Piano recital

Tuesday, August 22 2006, 00:00:00

I’ve always thought that Rick’s Café presented an ideal venue for a small concert, given the generous courtyard that provides near-perfect acoustics. When Royal Air Maroc asked us early in the summer if we’d be interested in hosting a classical piano recital performed by a Japanese pianist we immediately said yes. Last Monday, Reiko Awazu charmed the audience and our staff alike with pieces from the works of Mozart, Bekku, Beethoven, Lizt, Chopin and Schumann. We’d invited her for dinner and our Sunday jam session the night before the concert and it turned out during her university days at University of Southern California her best friends were students in the jazz department. The group played “Fly Me to the Moon” at her request, and other tunes were ones that made her very nostalgic for her university days, and the ambience of Rick’s with the link to the film “Casablanca” evoked more happy memories of her life in the United States. This was her second tour in Morocco, and although she could not remember where she performed in Casablanca on her visit in 2000, she told me she’d never forget playing at Rick’s Café – “I’ve never performed a concert in a café before.” After our enthusiastic reception of the idea, it turned out the execution of the event was a bit more complicated than it first appeared. We needed to rent a concert grand piano, as ours was not appropriate, and this presented a bit of a challenge arranging 50 chairs in the courtyard – but it was done. Having everything in place for a cocktail dinatoire on the first floor following the concert, plus serving light food and drink during a brief interval was a real challenge of coordination with our kitchen and service staff. Timing was essential as we couldn’t have the noise of plates, glasses, doors opening and closing or any talking during the concert. The telephone was put on mute and the receptionist had to keep his eyes glued to the screen to view incoming calls. The air conditioning did provide a “hummm” sound, but when I asked Reiko about it she said, “The alternative is we’d all be hot, right?” Yes I said, and she wasn’t bothered a bit. The only thing we couldn’t control was our ice machine, just inside the service door to the kitchen, which automatically filled during one piece…this passed almost unnoticed. She played beautifully, inspired I hope by the surroundings and an appreciative audience which included the President of Royal Air Maroc, the Ambassador of Japan and members of the Morocco-Japan Friendship Association. During the cocktail dinatoire which followed the concert, Issam took his turn at the grand piano happy to play our standards on such a beautiful instrument. He started with “Fly me to the Moon,” and Reiko began singing. She then sang a lovely rendition of “A Nightengale Sang in Berkeley Square,” and finished by playing along with Issam the Tony Bennett favorite, “My Foolish Heart.” By the time we said goodbye Reiko had become part of Rick’s and we know we’ll see her again.