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The Rural We: Lincoln Mayorga

Diners at the Blue Plate Restaurant in Chatham, New York may have seen and heard pianist Lincoln Mayorga perform there with bassist Otto Gardner on certain Wednesdays of the month. But they may not have realized that Mayorga is a world-renowned arranger, recording artist, producer, composer, and documentary filmmaker.  One of the leading studio pianists in Hollywood, the Los Angeles native was the staff pianist at Walt Disney Studios, performing on many soundtracks, and has toured extensively around the globe. A highlight of his career was being invited by the Moscow Philharmonic to perform both Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and “I Got Rhythm.” Mayorga moved to our part of the world in 1989.

I lived most of my life in LA, but moved here in 1989, when I was in my mid 50s. It was a desire for a life change. Things were changing in LA. There was less studio work employment, especially for pianists. Synthesizers were monopolizing the scene. I hated — and still hate — synthesizers. My close friend Arnold Steinhardt, who was principal violinist for the Guarneri Quartet — and a friend since seventh grade — had built a country house in East Chatham. I visited him for his housewarming and fell in love with the area. He said, “Lincoln, if you like this area, I believe the parcel next door is for sale.” I ended up buying the acreage, an emotional purchase. I built a small house on the 32 acres, then moved to it full time a few years later.

Getting involved with Community Concerts, an offshoot of Columbia Artists Management, enabled me to leave LA. Community Concerts organized audiences in close to a thousand towns all over the country. I played under their auspices for about 10 years, as many as 50 to 60 concerts a season. It kept me in shape, and gave me the independence to stop worrying about when I was going to get the next call.

Since I’ve been here I’ve done a lot of solo work as well as quite a bit of accompanying. I have some more recordings planned, including a piece called “Ragtime Fantasy” by jazz composer Dick Hyman. I’ve also written a mini piano concerto, “Angel’s Flight,” an homage to the motion picture idiom of film composing. It’s named for the funicular train in LA I used to ride with my dad. It’s dedicated to Los Angeles and those memories.

My film, “A Suitcase Full of Chocolate,” is about the life of Sofia Cosma, a prize-winning Jewish pianist, who, despite being sent to a Soviet prisoner of war camp for seven years during World War II, and losing her entire family in the Holocaust, went on to become one of the most celebrated pianists of Eastern Europe. After I heard about her story, I contacted her and she became one of my best friends. I got a team of film students to start working on a documentary about her. It was made over a period of 30 years, which actually strengthened the artistic quality — you see everyone age. There was a flurry of recognition early on, at FilmColumbia in Chatham, the New York State Performing Arts Center and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. I’d like to see it get more showings.

Recently I’ve put on a show of the music of Cole Porter, which we did at Proctors and the Spencertown Academy. And just last week I played for the opening of the new building at PS21.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/20/17 at 10:07 AM • Permalink