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'Ten Grands' concert supports music ed

COURTESY PHOTOS: PETER VAN HOUTEN - Its quite a spectacle when pianists and 10 grand pianos fill the stage for the Ten Grands event (above), founded by Michael Allen Harrison. Ten Grands on the Green takes place on an Aloha golf course July 25.Michael Allen Harrison’s Ten Grands stands as one of Portland’s unique events, annually filling a concert hall the past 15 years with the majesty, sound and intensity of 10 pianists and their 10 grand pianos in specially arranged music.

This summer, for the first time, it’ll be held outdoors — on a golf course. Ten Grands on the Green takes place 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25, at The Reserve Vineyard and Golf Club, 4805 S.W. 229th Ave., in Aloha. Harrison, star pianist Tom Grant and vocalist Julianne Johnson highlight the show, and ex-Trail Blazer broadcasting great Bill Schonely serves as emcee. (For information and tickets, see tengrandsonthegreen.com).

Near the No. 1 tee box and fairway and No. 18 green and clubhouse will be a huge stage with the Yamaha and Bosendorfer grands, four 9-footers and six 7-footers. Harrison, the native Portlander who has established himself as one of the city’s most prominent musicians, has always wanted to stage a second Ten Grands event outside. And it’s finally happening.

Harrison said the sound will be great, with extra speakers and a state-of-the-art sound system used.

Among the songs: “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” an arrangement for the theme to “Downton Abbey,” an epic 10-piano rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing,” Johnson accompanying 10 pianos for “House of the Rising Sun,” and young pianists Ashley and Cayla doing “Let It Go” with 10 pianos and several string players.

Pro golfer and pianist Vincent Johnson, who lives in Portland, will be a featured guest, performing “Liebestraume” by Franz Liszt, and Sgt. Jim Quakenbush will perform an overture theme from “Star Wars” with 10 pianos.

Classic Pianos of Portland is again providing the grands for free, as well as moving and tuning them.

The event benefits Harrison’s Snowman Foundation, which has raised close to $3 million for music education and scholarships and instruments for young people in 15 years of putting on Ten Grands events, including in Seattle.

Participating in Ten Grands can be thrilling, just because of the arrangements and the synchronicity involved — and, again, the sheer volume and intensity.

Perhaps the most intense song is going to be “House of the Rising Sun,” which Johnson and 10 pianists performed at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in the most recent indoor Ten Grands concert.

“It brought the house down,” Harrison said. “It’s just an incredible sound. When we play it right, the sound just surrounds you.”

Johnson said singing at Ten Grands is similar to singing in front of an orchestra.

“There’s a swell of power,” she said, “and you can soar over the top of it.”

Grant said playing with nine other pianists, simultaneously, can be confusing.

But “it’s exhilarating when it clicks,” he said.

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