Christopher O’Riley Brings His Eclectic Piano Style to Omaha

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March 13th, 2014

Omaha, NE — Franz Liszt and Modern Rock converge on Omaha.

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Christopher O'Riley

Christopher O’Riley

Coming this Saturday evening to the 1200 Club at the Holland Center is genre-defying pianist and radio host, Christopher O’Riley. O’Riley is the host of NPR’s “From the Top” and says that radio runs in his family.

“My late stepfather, Jack Summers, was the founder of WQED-FM, the Classical station in Pittsburgh, and soon after his death my mother, Ceci Sommers, took over the station.”

O’Riley is a Classically trained pianist who developed a truly eclectic taste in music in his youth.

“Things like the day-off release of the first Led Zeppelin album, hearing that at midnight was a pretty formative experience. I actually go to see the Doors perform in Chicago, where I grew up.”

Saturday’s program will include traditional Classical fare alongside O’Riley’s own arrangements from popular bands.

“The program is freewheeling. I mean, I do Classical repertoire and I’ll be pulling heavily from my latest Liszt recording. And then a lot of the rest of the program will be my own arrangements of things like Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, and a couple of new things, probably a couple of new arrangements by Velvet Underground.”

Incredibly, O’Riley began creating these arrangements for “From the Top” as filler that some stations wouldn’t even air!

“There was this halfway point  in the hour broadcast where the local stations would either play what we sent them or not and break away for local business. We didn’t want our kids to be in that slot and worry about them not being heard. So that was my solo spot, and once I ran out of two-part inventions and Chopin preludes, I started doing these arrangements of Radiohead and Nick Drake and folks like that.

The transcriptions proved highly popular, among even the most dedicated Classical music fans.

“You would hear our announcer saying, ‘That was our host, Christopher O’Riley play Karma Police by Radiohead,’ and we got the email into the program saying ‘Who is this Mr. Head and where can I find more of his beautiful music?’”

When looking for songs to arrange, O’Riley looks for specific sounds that he can work with and bring out on the piano.

“I’m a real sucker for a beautiful harmony, a chord that gets under your skin and makes your skin tingle. The other thing that I really like is a conversation, a counterpoint in music.”

Omaha Performing Arts presents pianist Christopher O’Riley at the 1200 CLUB inside the Holland Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 15, 2014, at 8:00 p.m. Tickets and information are available by calling (402) 345-0606 or online at TicketOmaha.com.

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