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Don Shirley -- Pianist Extraordinary



The work on Donald Shirley's new CD Home With Donald Shirley is complete!
The CD contains the 14 pieces that he recorded recently:

The complete song list follows:

This Little Light of Mine*
The Flight of the Bumblebee
'Round Midnight
Divertimento for Duke by Don
Lotus Blossom*
Where or When*
Jesus Keep Me near the Cross
Good-bye John*
Liberation Day
Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye*
Blue Skies
Jesus Calls Us O'er the Tumult

(The titles with an asterisk (*) are piano solos. The others feature the Donald Shirley chamber trio of piano, cello, and double bass.)

Donald Shirley reaches new artistic heights on this CD. Intense musicality, breathtaking dynamics and phrasing, and so much more keep us spellbound from the very first to the very last note of over 70 minutes of splendid music. He made the recording at The American Academy of Arts and Letters in Harlem on a concert grand piano that Steinway shipped especially for this occasion. The Academy is a very large auditorium that doubles as studio for the likes of Deutsche Grammophon, Telarc--and now Walbridge! The size of this hall makes for an especially warm and enveloping sound. Add the latest in high-resolution recording technology and you have a true audiophile recording of one of the most remarkable artists of our age.

Donald Shirley describes his approach to the various pieces in the accompanying 20-page CD insert. It is a colorful and fascinating booklet, beautifully executed, containing numerous photos highlighting his career in music from a very personal perspective.

To obtain this CD directly from Donald Shirley through his own Walbridge Music Company. Send your order and a check or money order (sorry--no credit cards yet) to:

Walbridge Music Company
154 West 57th Street
Studio 130
New York City, NY 10019

Walbridge Music will ship immediately upon receipt. Your best bet that you will receive your CDs before Christmas, however, is to send your order now. The price is $25 plus $4 for mailing up to three CDs via USPS Priority Mail. Add $0.50 for each additional CD.

Dr. Shirley is immensely happy with the many e-mails you have sent him. He keeps them all, re-reads them often, and answers when he can. I know this because I see him at least once a week for my piano lesson! They have been a strong motivating factor in his wish to record again. Perhaps you will send him another note at DonShirleyTrio after you have listened to Home With Donald Shirley

Finally, promotional efforts are underway, as is construction of the new DonShirley.com website. The very best PR, however, is of a kind that money can never buy, because it flows from the enthusiasm and devotion of us, his listeners. So introduce family and friends to the musical genius of Donald Shirley--they are bound to thank you! Ask your local radio stations to play it; request your Public Library to buy it; tell the Music Editor of your Newspaper to review it, then everyone will thank you. And Dr. Shirley will most sincerely thank you.

With best wishes,

Michael Kappeyne

with Bassist Robert Field

This is an e-mail I received from John Kalbrener. I thought you all would enjoy reading about the concert from someone who was there.

Jim Sommerville.

I would like to think Dr. Shirley and I are now fast friends, but I'm sure everyone who meets him feels this way. And a lot of people met him. He was in great spirits, gregarious and charming, funny and down to earth.

He has a photographic memory, which he seems able to tap with ease. Example: I mentioned "Freddy's," the old Jazz venue in Minneapolis where I first saw him, live, in the '50s, and he started rattling off descriptions of the decor, including the colors and lighting; a whole bunch of people by name, the tunes he played. Freddy's was where he introduced "Water Boy." He wove stories about his childhood, training, and dropped all sorts of greats' names. Whenever anyone would mention a previous concert years ago, Dr. Shirley would recall it in detail and share anecdotes galore with them.

Steinway arranged for him to have his choice of five new concert grands in Detroit. He had tried them all and had chosen "his" before we arrived. The enormous piano was on the stage in the hall. Steinway brought it there that morning so it could get used to the hall atmosphere, then they sent a piano tuner at 4 to tune it, 2.5 hours before the show. I stood two feet from Dr. Shirley's left shoulder as he "practiced." He played a very complex classical piece, then he just vamped an amazing, totally improvised combination of Chopin, a bunch of other classical figures, and many good ol' pop songs, all as blues. I've never heard anything like it! I was bawling through that piece. The honor of being so close to The Artist, watching those hands from almost over his shoulder, was almost overwhelming.

