Duelling pianist bringing their Vegas act to Town


Duelling pianist bringing their Vegas act to Town


Compliments of the Cochrane Eagle

From the Beatles to Bieber, “Great Balls of Fire” to “Your Sex is On Fire”, the modern-day piano man has got to have all his bases covered to keep his audience begging for more.

That’s exactly what Vegas showman, Van Walraven, will be bringing to the table on Nov. 10 at the Frank Wills Memorial Hall.

Presented by the Rotary Club of Cochrane, is a one-night only performance of Dueling Pianos . . . all the way from Las Vegas, as performed by two long-standing piano entertainers from Sin City — Van Walraven and Al Robinson.

“Van Walraven and Al Robinson are the original two that comprised the dueling pianos act in Las Vegas at the New York, New York Hotel and Casino,” explained Tom Wilk, event coordinator and president-elect for the Rotary Club of Cochrane.

“Those that have seen them in Las Vegas are intrigued by the idea of seeing them perform in Cochrane . . . it will definitely be an entertaining evening.”

Wilk explained that all the proceeds from the event will go toward both local and international Rotary Club projects; local projects include the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park and the Bow RiversEdge Campground.

For 22 years, Dallas-born-turned-Vegasite, Van Walraven, has been part of the niche entertainment world of dueling pianos, headlining large-scale, big-name and brightly lit Vegas casinos such as New York, New York, Harrah’s and the Monte Carlo.

“The dueling pianos concept began in New Orleans on Bourbon Street about 75 years ago,” explained the veteran keys cat. “It’s really like musical improv . . . we don’t have a set list, we take requests and we have no plan before we go on.”

The only plan set in stone is to get the crowd going with a high-energy performance that not only packs a punch, but is audience-interactive.

“The dueling is really a misnomer — we’re not competing against each other, it’s a two-person show,” said Walraven. “The audience gets the battle going and we will champion one cause or another.”

Whether it’s the battle of the sexes or the battle of personalities, Walraven said a lot has to do with the chemistry and showmanship exchange between dueling pianists.

“Al and I have worked together since 1995,” said Walraven of his partner in crime for the Cochrane show.

“He’s like the Joe Pesci of dueling pianos . . . he has that caustic personality . . . I’m the ‘nice guy’ and I contrast with his abrasiveness.”

Plunking it out on custom-built ‘slam-grand pianos’ — specially-made, with digital keys tucked under a custom-made grand piano shell — Walraven has spent much time travelling Canada over the last few years, using equipment he keeps stored in Airdrie.

“I’ve been up to Canada about 18 times over the last two years,” he said, adding that he loves the energy of performing for small town crowds.

“Vegas has been really good to me, but it’s nice to go outside and meet people in the real world.”

Heavily influenced by classic piano entertainers such as Elton John and Billy Joel, Walraven is the solo musician in his family, but admits he has no regrets on pursuing a career path that has remained surprisingly immune to the blow felt by many modern, gigging musicians post-recession.

“It’s a very specialized field and there are only a couple hundred of us in the world who do this show. . . . We play everything from ABBA to ZZ Top, Bruce Springsteen to Rick Springfield...George Strait to Marvin Gaye.”

Tickets are $50 at the door, $40 in advance from a Rotary member; there are only a handful of tickets left, available from the following Rotary Club members: Steve Cook at 403-932-5785, Carter Nagel at 403-200-5737 or Tom Wilk at 403-850-9470.

Visit rotaryclubcochrane.com for more details.