Some of life’s most cherished moments cannot be seen, but heard and felt, which was proved by Kew Gardens resident and piano virtuoso Bill Gati, who made Valentine’s Day in Forest Hills one to remember.
Gati treated his neighbors to a nearly two-hour free concert featuring romantic jazz classics and five original compositions. With the snowfall in sight, 75 concertgoers enjoyed his inspirational sounds at the Church-in-the-Gardens at 50 Ascan Avenue.
“My sweetheart and I are so blessed, and wanted to share the love with others,” Gati said. “Bringing people together is truly wonderful, and there’s no better time than Valentine’s Day.”
Engaging his audience with his sense of humor, Gati opened his show by taking requests. Among the solo numbers were “My Funny Valentine,” “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” “Unforgettable,” and “Moon River.”
He made sure to extend the spotlight to other talented vocalists including Cassandra Hawkins, who he accompanied on a soulful “Misty” and “How High the Moon,” as well as to Susan Horowitz, who delivered a beautiful rendition of “La Vie en Rose.”
Between compositions, Gati shared some stories.
“I told my piano teacher that I wanted to play Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody In Blue,’ and he said we don’t play Gershwin at Juilliard,” he said. “After insisting, I was able to perform it at Lincoln Center because my teacher was progressive in the 1970s. Today, Juilliard has a jazz program.”
At a festive reception organized by Kim Phelan, Sabiha Lakhani and Christian Villarreal, guests enjoyed wine, cheese, and holiday sweets. Each guest also received long-stemmed white roses, boxed chocolate hearts, and handwritten greeting cards. After the concert, Gati participated in a detailed discussion about his craft.
“Music is very soothing to the soul,” said Gati, who hopes to leave an impression on younger generations. “Pursue your passion, but also have a plan B. As much as I love music, I decided to become an architect, which offers a good balance and ensures a steady income.”
His skills as an architect are reciprocal to his musical talents.
“My original piano compositions were in the style of 1920s and 1930s-era jazz, which I feel is the height of American music,” and then compared it to two of his Art Deco favorites, the Chrysler and Empire State buildings.
Gati, 55, began playing at the age of five and later picked up the saxophone at 35. He also mastered the organ, electric keyboard, and the percussion family. He was born in Rio de Janeiro, settled in Middle Village as a small child, and moved to Kew Gardens in 1984.
He attributes his talents to genetics; his grandmother played piano, his father played piano and violin, his brother plays violin, and his grandfather who was an architect in Hungary.
Gati plays throughout Queens, and has given performances at Flushing Town Hall, Queens College and the Forest Park Bandshell, Queens Museum. Philanthropic causes are also part of his mission.
“I volunteer by playing pop-up pianos for Sing for Hope, where musicians perform in hospitals and shelters while raising consciousness about the importance of music,” he said. “I also played at The Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital for terminally ill patients and for several nonprofit organizations.”
Gati will be performing at Long Island City’s Water’s Edge Restaurant on several upcoming Friday and Saturday nights and for free at the Forest Hills Library on April 18, July 18 and October 17. Visit his website at www.apianoman.com for more information.