Speaking of his hands, when we met and shook hands I squeezed his too hard. So he expanded his hand, and said "oops," at which moment I realized what I'd done. He laughed and said, "No offense. But I'll need it tonight."

He is only about 5'7" tall, actually looks tiny, and his hands aren't large, so on those big, broad, typical Donald Shirley chords, when he has to stretch, his thumbs often press keys from the front edge. His skin is a golden brown, but with very few lines, especially for a man in his early 70s. He shaves his entire head.

He doesn't wear clothes; he wears costumes. When I met him he was wearing a boat skipper's hat, a blue and white horizontal-striped long-sleeved t-shirt, blue jogging pants, and white sneakers. For the concert he wore a beautiful black and gold-threaded jacket.

This was an annual fund-raising benefit concert for the Brazeal Dennard Chorale. Dr. Dennard and Dr. Shirley are old pals. The 48-singer chorale performed a few numbers, Dr. Shirley performed, and the chorale returned for another set. The 400-person audience was like a UN gathering. Lots of African-Americans, East Asians, three Native Americans, a few South Americans, and myriad other folks, all very tastefully dressed to the nines. During all my time among these folks I sensed NO racial distinctions! It was truly just people! All wide-open and genuinely friendly and warm! I was a bit surprised, given Detroit's reputation for racial conflict. I got the impression from conversations that the Chorale and its glorious music is a significant contribution to changing that image and reality.

The chorale members were black, about half&half male&female, except for two, one Southeast Asian woman and a Caucasian man. The music included the same kind of American Music Donald Shirley plays: You'll Never Walk Alone, Tonight, Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay, People Got to be Free, The Rose, Ease on Down the Road, Embraceable You (sung slowly a Capella) (marvelous!), When I Fall in Love, Lullaby of Birdland, and Time After Time. They were backed up by a fine piano, guitar, bass and two drummers.

Dr. Shirley's numbers were: This Little Light of Mine, Rhapsody in Blue (the wholllllllle thing, with Himself playing many of the other instrument's parts, including the clarinet solo at the beginning!), I Can't Get Started, Happy Talk (almost all of it was played in the two highest octaves), Where Or When, Blue Skies, Every Time We Say Goodbye, O'Freedom, The Man I Love, and two of Dr. Shirley's own compositions.

First; Divertimento for Duke by Don.
I totally broke up on this one! It's a tribute to his old friends Ellington and Strayhorn. This work contains brilliantly integrated and multi-melodied passages from the great Ellington-Strayhorn tunes, interwoven in a tapestry uniquely Don Shirley's. Some of it was so delicately light that you could have heard a pin drop, and it ranged all over the keyboard, sometimes to roaring, thumping, "4-handed chords" that damn near burst my heart!

And second; a piece called "Trilogy," inspired by an African child he once "played" with on the Kalimba, the African thumb piano. It's also a tribute to the spirit of the African people through slave times on up to their and all our desire for freedom and peace. Another total bawling (for me and several others I saw through my tears) break up (at which point Michael came over and asked me with a big smile, "Are you enjoying yourself?")

Bassist Robert Field performed "Deep River" solo while Dr. Shirley took a mid-set break. Imagine that grand old classic bowed solo on a double bass. Robert is a classical artist (no surprise) and a very strong and sensitive "duettist" with Dr. Shirley. As you know, Dr. Shirley in turn "accompanies" his accompanists. Their mutual high regard was obvious during this concert.

Every Donald Shirley Duo number got a standing ovation. When the whole show was over at least a hundred people gathered around him. He spent a good hour with them, encouraging young piano students and their teachers, remembering mutual friends and previous concerts, rolling off tales of how this and that recording came to be, remembering names of old mutual friends, autographing programs, and on and on.

Dr. Shirley's nephew, named for his Uncle Donald, and his wife arrived from Chicago. It was wonderful watching the two Donalds affectionately schmoozing in The Artist's dressing room.

