The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By Virginia Ross, The Quill
Jim McDonough had the crowd in his corner from the opening minutes of the Civic Music program last Friday night at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium.
He had been there in 2014 for a Christmas program and his fans had spread the word about what a fantastic evening it had been.
My friend had told me before hand about this and that she put his latest album near the top of her Christmas list; she guaranteed that the night would be memorable as this Iowa boy really knew how to play the piano.
Jim grew up in Monticello, Iowa and instead of a car as a teenager. he asked for a Steinway piano (you can understand how serious he was about playing the piano).
Before going to college, he was asked by a friend to let him make a tape of his music which was a best seller in his home town. That success lead him to make a holiday-themed one.
Graduating from Wartburg College with a degree in Music Education, he took a job as a band director for Waukon High School and a year later moved on to a larger one. All the stress and expectations of being a local music teacher made him decide to find a new job.
His sister was a air traffic controller and so he decided he would give it a try. After training, he was sent to the largest air traffic airspace over seven states, Chicago. He still continued to play piano in his off hours as much as possible.
This paid off because in the summer of 2000, he was contacted about a job playing piano on a cruise ship and his two week employment turned into two years performing for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
On a break from sailing away, he recorded his first CD, Requests, which he sold to passengers. He realized he could enlarge upon this opportunity so he moved back to Monticello to concentrate on producing and distributing his music. From there more albums were released and now in his 14th year, he has become widely known for his "Christmas Shows" and concerts.
Recently, he was honored by Steinway & Sons as being named to its worldwide artist roster where he shares space with such names as Harry Connick, Jr., Billy Joel, and others.
Today he is touring the country with his fourteen piece orchestra and making new CD's.
Now to the program last Friday night; he played what the audience knew, a key to successful evening. Whether it was is a jazzed up version of "Chopsticks" or "The Warsaw Concerto," the audience applauded wildly. He even picked up a clipboard and asked for requests which he melded into a reverie asking the audience to applaud when he changed tunes. (Remember, this was with no sheet music on the piano.)
The entire program varied from Latin American, religious, popular, classics, Broadway, etc. When playing movie scenes, the background screen showed clips of that particular movie, i.e. Exodus, Titantic, Wizard of Oz, The Bodyguard, Casablanca, The Sting, Chariots of Fire, etc. We all had loved these movies and sang their songs.
I must give credit to the superb Jim McDonough Orchestra under the direction or Kevin Brown. They added emphasis to each piece throughout the night and complimented McDonough's artistry. Hence, we, the audience, were recipients of two concerts in one; what a deal!
Civic Music is over for this season, but new tickets are now on sale for the next one. Even if you only go to one or two of the performances, you are wisely spending your money helping support the arts in this area.
I'm looking forward to hearing The Texas Tenors again, swaying to the beat of the Tango Buenos Aries, being amazed by the Chinese Martial Arts and Acrobats, wishing I could dance like the Dublin Irish Dancers and discovering what the Derik Nelson family has to offer. Oh, the Moscow Ballet will be back too. I urge you to join the crowd next year and soak in some culture.