This past October, the Kartemquin film crew joined Norman in Connecticut to follow his journey as he prepared for his first piano concert playing with a full orchestra. We kicked off the week by celebrating Norman’s 79th birthday with his son and his family (coincidentally the concert was being held in his son’s new home town)! The rest of the week we filmed Norman’s every move as he diligently rehearsed day and night.
Sometimes the rehearsals were with the West Hartford Symphony Orchestra at the auditorium, at other times Norman practiced on the stage alone. Other times we were at the home of the talented conductor, Richard Chiarappa, who went over cues with Norman over and over again. (Special thanks to Richard’s wonderful wife, Martha, who set up a feast for us every night!). Setting up a shoot for a full concert was a challenge, but nothing compared to the challenge Norman was facing. Norman was to play the very complicated “Piano Concerto for the Left Hand” by Maurice Ravel, and although he had practiced it for nearly 60 years, playing it at home alone was very different than playing it with a full orchestra.
Finally, the big day arrived. Friends and supporters from Chicago joined him for the special event. Nothing would prepare us for the emotion we would all feel as we watched Norman playing before a standing-room-only audience. We held our breath and when he finished his piece, our admiration for Norman only grew. We can’t wait to share Norman’s amazing story with all of you in our upcoming documentary!