This truly astounding artist is on a roll. He's ready to go on tour tomorrow. (Two days after the Detroit concert a couple from Calgary, Barry and Sarah Vogel, emailed that they are already working on a concert with either or both of the orchestras in Calgary.)

Please accept my Apologies for this disjointed report. I just get all emotional when I recall those precious hours with that precious living National Treasure. And I get anxious: he should have been performing and recording all these years. I believe that if he had, American Music would have changed significantly for the better as other musicians on myriad instruments began to pick up on Dr. Shirley's brilliant orchestrations, innovations, counter-melodies, and "Americanization" of classical figures and phrases.

One more note: The Artist's touch is more exquisite than ever. As I stood next to him as he put that big Steinway through every challenge it would need to meet during his concert, the sensitivity of his most tender touch, all the way up through his rapid runs and into his thundering "4-handed" mid-range and bass chords was like hearing and seeing Creation at work.

And finally, Michael Kappeyne is a terrific guy! He's also versatile, completely dedicated, charming, smart, witty and skilled in many areas, most certainly in human relations. His effort and skill in setting up and recording the DS portion of this concert was highly professional, care-filled and thorough. Michael is another blessing in this whole process. The next step is the release of the new CD, which Michael informed me will be released in July. I (and I'll bet all of you) can hardly wait!

-- John Kalbrener
Third Thought Collaborations
JOHN KALBRENER - johnk@visi.com

If you did not attend the concert but, like Dr. Shirley, would like to support the work of the Brazeal Dennard Chorale you may send your contribution to:

The Brazeal Dennard Chorale
Mr. Donald Robinson
9000 E. Jefferson Ave. Apt. 2510
Detroit, Mi. 48214
(313) 331-0378


Don Shirley recently performed a private concert in Charlottesville, Viriginia, where he not only played selections from his new CD, but also featured material that you will hear on May 4th. Ina Hughs, a Knoxville News columnist, was present and wrote a wonderful story about the concert and the events leading up to it that you can share by double-clicking on this link:

INA HUGHS-KNOXVILLE NEWS: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/hughs/ih01172001.shtml"

Please forward this message to other Don Shirley listeners you know. If you copy me, I can keep the ever-growing Donald Shirley e-mailing list as up to date as possible. You could also write the Artist himself at DonShirleyTrio.


Michael Kappeyne

MICHAEL KAPPEYNE - michaelkappeyne@hotmail.com

The Keyboard Is His Kingdom

On Friday, May 4, 2001, 6:30pm, The Brazeal Dennard Chorale presents "Time After Time," featuring a rare performance by virtuoso arranger, composer, and concert pianist, Donald Shirley. The annual Spring Pops Dinner boasts a new venue, the exquisite Andiamo Italiano, 7096 East 14 Mile Road in Warren, MI. The $100 ticket price includes a sumptuous dinner and refreshments.

Donald Shirley has been lauded for his incomparable sound, rich imagination, and breathtaking skill to move and liberate his audience while honoring the rigors of musical form. Upon hearing Donald Shirley, Igor Stravinski declared: "his virtuosity is worthy of gods." Sarah Vaughan once commented: "Íthe most glorious sense of shading I have ever heard," while Nat King Cole placed him in a league with Horowitz and Rubinstein.

Donald Shirley has the ability to communicate, again in StravinskyÝs words, "Exquisite variations of various themesÍbeautifully wrought tone poems." For his sources he draws from show tunes, ballads, Negro spirituals, and folk music. The artist himself states: "I try to take the listener from the known to the unknown." Hence his penchant to take a song or melody familiar to us and appealing to him, then to apply the vast musical resources at his disposal to expose a deeper meaning.

As a recording artist, Donald Shirley has made over twenty albums for the Cadence, Columbia, Atlantic, and Audio Fidelity labels. Many of these records have recently been re-issued on CD to the delight of his intensely loyal audience. His new CD Home With Donald Shirley is nearing release.

