Famed pianist brings summer benefit concerts to Orient

08/11/2011 3:30 AM |


If you haven’t been to one of Steven Blier’s concerts in Orient, you’re in for a treat, says Orient Community Activities organizer Jane Smith.

“He was so wonderful last year, people are still talking about it,” Ms. Smith said.

He knows so much about the music and the composers, he’s able to entertain and engage his audiences, she said.

“I try to bring the audience in so they know what we’re doing and what to listen for,” said Mr. Blier, cofounder and artistic director of the New York Festival of Song and a teacher at Juilliard School of Music.

He will be bringing two programs he believes complement one another to Poquatuck Hall this summer for benefit concerts to raise money for the hall’s restoration and maintenance.

The first of Mr. Blier’s performances is Saturday, Aug. 13, at 8 p.m., when he will accompany Broadway star Darius De Haas in what they’re billing as “an intimate concert of songs” from their new album, “Quiet Please.”

The program will feature songs from the American musical theater and jazz standards from George Gershwin and Duke Ellington to Stevie Wonder and Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist Adam Guettel.

Mr. Blier’s career has included partnering in recitals with such luminaries as Renée Fleming, Jessye Norman and Cecilia Bartoli. His love for traditional American Broadway music has brought back some rarely heard songs by George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Kurt Weill and Cole Porter. And he has played ragtime, blues and stride piano evenings with composer and pianist John Musto.

Mr. De Haas has appeared in many Broadway productions, including Rent, Carousel, Dreamgirls, Hair and Fascinating Rhythm and has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center and London’s Royal Festival Hall.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, at 8 p.m., Mr. Blier returns with a diverse program of classical art songs, duets, arias and American popular songs performed by a cast of young artists.

The Poquatuck Hall audience is sophisticated, Mr. Blier said.

“The concerts have been intensely sweet experiences,” he said. It’s not surprising that after a bit of a nomadic summer existence spent in various locations, he and his fiancé Jim and a group of friends have settled into Orient in recent years, he said.

“We kind of move as a pack” and Orient became an area all agreed they liked.

Although Mr. Blier has been wheelchair-bound with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, “It has not stopped me from doing the things I want to do,” he said. “It’s made me very, very grateful to make music.” He acknowledges he sometimes has to work a little harder to perform, but agrees with Ms. Smith’s statement that “He’s happiest when he’s performing.”

Tickets for both concerts are $90 for a limited number of reserved seats or $50 for general admission. The cost for a single performance limited reserve seat is $50 or $30 for general seating. They’re available from Ms. Smith at 323-1378. Student discounts are available.

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Poquatuck Hall Benefit Concerts

Saturday, Aug. 13, 8 p.m.

Featuring Steven Blier and Darius de Haas

Saturday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m.

Featuring artists John Brancy, Corinne Winters, Kara Sainz and Peter Dugan

Reserved seat tickets for both concerts are $90 or $50 for a single concert

General seating is $50 for both concerts or $30 for a single concert

Call Jane Smith at 323-1378