The Eagle Creek fire has closed most trails from Wyeth to Troutdale.

Pianist Greg Lief Volunteers Beautiful Music to Protect the Gorge

Pianist Greg Lief Volunteers Beautiful Music to Protect the Gorge
Greg Lief performs at The Old Church, March 2016. (photographer: Stan Hall)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

It’s a concert, a fundraiser, and a creative act of volunteerism: pianist-photographer Greg Lief’s sixth annual fundraising concert for Friends of the Columbia Gorge takes place Saturday, Feb. 25, 7-9 p.m. at The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. in downtown Portland. Advance tickets are $15 through Friends’ website and $20 at the door. All proceeds from the concert and auction go to Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

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Listen to Greg play Chopin and Joplin

Greg has enjoyed the Gorge for many years, but he said his appreciation deepened the more he explored the region’s plethora of trails and discovered the wonders of its wildflowers, waterfalls, creeks and land forms.

"I first visited the Gorge in the early 1990s in the customary fashion, driving along the Historic Columbia River Highway between Corbett and Ainsworth, seeing Vista House, and visiting all the roadside waterfalls. Over the next several years I began to explore more of the trails, gradually branching out in terms of both length and elevation. In  2005 I discovered Gorge wildflowers, first in the eastern Gorge (specifically Catherine Creek) then western locations such as Dog Mountain. Over the next several years I started tackling higher elevation hikes, with the intent of eventually visiting every high point in Gorge."

The annual concert, Greg said, came from a desire to lend his talents in the best way he could to pay tribute to the Gorge.
 
“My first and foremost motivation for doing the concert is to ‘multitask’ my talent by entertaining people for with beautiful music and (in turn) protecting a beautiful place that I love dearly.  Another secondary, admittedly selfish motivation is to push myself to keep practicing and expanding my repertoire. I have a very long list of classical compositions to be learned and mastered!”

A dedicated student of the piano since he was four years old, Greg is a talented songwriter and performer. The concert for Friends will consist of two distinct programs: classical favorites by Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy, followed by a selection of American ragtime music by composer Scott Joplin.
 
"Classical music was and still is my first love," Greg said. "My favorite composers (Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy) could summon sheer beauty out of thin air, and I feel privileged to share that beauty with the world. However, upon seeing the film 'The Sting' at age 12, I was so taken by the music that I immediately started teaching myself ragtime. I now have 25-plus Joplin compositions in my repertoire. Sometimes that suits the mood better than any classical pieces."
 
Greg’s annual concert has grown since its inaugural event in a coffeehouse-style setting six years ago. It was later held in the performance room of a Southeast Portland piano store before popular demand necessitated a move to the 300-capacity The Old Church in 2016. With each passing year, Greg’s creative volunteerism increases its positive impact on Columbia Gorge protection efforts, something which he, an admirer of Friends’ founder Nancy Russell, finds immensely gratifying.

“Even though I never had the pleasure and honor of meeting Nancy, sometimes I feel as though I know her, at least in terms of her love of the Gorge,” Greg said. “When I see vistas or fields of wildflowers, sometimes I can imagine her standing at those locations surveying the beautiful expansive views, promising to do her humanly best to protect them. I am trying to do the same. Although she might have thought of my donation method as a bit unorthodox, I think that she would like and support my efforts.”


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