Donald Shirley has appeared with major orchestras including New York, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Miami, Hollywood Bowl, La Scala in Milanˇthe only other two pianists to have ever played there are Rubinstein and Richterˇand the National Symphony of Washington, D.C. The one pianist for whom Duke Ellington would "give up his bench," Donald Shirley premiered the orchestral version of New Worlds A-CominÝ opposite Ellington conducting the (NBC) Symphony of the Air at Carnegie Hall, and has continued to play Carnegie Hall for virtually every concert season. The London Philharmonic performed his first major composition, and the combined string sections of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic premiered his symphonic work FinneganÝs Wake. His appearance as guest soloist with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Metropolitan Opera in New York drew unprecedented reviews.

"Time After Time" is made possible with the support of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, Comerica Bank, and Friends of the Brazeal Dennard Chorale.

For Immediate Release March 23, 2001 (Detroit, MI) Contact: Donald Robinson The Brazeal Dennard Chorale

A Letter from Don Shirley and an Announcement.

June 27, 2000 New York,

A Note to my Listeners

Over the last several months, many of you have made the effort to tell me how much you have enjoyed my music. Reading your beautiful e-mails, I have at times been completely overwhelmed. Your messages, often very personal accounts of how you came about Don Shirley, are having a great effect on me. I cannot begin to describe the emotions your sentiments have caused. They range from sheer joy to embarrassment, but there is also a feeling of vindication. My music has always been hard to place because it does not adhere to any particular style or school. It reflects, however, the discipline of musical structure distilled from the ages imposed on my own emotions, but also my attempt to channel what you yourself have known all along. Perhaps that is why your stories are so heartfelt.

I have responded to some of your e-mails and letters. Those of you I didn't address individually, please accept my apologies--I don't like to write, I am not good at it, and often cannot find the right words to compose the answers you deserve.

At any rate, thanks to you I feel like a new person! I have decided to record again--I recently completed a two-day session at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York--and I am looking at the possibilities of appearing in concert. My health and energy are perfect, and my poor old beat-up Steinway makes me work even harder to create the sound I want--a novel way of conditioning. Look for a new CD later this summer on my own DonShirley.com (under construction), on Amazon, and perhaps in stores pending distribution I am arranging.

With best regards,

Donald Shirley



Here is some biographical information gleaned from record jackets....

Don Walbridge Shirley was born January 29, l927 in Kingston, Jamaica. His first teacher was his mother. He began playing piano at age of 2 1/2 and made his first public performance at the age of 3. At the age of nine he was invited to study theory with Mittolovski at the Leningrad Conservatory of Music, and he later studied with famous organist Conrad Bernier and studied advanced composition with both Bernier and Dr.Thaddeus Jones at Catholic University of America in Washington D. C.

He made his concert debut at the age of 18 with the Boston Pops June 25, l945 with Dean Dixon as guest conductor playing the Tchaikovsky B-flat minor concerto. In l946 his first major composition was performed by the London Philharmonic orchestra.

In l949 he received an invitation from the Haitian government to play at the Exposition International du Bi-Centenaire De Port-au-Prince followed by a request from Archbishop Le Goise and President Estime for a repeat performance the following week.

At Arthur Fiedler's invitation he appeared with the Boston Pops in Chicago in June 1954. He performed the Tchaikovsky in the fall of 1968 with the Detroit Symphony. He has appeared as soloist with the Detroit Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the NBC Symphony and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington to name only a few. Including his appearances with the trio, he averaged some 95 concerts a year.

He has written symphonies performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, and has composed four organ symphonies, numerous pieces for piano, two string quartets, and a piano concerto. He played as soloist with the orchestra at Milan's La Scala opera house in a program dedicated to Gershwin's music. Only two other pianists have performed there as soloists--Rubinstein and Richter.

He holds a Doctorate of Music, Doctorate of Psychology (Univ. of Chicago, Phi Beta Kappa), and Doctorate in Liturgical Arts. He speaks eight languages fluently, and is considered an expert painter as well.

