Talk Music: Musicians challenge Victoria to a duel at Dueling Pianos event

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

They're twice as nice and two times the fun.

George Milton is coming back to Victoria on Friday for a dueling piano performance with Gary Giampaolo to benefit Theatre Victoria.

Milton caught up with Get Out to talk about why he doesn't - but should - watch "Glee," the culture of dueling pianos and the down-low on piano bar etiquette.

What makes dueling different from duets?

I think the concept of dueling pianos might be a little misleading.

Sometimes, people come in and are asking when we're going to duel. Sometimes, we'll play this side of the room singing louder than the other.

We have a bit in the show where we go back and forth and duel on the pianos, but for the most part, it's a back-and-forth show with two guys.

It's a musical show, but the concept of dueling pianos is that it's interactive. It's not always dueling, and I think the name is confusing. I think some piano bars are dropping the word dueling just because it's more of a piano sing-along show than it is a dueling show.

I hear that a lot of piano duelers, if that's what you'd call yourself, are into "Glee." Please tell me you're a Gleek.

I'm not a "Glee" fan at all. I just don't watch much TV - we don't have cable - so I don't keep up with that stuff.

A lot of the songs they feature on shows like "Glee" or the older songs that get redone on "The Voice" will get requested a lot.

Whenever they would feature a song on "Glee," people would come in and request some song that's 35 years old. We would have to wonder why people would request those songs.

"Total Eclipse of the Heart" gets requested so much because of the movie "Old School."

Pretty much anything that's a cult classic is going to have popular songs from the soundtracks.

We always play "Shout" from "Animal House," and people request "Afternoon Delight" because of the scene in "Anchorman."

Seems like that plays a big part in the culture of dueling pianos.

The piano bars are all about pop music culture. That's what they capitalize on.

If there's a new Lady Gaga song, somebody will learn it. Even though it's only popular for two weeks, people will come in and request it.

It's fun. It's a full-time job staying relevant. I think for any musician, that's important. Even original artists have to keep writing new stuff and keep working to stay relevant. And that's the same if you play in a cover band.

There's always going to be standards. "Brown Eyed Girl" will never go away.

That's definitely a bar classic in Victoria.

I like it. I like all of Van Morrison's stuff. I'm just glad people are still playing music by musicians like Van Morrison.

It's tough sometimes to filter through because there's so much.

If you compare now to 20 years ago, there's so much new music and so many new albums. It's not just pop music, it's also things that get revived through movies, or if there was a viral video on YouTube, people will request that.

Let's backtrack a bit. When did you start playing piano?

I started playing piano when I was in high school in Birmingham. We had a piano at our house, and I just picked up stuff by ear on piano.

I didn't really have any formal lessons, so I don't really play any classical music.

I didn't really perform publicly on piano until I started working for dueling piano bars. That was five years ago.

It's really nerve-wracking at first. It's a lot different from just playing a gig.

It's kind of half being a musician and half being a stand-up comic or a DJ. You have to think on your feet and get heckled.

Do you have a favorite song to perform?

I love doing Motown stuff. It's one of my favorite genres. But it's hard for me to pick a favorite song.

"Shout" from "Animal House" always seems to go over really well, so I put that close to the top. It gets a good reaction, and I enjoy playing it.

What are the rules of the game for a piano show like this?

The basic rules are that we like to keep it relevant as far as music goes and mostly up-tempo.

All of us know hundreds and hundreds of songs by memory, but because of the fact that we play in an environment where we're playing requests, we're learning songs that get requested the most.

Just don't try to play stump the band because you'll probably win. Just request fun music and come ready to have a good time.

We'll ask the crowd to do silly things or play along. Me and Gary have played for all different types of crowds. Our goal is for people to have the most fun possible. The way to have the most fun possible is to play along and not take it too seriously.



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