Fingerbreaker from St. Louis

6, 20, 21 and 29 July 2024
Stephanie Trick, Charl du Plessis and Rachel Harnisch

A holiday trip changed her life: In the hotel where Stephanie Trick and her family were staying, a pianist was playing background music in the lobby. It sounded so different from anything she had heard before. Stephanie Trick, born in 1987 in St. Louis, Missouri, started playing the piano when she was five years old. "I was so fascinated by this musician's playing that I asked her if she also gave lessons." And lo and behold, her heart's desire came true. The pianist from the hotel lobby became her piano teacher for the next 13 years.

Thanks to her musical talent, determination and diligence, the young pianist quickly made progress on her career path. Success was not long in coming. At the age of 19, Stephanie Trick was invited to the West Coast Rag Festival in Sacramento (CA). She performed a few pieces she was working on and took the opportunity to attend performances by other musicians. That's when she hears "Stride Piano" for the first time. "Stride Piano?" She doesn't know anything about it. Not yet. "I was thunderstruck."

Precision and ease
"Stride Piano" is a solo piano style from the early days of jazz based on ragtime. In contrast to ragtime, however, it is not composed, but lives from the art of improvisation. Pioneers of " Stride Piano" such as James P. Johnson and Willie 'The Lion' Smith created the virtuoso style in Harlem (New York) and Fats Waller developed it further. What characterises the style can not only be heard, but also seen: Alternating between bass notes and chords, the left hand bounces over half the keyboard while the right hand plays the melody over the wild leaps, decorating it with imaginative garlands and winding its way through the white and black keys.

Speed demands precision and ease. Stephanie Trick has mastered the art. Wherever she performs, she gives the audience a boost of freshness. She wants to make the audience happy, says the pianist. Her training has helped her to become what she is today: without classical training, she would never have acquired the technique to master the challenging musical style of "Stride Piano" , she says.

No danger of accidents
The American pianist often performs with her husband, Italian pianist Paolo Alderighi. Not so in Ernen: Trick will be performing as a soloist. Her programme includes everything your heart desires: from Thomas 'Fats' Waller's "Bach Up To Me", Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" to the famous "The Entertainer" or Duke Ellington's "Black Beauty".

In between, she will provide some surprises. How does the jazzy arrangement of Edward Grieg's "Anitra's Dance" or Jelly Roll Morton's "Fingerbreaker" from 1938 sound? By the way, the fact that Trick programmed this piece at the end is no cause for concern. The pianist has always survived the "Fingerbreaker" to this day without any accidents - and even played encores afterwards.

Rachel Harnisch returns to Ernen
In addition to Stephanie Trick, the audience favourites of recent years, South African pianist Charl du Plessis and his trio, as well as the celebrated soprano Rachel Harnisch, will also be performing a number of jazz evenings. Harnisch will be venturing into Spanish, French and Italian-speaking territories. The Charl du Plessis Trio will captivate the Ernen audience with a spectacular jazzy reinterpretation of Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" - from the freezing winter cold to the boiling hot summer.

On fire for Jazz in Ernen?

All details

Written in December 2023, by Marianne Mühlemann (translated by Jonathan Inniger)