Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - January 31, 2014

'Songs of Longing and Belonging'

Mother-son duo offering a unique musical experience

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

In a program sure to delight the ears of music lovers, classical harpist Dominique Piana and tenor Greg Allen Friedman will perform songs both well-known and unusual at the Firehouse Arts Center in two weeks. The concert is titled "Songs of Longing and Belonging, a Unique Art Song Experience."

The Cantabella Honors Choir, directed by Eileen Chang, will be featured as an opening act with works by Mendelssohn, Britten, Bardos and Shin. Then, Piana and Friedman have chosen beloved classics of the lied and melodie repertoire, normally for voice and piano, offset by original works with harp accompaniment that Piana has rediscovered and republished.

Dominique Piana grew up outside of Brussels, Belgium, the oldest of six children in a musical family where singing was loved above all. She studied piano as a girl, then majored in harp at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels.

In an earlier interview she said she believes classical music is God's gift to the world.

"It's how he teaches us about beauty, goodness and aspirations to the highest of human values, such as love," she said.

What appealed to her most about playing the harp was the idea of touching the strings directly.

"With the harp, you do it all yourself with your fingertips," she explained.

"It's hard to get respect for the harp as a classical instrument that has something to say," she added. "It can express as much as a piano, a violin or a cello about the feelings and values of the human experience."

In the United States, Piana was invited to study with master teacher Susann McDonald in Los Angeles, earned her M.A. at Claremont Graduate University, and taught as Adjunct Professor of Harp at the University of Redlands until 2001. She has toured her poetic program, "The Romantic Spirit," throughout the Western states.

After moving to Pleasanton in 2001, Dominique founded the Pleasanton Chamber Players with the help of the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council and joined the faculty at Holy Names University. She has released three CDs, writes musicological articles, edits and publishes music through her company Harpiana Publications and has been listed in the International Who's Who in Music since 1990.

Tenor Greg Allen Friedman, Piana's son, started taking singing lessons with Pleasanton voice teacher Sarah Franklin while at Foothill High School. He went on to earn music performance degrees at San Francisco State University and from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where he performed the role of Icarus/Young Boy in the Chicago premiere of Daron Hagen's 2010 opera, "Amelia."

Friedman is currently training with master teacher Cesar Ulloa in San Francisco, and coaches with Erie Mills whenever possible. Greg began transitioning from baritone to tenor three years ago, and his wide ranged and expressive voice is uniquely suited to the subtleties of art song.

Among the classics on the program are Schubert's folk song-like Heidenroslein, Schumann's beloved Widmung, Dvorak's haunting "Songs My Mother Taught Me," and the luscious wedding song Morgen Richard Strauss dedicated to his wife.

Schumann wrote a set of Byron Lieder (or Hebrew Songs) for the harp, and at the end of the classical era, when the popularity of the harp equaled the piano's, many songs were written "for piano or harp." A prime example from that period is the dramatic ...Úlegie by Reichardt, a Kapellmeister to three Prussian kings who was one of the first lieder composers.

These are the types of music that Piana excels at undercovering and presenting to other music lovers. She believes that among musical instruments, none is more personal than the human voice, and this intimate and unique art song concert promises a full program with perspectives from the personal to the universal.

Art-song experience

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