Backstage at Carnegie Hall – what it’s REALLY like!

posted in: Blog 12

Last week I had the distinguished opportunity to perform at Weill Recital Hall inside Carnegie Hall. I’ve performed in many concert and recital halls, but this was to be my debut at one of the world’s most famous piano-performance venues.

I was performing as a nominee for “Solo Piano Album of the Year” (Enlightened Piano Radio). Weill Recital Hall is an intimate and elegant space which seats 268 people. The hall was beautiful. A huge chandelier hung overhead. The piano was a beautiful and meticulously maintained Steinway “D”.

I was ushered backstage through a series of corridors – some of which were lined with framed letters from previous performers (whoa! there’s one from Franz Lizst!). I found myself at a large glassed security station before being escorted to the elevator which would carry me to the backstage area.

Carnegie doesn’t allow filming, video or recording, so unfortunately the performance itself now lives only in my mind (and those in the audience). I did, however, capture a bunch of photos backstage and after the show which I hope give a clearer picture of what it’s REALLY like to perform at Carnegie Hall!

Here I am outside Carnegie with my pal and fellow-performer Doug Hammer. We’re pointing to our event at Carnegie’s 7th Avenue entrance:IMG_3103











Here’s the entrance “backstage” to Will Recital Hall. There are two green rooms on the left with a bathroom in-between. BTW – the green rooms each have a wonderful Steinway upright piano. There’s a flat-screen TV so you can watch a live stage-feed:

Carnegie backstage 2












Hanging backstage with Doug Hammer (and awesome ‘photo-bomber’ Tim Neumark!):

Carnegie backstage









Everyone I know fights pre-performance jitters. I guess “Carnegie Hall” can be pretty intimidating. My hands often get cold/clammy – which makes playing piano difficult. Thanks to a suggestion from my friend Joe Bongiorno – 10mg of Propranolol about an hour before performing has been a help:

Carnegie backstage 5







Here I am hanging with my pal Cathy Oakes just prior to going on stage:

Carnegie Cathy Backstage











“Mr. Girouard, it’s time!”…Here’s the stairway leading to the stage:

Carnegie backstage 4











Here I am waiting at the sound/video booth (the one in the vest) – I’m up Next! The entrance to the stage is on the right (you can just see the hand of the Carnegie Stage Manager who kept things running smoothly):

Carnegie backstage 3









Live video feed to know when to enter the stage (from this view, the stage entrance is on the right just behind the dais):

Carnegie from backstage monitor









The door opens…

From the moment I walked on stage, I felt right at home… There were so many pieces I wanted to play – but I only had 5 minutes. I knew I wanted to play something from the nominated album…. but, what to play?

In the end, I opted for a Gary Girouard “Mashup” – which featured two pieces from my nominated album (“Water” and “Time“), “Aurora’s Bed” (from “Light & Dark“), and “Invictus”(from upcoming “Transitions” album) – each theme to be connected through a brief improvisation. Position the bench. Deep Breath. Exhale. Close eyes… And.. play….
A view from the audience (this is a stock-photo found on Google – not me at the piano – remember, photos aren’t allowed during performances):

Weill Hall 3








…as I finished my piece, I could hear my heartbeat. I opened my eyes and played the final notes. Wow, what a rush! The acoustics were meticulous. The piano itself was extremely responsive – very light and feathery touch – and the piano “opened up” very quickly. This made it easy for me to transition from soft, intimate passages to louder, aggressive sections. The ebony keys in particular were wonderfully tactile. Time and space had disappeared as I entered the world of piano like I had never experienced.. and now….A wonderful applause was waiting 🙂   Truly a performance I will never forget.

Photos aren’t allowed during the show, and I was anxious to capture this moment just after the show with my lovely lady 🙂

Carnegie post show 2











Here’s another Post-show shot with Mom & Dad – my biggest fans!:

Carnegie after concert












I walked out of Carnegie with a glow. It was one of the most amazing and memorable experiences to this point in my life. I’ve worked SO hard to get here – and it was truly a reward. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” – “PRACTICE!”. This is so true.

Leave your comments below – I enjoy hearing from you 🙂

12 Responses

  1. Joey Attenborough
    | Reply

    Really pleased for you Gary. You’ve captured the experience well in your blog. Sounds Awesome! Lots of hard work to get there but it can pay off. 🙂

    • pianoxcape
      | Reply

      Thanks Joey!

  2. Cathy Oakes
    | Reply

    EXCELLENT description, Gary!!!! You captured the experience perfectly!! And the RUSH!!! OMGOSH!!!! It took 2 or 3 days after getting home for me to realize that it was REAL!!! It wasn’t just some amazing dream!!! It was an honor and a privilege to share that hallowed stage with you, my friend!

    • pianoxcape
      | Reply

      Thanks Cathy… how about that great photo of you and I??? I love it!!! It was such a thrill to perform with so many wonderful artists – and you and the EPR board just ROCK!!! 🙂

  3. Margery Pearl Gurnett
    | Reply

    Thanks for the sneak peak backstage. I was thinking of you the whole day! I am so glad you played Invictus… It is so powerful and a memorable piece. I can’t wait for your next cd and what follows that! You keep composing… I’ll keep being a fan and friend..
    Congrats Gary

    • pianoxcape
      | Reply

      Thanks Margy – we missed you at the show – but you were there in spirit! So glad to be on this “creative” journey together 🙂

  4. Lorraine Nielsen
    | Reply

    I can only imagine you there (well deserved) playing and being transported to a high level of euphoria. So happy for you. Looking forward to your new CD. All the best to you.

    • pianoxcape
      | Reply

      Thanks Lorraine! it was a magical experience indeed 🙂

  5. Alan Brigish
    | Reply

    Gary, thanks for sharing. You inspire me with your talent and your modesty. Looking forward to your Martha’s Vineyard debut this Sunday.

    • pianoxcape
      | Reply

      Thanks Alan!!! I’m looking forward to our wonderful DVD collaboration “VineyardZen” – hopefully we’ll have this added on this website soon. See you Sunday at our MV performance 🙂

  6. Hilary Baird
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing, I will be doing a 3 hour solo there on June 28th of 2017, what advice can you give me?

    • pianoxcape
      | Reply

      Hi Hillary – nice to (virtually) meet! Congratulations on your upcoming performance at Carnegie – what a wonderful achievement. The only advice I could offer is to enjoy it. Be in the moment. Take LOTS of photos (wherever they allow you – be sure you check with them first as they are quite serious about when/where you can take photos). Soak it all in. And when you finally touch the keys, just disappear and let your music flow. I’m sure it’s going to be an AMAZING experience no matter what. Wishing you much success and abundance 🙂 – Gary

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