Two pianist prodigies to play classical Carnival of the Animals


Nolan Anthony joins Christopher Tavernier in Carnival of the Animals, the fourth annual World Masterwork Series. Tavernier previously played with his instructor and mentor, Dr. John Cobb, but now welcomes another teen.

In addition, they are accompanied by Masterwork Chamber Players’ nine-piece ensemble of string, woodwind and percussion.

Further, the multi-media aspect goes beyond music and big-screen imagery, with live narration of wild animal visual scenes for what organizer Bob Tavernier (Christopher’s father) calls a “fun feel of a carnival.” The two young men have dapper attire, with top hats and tuxedos as if ringmasters.

The Music Foundation of Western North Carolina, Freeburg Pianos in Hendersonville, Perzina Pianos and WNC Woman Magazine help sponsor the concert in the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3. Once again, the host is 35-year WLOS-TV anchor Darcel Grimes.

This event routinely sells out. Over three-fourths (395 of 514) seats were sold out by Sunday, leaving 119 available, organizer Bob Tavernier said.

He noted how ticket revenue fully benefits Mission Healthcare Foundation’s Ladies Night Out Program, which provides at no charge mammograms and health screenings for uninsured or underinsured Asheville-area women.

“It feels great” to help others, said Nolan, who has done piano benefits for Calvary Episcopal Food Pantry. He has worked as organist of Trinity United Methodist Church in West Asheville for four years, officially for two years.

Nolan placed second in the Carolina Youth Symphony (CYS) Piano Concerto Competition two years ago. This March, he performed with CYS at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The home-schooled rising junior is excited to play piano in the premier Wortham venue, and with Christopher.

Christopher called the mammogram benefit a “great opportunity to give back to the community and help create something wonderful in a collaborative effort with music.” The rising Hendersonville High School sophomore is eager to again “give people a wonderful night of music.”

He is the first-ever International Perzina Artist. In June, he was a semifinalist in an international piano competition in Iowa. Christopher, 16, was among merely three Americans who qualified for the field of 14. Slotted 12th in order, he relaxed while waiting by chatting with competitors. “I talked about pretty much everything except music.”

Christopher plays solo in Playhouse Downtown in Hendersonville Sept. 25 at 2 p.m. Then he does benefit concerts for Hendersonville Community Theatre (HCT), Jan. 14-15 at 4 p.m. in HCT. He performs separate programs each day, the second one jazzier with a clarinet player.

As is his tradition, on Sept. 3 he tackles new material with precision and reaching a frenzied pace. “Everything is very high energy,” Christopher said. “While some pieces may have their moments of rest, it’s still very exciting.”

In the first portion, the duo plays piano solos by legendary composers. Then comes musical Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) in 1886. It has 14 movements. Most (ten) are piano duets. Each is about a different wild or farm animal. They are in order: the lion, rooster and hen, jackass, turtle, elephant, kangaroo, fish, mule, cuckoo, birds, pianists, fossils, swan and the finale.

“Wild and strange creatures emerge, and hilarious antics ensue,” Bob Tavernier said. “We create the scene artistically. Each piece reflects the story,” like a play scene. The carnival story is of a boy dreaming, while asleep in the the National Museum of Natural History in D.C.

Joining the music, voice-over artist Ron Whittemore reads humorous verses of poets Ogden Nash and Bruce Adolphe. Bob Tavernier modernized some lines, such as about cable TV. One line is how Kangaroos “jump really high and learn how to box; in fact, there are quite a few kangaroo jocks.”

“This is a great opportunity and exposure for Nolan,” Debra Anthony said of her son’s concert, “and to perform with Christopher. They’re having a great time, doing the duets together.” They have practiced the program together twice a week at the Tavernier house, which has two pianos, since February.

Nolan Anthony said “I really enjoy doing these duets.” To synchronize timing, “you have to hear the other player” and when he is about to finish his portion by memorizing both players’ portions. Nolan said he might glance to Christopher when concluding, as a signal.

Nolan is proud that “when Christopher plays fast paces, I keep up with him. He’s like a mechanical machine that beats,” with such precision.

Nolan has played piano for 10 years, since October 2006 when he was age six. He turns 17 in November. He is the sole child of musicians Jim and Debra Anthony of Mountain Home. Both parents grew up in Michigan — as did Bob Tavernier. Nolan was born in Asheville, and moved to here at age four. He grew this year to six feet, two inches tall.

Debra is a violinist in the Asheville Symphony (AS). The Oberlin Conservatory alumnus teaches strings privately, and in Fletcher Academy for the past six years. She was her son’s initial music teacher.

Jim Anthony plays clarinet and saxophone — often in the Asheville Jazz Orchestra and Flat Rock Playhouse or Asheville Community Theatre show orchestras.

“It’s so much fun” to grow up in a musical family, Nolan said. “I’m proud they’re musicians.” He values their counsel. “I can figure out what I’m doing wrong.” Debra said “he asks for help at times, such as if he’s achieved his goal. But now, I’m mostly the cheerleader at home, supporting him.”

Nolan was intrigued by various-sized church organs his mother showed him, for how they vary in pipe sounds and acoustics. He plays piano, organ, and viola. AS’ principal violist Kara Poorbaugh instructs him on viola, Kyle Ritter on organ, and Karen Sams Clark on piano. Clark pushes him to perfect pieces, Debra observed.

“He’s definitely more focused on detail, the technical aspect,” Debra said. “It takes much more than playing through it a couple of times. It can be frustrating working on nitty gritty details. Four years ago, after playing a piece for six weeks he’d tired of it and wants to move on. Now, he’s perfecting Carnival of Animals.”

Nolan has performed at four American Organ Guild events and three organ recitals, in the last year, in CYS’ viola section since 2010 and on piano for CYS as needed. He performs in schools and retirement centers, and with strings in Fletcher Academy Chapel recitals. This was his third year in Furman’s Summer Keyboard Institute. A year ago, he was WLOS-TV’s “Person of the Week.”

Debra home-schools him. “I like U.S. history, geography and science” best, Nolan said. At home “Nolan controls the stereo,” his mother said with a chuckle. His favorites range from Bach to Alison Krauss’ bluegrass. His favorite numbers include Dan Forrest’s choral, celebratory “Requiem for the Living.”

Seating Sept. 3 is general admission. Tickets are again extra-affordable, at $10.17 including tax. To buy tickets online, go to:

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