He abandoned the piano as a career while quite young, and it was while in Chicago as a psychologist that Don "tripped" back into a musical career. He was given a grant to study the relationship, if any, between music and juvenile crime wave which had suddenly broken out in the early l950's. Working in a small club there, he used his knowledge and skill to perform experiments in sound, whereby he proved that certain tonal combinations affected the audience's reactions. No one in the audience knew of his experiment, or that students had been planted among them to gauge their reactions. But Don Shirley the pianist became a sensation.

It is impossible to categorize Don Shirley's music. It is possible to say that as an arranger-composer he treats each piece of music as a new composition, not just an arrangement. Don plays Standards in a non-standard way. He is a virtuoso, playing everything from show tunes, to ballads, to his personal arrangements of Negro spirituals to jazz, and always with the overtone of a classically trained musician who has utmost respect for the music he is playing.

His rendition of Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" is the most sensitive production of that poignant song, as well as the most exciting that I have ever heard. The key to the reason why Don is such an exciting player is that he plays to a sense of truth about each song he does; he goes right to the heart of the song and the listener immediately reacts, saying to himself, "Yes, that is the way that song should be played.!" His sense of shading, phrasing, and balance with his piano is equal to the sense that Billie Holiday is renowned for with her voice. Igor Stravinsky has said of him, "His virtuosity is worthy of Gods."

Appearances in New York followed, notably at the Basin Street, where Duke Ellington first heard him. Here started their warm friendship which was highlighted by Don's performance in l955 of the premiere of Duke's Piano Concerto at Carnegie Hall with the NBC Symphony of the Air. An appearance on the Arthur Godfrey Show launched his career nationwide.

He has composed 3 symphonies, two piano concerti, a cello concerto, three string quartets, a one-act opera, works for organ, piano and violin, a symphonic tone poem based on "Finnegan's Wake" and a set of "Variations" on the legend of Orpheus in the Underworld.

Today he is alive and well and performing in New York. He presently has 11 CDs. During the 1950s and 60s he cut some 16 albums for Cadence records. A nearly complete Discography appears below. If you know of any other recordings please e-mail us so we can add them to the list. There are no classsical recordings.



Cadence CLP1001 Donald Shirley (Pianist) Tonal Expressions
Cadence CLP1004 Donald Shirley (Pianist) Piano Perspectives
Cadence CLP1009 Don Shirley Orpheus in the Underworld
Cadence CLP1015 Don Shirley Duo Improvisations
Cadence CLP3007 Don Shirley Solos
Cadence CLP3008 Don Shirley (with two basses)
Cadence CLP3032 Don Shirley Plays Gershwin
Cadence CLP3033 Don Shirley (Pianist) Standards
Cadence CLP3034 Don Shirley (Pianist) Love Songs
Cadence CLP3035 Don Shirley Plays Birdland Lullabies
Cadence CLP3036 Don Shirley (Pianist) Showtunes
Cadence CLP3037 Don Shirley (Pianist) Plays Shirley
Cadence CLP3046 Don Shirley Trio (1961) (Stereo CLP 25046)
Cadence CLP3048 Don Shirley Pianist Extraordinary (1962) (Stereo CLP 25048)
Cadence CLP3049 Don Shirley Piano Spirituals (1962) (Stereo CLP 25049)
Cadence CLP3055 Don Shirley Presents Martha Flowers(1962)(Stereo CLP 25055)
Cadence CLP3057 Don Shirley Drown In My Own Tears (1962)(Stereo CLP 25057)

Cadence CEP 501 Don Shirley (Pianist) TONAL EXPRESSIONS Vol. 1
Cadence CEP 502 Don Shirley (Pianist) TONAL EXPRESSIONS Vol. 2
Cadence CEP 503 Don Shirley (Pianist) PIANO PERSPECTIVES Vol. 1

Audio Fidelity AFSD5897/CLP1897 Don Shirley (1959)
Atlantic SD1605 Don Shirley Point of View
Columbia CS9684 Don Shirley Trio in Concert (1968)
Columbia CS9196 Don Shirley Trio - Water Boy (Mono CL9196)
Columbia CS9723 Gospel According to Don Shirley (1969)

