David Crohan’s Showtunes to Chopin

On Sept. 10, Island favorite David Crohan performed at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, on the same piano he used to play at David's Island House. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The audience at a concert Saturday, Sept. 10, by pianist David Crohan, enjoyed a nostalgic evening. Nostalgic partly because of the music, which included selections from many eras of Broadway musicals, but also because both Mr. Crohan, who is blind, is familiar to scores of Islanders and visitors, and he and the full size, grand piano that he played were once fixtures on Circuit Avenue.

Mr. Crohan was co-owner of David’s Island House throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and he entertained patrons nightly on a 1906 concert grand piano. When he sold the bar/restaurant, the Union Chapel bought the piano and refurbished it. Mr. Crohan said on Saturday that the piano is reputed to have done duty at the Metropolitan Opera House in its early days.

Mr. Crohan incorporated these and other interesting tidbits into the performance, which was titled, From Show Tunes to Chopin. Mr. Crohan alternated between popular medleys from Broadway shows and the technically demanding music of Chopin. His informative introductions (example: Irving Berlin only played in F sharp) were not offered as a musical history lesson, but as aids in appreciation of the music. Mr. Crohan’s virtuosity wowed the appreciative crowd, as many of his choices – some complex arrangements of popular songs – required astonishing dexterity.

The evening began with a medley of songs from “The Sound of Music.” Mr. Crohan then went through decades of show tunes, from ragtime to selections from “Hair,” “Evita,” and other contemporary hit shows.

After explaining that he always finishes his occasional pop music concerts with a particular, he added, “Considering tomorrow [is 9/11] I think I should do it.”

It was Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Mr. Crohan played and sang the tune, then segued into a medley of patriotic songs – “Glory, Glory Hallelujah,” “God Bless America,” and “America the Beautiful.”

And finally, he rose from the piano seat to play “The Star Spangled Banner.” The crowd stood with him and continued standing for a long ovation. Mr. Crohan obliged the audience with an encore of what he called Chopin’s most patriotic song, “Heroic Polonaise” (The Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53).