her graduation concerts.

She previously served as director of music at St. Louis. Under her guidance, the concert series has expanded its repertoire, increased its audience and gained a reputation as a vibrant member of the arts scene in Howard County.

For more information about the piano concert, which is free and open to the public, go to stlconcertseries.org.

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