A musical illustration of “you can go home again” will take place at the YM-YWHA of Union County on Sunday, March 18, when pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti — along with her duo partner Benita Meshulam — will present their “Four Hands One Piano” concert.
Brewster Franzetti’s roots at the Y are strong. The facility’s official name, the Harry Lebau Jewish Center, honors her late grandfather, who served as executive director for 37 years and was instrumental in raising the funds for the building’s construction on Green Lane in Union in 1966.
In the next generation, Brewster Franzetti’s parents are both past presidents of the organization — Ruth Lebau Brewster, the first woman president (1975-77) and Harold Brewster (1985-87) — and the Elizabeth residents are active members and supporters of the greater Jewish community.
The significance of her performance at the Y is not lost on the Grammy-nominated musician. “Of course it means the world to me to perform in a building and community that meant so much to my grandparents and parents and which they were all such an important part of,” Brewster Franzetti told NJJN by phone from her home in Cranford.
“The family connections are really deep,” she said. “I say hello to my grandparents’ plaque every time I’m there.”
Brewster Franzetti said she has fond memories of performing at the Y with her mother, a singer, at the dedication of the building when she was a little girl and has played there several times since.
She is particularly looking forward to the March 18 gig because she and Meshulam — both Grammy Award-nominated artists who partner professionally as Two 2 Tango — plan to offer a program “with something in it that everyone will recognize.”
Described by Brewster Franzetti as “a fun and novel format that most people have never seen before,” the hour-long piano recital will feature the two women performing a range of musical pieces orchestrated for two pianists on one piano.
The works performed will represent a range of composers, including George Gershwin, Moritz Moszkowski, and Arnold Schoenberg (who arranged Rossini’s famous “Barber of Seville Overture” for two pianos) as well as Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge. “We’ve chosen a lot of dance-related pieces for this program and a mix of both well-known and lesser-known pieces so there’s something for everyone to enjoy,” said Brewster Franzetti, who serves as concert artist of piano at Kean University.
The orchestration of works performed by two people playing on one instrument “requires a different skill set altogether,” she said, “one where you need to be sensitive to what the other person is doing to avoid a ‘traffic jam.’”
One performer will control the pedals, one will turn the pages, and the two will often switch places at the piano as they play different pieces. “It’s an art form in and of itself, one that’s both fun to do and to watch,” she said.
“Four Hands One Piano” is cosponsored by the Y and the Union County Section of the National Council of Jewish Women with support from a HEART (History, Education, Arts Reaching Thousands) grant, a Board of Freeholders program that helps fund initiatives in the arts and humanities in Union County.
“We’ve known of Allison’s tremendous talent for many years; in addition to offering wonderful music,” said Susan P. Coen, NCJW spokesperson and program coordinator. “When it came to creating an interesting program in the community, the connection to Allison was irresistible.”