When the eclectic Julie Wenger warms up the Fort Myers Beach Library’s 3rd floor electric piano, visitors know that a delightful experience is about to begin. On this Wednesday afternoon, Julie focused on Slavic composures Mikhail Glinka, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Franz Liszt. She began with “Nocturne” by Glinka, who she calls “the first real classical composer in Russian history.” She performs the song at a slow tempo, dripping out each note, savoring it like a great meal.
Her next two selections were from Tchaikovsky: “He was unusual; a wealthy woman sponsored him for his music, but he dictated they never meet; their carriages were once in the same place but each looked away so they did not even see one-another! He was often gloomy due to the dark cloudy climate. One project was to write something for each month of the year, so for November he did the pensive ‘Autumn Song’ that is my second selection – unlike Tchaikovsky I love November in anticipation of the Holidays!”
Following this, Julie told everyone to “cheer up – our next song is very joyful, even though it is by Tchaikovsky! It is from the same series as the ‘Autumn Song,’ for the next month and appropriately called ‘The December Waltz.’” Holidays sales must have made Tchaikovsky happy because “The December Waltz” is a bouncy romp through the keyboard, causing toes to tap all over the room.
Next was the wonderful “Ava Maria” by Franz Liszt. “While there are many Ava Maria melodies, this to me is the most interesting.” She concluded with another Tchaikovsky tune, “Chanson Triste” or “A Sad Song,” although Julie offered, “by Tchaikovsky standards this is not sad.” As the concluding applause died down and people filed out, Julie called: “See you next time – same channel, same station – and bring your friends!”
After her performance, Julie explained that “it was almost preordained I would play piano from a young age as my Mom was a piano teacher.” Julie also plays the viola and organ, and performed French horn for the Southwest Florida Sympathy Orchestra for 25 years through 1985. “I play the flute as well,” she says with a hearty laugh – “toot toot toot on the flute flute flute!” When library director Dr. Leroy Hommerding met Julie, he knew immediately they were a perfect match: “I listened to her comment about different songs and recognized she not only lives but feels music, and that is the ideal musician.”
To enjoy this ideal musician yourself, Julie entertains each Wednesday through at least April 26 from 1:30 to 2 p.m. For the entire list of the Fort Myers Beach Public Library’s February programs see www.fmb.lib.fl.us; for related details call 239-765-8162. The library is located at 2755 Estero Boulevard; hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Wednesday to 7 p.m. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; closed Sunday and holidays including Presidents’ Day on Monday, February 20.