Sunday, August 31, 2008

Two of a Kind


By Katie Erdman
Hancock Record

Adair Horgen (left) and Della Conroy share a love of piano duets and they’ll play plenty during their “Adair, Della and Friends” show Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Morris Area Concert Hall.

Adair Horgen (left) and Della Conroy share a love of piano duets and they’ll play plenty during their “Adair, Della and Friends” show Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Morris Area Concert Hall.

Born into a musical family, Adair Horgen has lived and breathed music all her life. For nearly 85 years, she has practiced, performed, composed, played and enjoyed music, especially piano music.

Adair took her first music lessons at age 7, but by then she had already been enjoying experimenting with her mother and father in their music. Her mother played the piano and her father the fiddle and later in life, the cello. It was easy for her to take to the music that was so much a part of her life.

Practicing the piano was often her first priority, never a chore. She would even use practice time to get out of other chores, like doing dishes. Her dedication led to a successful life filled with the joy of music.

After living and working in California most of her life, Adair and her husband moved to Morris 10 years ago to be near their daughter who was teaching at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

That move was one that would bring the beauty and joy of her music to this area, and to sharing her talents through an annual program called “Adair, Della and Friends.”

The fourth annual event, featuring the talents of Horgen, Della Conroy and other musical guests, is 7 p.m., Sept. 4, at the Morris Area Concert Hall.

Shortly after moving to Minnesota, Adair met Conroy and the two immediately struck up a friendship based on their mutual love of music.

While in California, Adair had started performing with another pianist in two-piano duets. She missed those times and asked Della if she would be willing to try it.

The Adair and Della combo was born. Since that time, the two have entertained many with the unique musical experience.

Playing a two-piano -- or, at times, two people at one piano -- duet is not an easy task. Before they even begin practice sessions, Adair spends hours re-composing the music to accommodate four hands. It is a precise process, not only to make it work technically but also harmoniously.

Della has never regretted joining Adair in her musical ventures. She was also raised in a musical family, agreeing with Adair that she often skipped out of chores just so she could practice.

However, Della’s devotion to her musical career was one of not only pleasure but necessity.

Her family owned a restaurant in Alberta and she learned to play an accordion her father purchased when she was in the third grade. She liked to entertain their customers occasionally in the restaurant.

Her 9th grade band director inspired her further pursuits in music. He encouraged her to learn piano. When he and his wife, who was the church organist, moved away, Della was quickly initiated as the church organist. Before she knew it, she was playing at three church services every Sunday and cleaning one of the churches. At $4 for each of the jobs, she was earning $16 each weekend.

Della enjoyed earning the extra money from something that gave her pleasure. As a reward, she purchased a horse with her hard earned cash. After graduating from high school, Della went on to college in Morris and majored in music. She took additional music lessons and learned from some of the best -- Eleanor Gay and Kay Carlson.

Della has taken that knowledge and passed it on to her piano students while continuing to serve as a church organist, a labor of love for 43 years. She recently retired from the organist duties and concentrates more on playing for fun.

One of these fun events started a few years ago when Della and Adair joined their musical fingers at the piano keys in a concert held on the Fourth of July at Della’s home in Hancock.

For several years, people would pack the house after the annual July 4 parade to listen to their duets of patriotic music. The event soon grew in size and eventually the duo decided to carry it a step further with the “Adair, Della and Friends’ concerts.

All proceeds from the program go to help fund the Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance. The music featured this year will include timeless tunes such as “Moon River,” “Blue Moon,” “Mapleleaf Rag” and “The Beer Barrel Polka.”

Another highlight will be “Stars and Stripes Forever,” which features four pianists -- eight hands on the two pianos. For the song, Adair and Della will be joined by Julia Conroy and Kris Miller.

The program will also include several other friends, not only on piano but singers, dancers and instrumentalists. Adair and Della have never had a problem finding the talent or even encouraging people to join them. Many people who have seen past programs come up to them later and ask if they can join in the next one. Some say that they love to just sit and listen while others would rather participate.

Whether listening or participating, they encourage people to join them in the fun and entertainment on Sept. 4. Adair added that she is thinking of retiring soon, maybe doing just one more concert next year. Then she will be passing on the piano, so to speak, and joining those who come out of these concerts smiling, laughing and simply happy to have spent an evening filled with talent and inspiration.

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