Frank Glazer shows us 99 is only a number

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What do Frank Sinatra, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, Orson Welles and Ingrid Bergman have in common with Frank Glazer, pianist and artist-in-residence at Bates College?

They were all born in 1915 — 99 years ago. But only Glazer is still performing.

Saturday night, in honor of his 99th birthday on Feb. 19, Glazer gave a two-hour concert of works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel and Chopin. And it was amazing.

His near century-old hands — the same hands that were playing music when Calvin Coolidge was president — still float effortlessly over the keys, producing beautiful, fluid music. Frank Glazer has been performing music for longer than most of you reading this have been alive.

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Glazer attributes his long performing career, in part, to the method of playing he developed based on his study of the anatomy of the hand. As he explains it, “I figured out how to do it with one muscle instead of three.” His “economical” method has stood him in better-than-good stead.

When he was 95 in 2010, Glazer told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he was in his artistic prime.

“I’m playing better than ever,” he said. “I feel I’ve worked all my life to get to this point. Now is not the time to quit.”

Though Glazer no longer plays from memory, the accompanying excerpt of the sheet music for Grand Polonaise brillante, Op. 22 by Frederic Chopin, the last piece Glazer played Saturday night, speaks for the complex task he performs with such ease and grace.

Glazer is still performing throughout the country (Google his name, you will see) and has performed, or is scheduled to perform, his challenging birthday program at several venues, including the Athenaeum in Boston. He frequently performs at colleges, taking time to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for the craft with students.

In 2012, at the age of 97, Glazer released a book entitled “A Philosophy of Artistic Performance,” filled, he told the Bates News Bureau, with knowledge he wishes he had had when he started. “If I had had it when I was 19 years old, I’d have saved myself a lot of grief and questioning and wondering,” he said. “I’m glad, at long last, I lived long enough to see it happen,” he told writer Doug Hubley.

Quite simply, Frank Glazer is a national treasure. Our national treasure — right here, in Lewiston, Maine — where we have the opportunity, several times a year, to to see and hear this world-class musician perform.

So, you say, you don’t care for classical music? Just not a fan.

Get over it.

It’s not just about the music, it’s about witnessing something inspirational, a feat that seems almost superhuman, except that it is a human being who has lived nearly a century, up there on the stage in front of you.

So the next time you see a notice that Frank Glazer is performing, we urge you to spend the money to go see him.

And try to sit where you can see his hands. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be amazed.

hmccarthy@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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