3428 Don Shirley Concert Series, Vol. 1
3320 Don Shirley Concert Series, Vol. 2
3363 Don Shirley Concert Series, Vol. 3
3393 Don Shirley Concert Series, Vol. 4
3427 Don Shirley Concert Series, Vol. 5
3435 Don Shirley Concert Series, Vol. 6
3396 Don Shirley Concert Series, Vol. 7


10 new CDs. These ten CDs are the full length original versions from
10 DON SHIRLEY Cadence LPs. Packaged 2 CDs per Set. In January
2000 they will reissue two more of the Cadence LPs on a single CD.
These plus one CD issued ealier now make a total of twelve CDs
avalable with thirteen of the LPs originally issued by Cadence.

The table below lists all the CDs and cross references them to the original
CADENCE LP album numbers.

Don Shirley: Tonal ExpressionsCLP1001
Don Shirley: Piano PerspectivesCLP1004
Don Shirley: Orpheus In UnderworldCLP1009
Don Shirley: ImprovisationsCLP1015
Don Shirley: SolosCLP3007
Don Shirley: With Two BassesCLP3008
Don Shirley: Plays Love SongsCLP3034
Don Shirley: TrioCLP25046
Don Shirley: Pianist ExtraordinaryCLP25048
Don Shirley: Famous SpirtualsCLP25049
Don Shirley: Drown In My Own TearsCLP25057
Plus 5 additional Songs
Don Shirley: Birdland LulabiesCLP3035
Don Shirley: Plays Show TunesCLP3036

As you can see there are two albums in each set for maximum value! (Except COL5746)
(Click below for the complete CD song list.)




Dr Shirley is very much alive and very well. Lives in New York, and has been thrilled and even stunned to learn that his fans remember his music. From the e-mails we receive we know you will want to replace your old worn out LPs with the new CDs and enjoy again the music of this extraordinary musician.

Dr. Shirley receives almost no royalties (about $0.30) from Cadence for these old LPs when the CDs are sold through commercial channels, We thought it would be a nice gesture if we all were to buy these CDs through Dr. Shirley's WALBRIDGE MUSIC CO. That way profits from these sales will go directly to Dr. Shirley instead of a store. How much would you have to pay for 2 tickets to a Don Shirley concert right in your own home?


Dr. Shirley has been personally shipping the orders you have been so graciously sending him but with the work of recording the new CDs and the prepartion for the Detroit concert he simply can no longer keep up. Preparations are being made to set up a new website, DonShirley.com, to handle CD sales and concert arrangements among other things; therefore, Dr. Shirley has requested that you hold your orders until then. We will let you know when it is ready. Or you can check Donshirley.com every now and then.

If you must buy the recordings before this is accomplished then you could order them from AMAZON.COM or other dealer.



Dr. Shirley now has an e-mail address. Send him a note of appreciation with perhaps a short account of how you came to know his music. I know he would love to hear from you all. Write him at: (DonShirleyTrio@netscape.net) or by SNAIL MAIL at

154 W. 57th ST. 
NEW YORK, NY 10019-8821 

Please e-mail all your friends and ask them to contact us so we can keep in touch with them for IMPORTANT later news. Even if they didn't buy their CDs from us.

This is a voluntary promotion by two Don Shirley Fans
Michael Kappeyne See e-mail Address Below.
Jim Sommerville See e-mail Address Below.


The other recordings are only available on the used market.
From time to time we are offered recordings. Please e-mail for listing.

There are some additional singles such as "Waterboy".
There are no classical recordings.
(DS) Please help us fill in the missing recordings. If you have any information or recordings not on our list or if you have any questions please e-mail us. We are searching for copies of any Don Shirley SHEET MUSIC or MANUSCRIPS you may find to replace those lost in a water overflow at his studio. Also many of you have expressed interest piano sheet music to play Don Shirley arrangements.


MAY 4, 2001 Detroit.



See these other links for more information about DON SHIRLEY and Cadence records:


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Rev. 6-13-2001 DS-38-11.