"Together Again” a Performance of Excellence

For the Constitution-Tribune

The Chillicothe Area Arts Council’s Season Performance, “Together Again”, featuring the duo pianos of Betty Preston Steele and Jamie Pauls was greeted with tremendous applause as they took the stage of the Gary Dickinson Performing Arts Center.  What began, over 40 years ago, as piano teacher and student, was a magnificent concert by two professional pianists with respect and admiration for each other’s ability and musicianship!  The two were so connected, it was next to impossible to distinguish who was playing what part of the song.  They were definitely not dueling pianos!  It was obvious, from the first note played, Preston Steele and Pauls held the crowd in the “palm of their hands!”  The program rose to a musical high as Terri Critten, flutist and Zebediah Yoko, cellist joined Preston Steele and Pauls to finish the first half of the show.  They added a special flavor to “The Water is Wide”, a folk song of Scottish origin, “Morning Has Broken” traditional Scottish Gaelic tune, “Deep River” African-American spiritual and “Goin’ Home, from a symphony.

"Together Again," a performance featuring Betty Preston Steele and Jamie Pauls, also included several selections with Terri Critten, flutist and Zebediah Yoko, cellist.

Arts Administrator, Mary Lou VanDeventer shared comments from the artists:

“……and now, here is Jamie and Betty….” Those words propelled us onto the PAC stage Sunday afternoon and into one of the most meaningful experiences of my life! From that first chromatic scale intro for Hey! Look Me Over to the encore 12th Street Rag last chords of the concert, every moment was joyful for us."

"I was amused at Jamie’s comment in one of our on stage “talking moments” when he pointed out that “Betty could pull it out of you.” I think that is student-speak for “she reverted into the piano-teacher-person" a few times in our rehearsals. And yesterday’s result was that we played in sync for shaping every phrase, felt the dynamic contrasts together, changed tempos like clockwork, and simply were soul mates in musical expression. That does not always happen in musical performances!"

Betty Preston Steele and Jamie Pauls.

"Programming numbers for variety and interest is so important, and we were very fortunate to be joined by Terry Critten on flute and Zebadiah Yoko on cello for a portion of the program. Their musicianship and musicality was beautiful!"

"Someone asked me if Jamie and I rehearsed what we were going to say between numbers—we did talk about what topics would be covered and at what points in the program, but the beauty of yesterday was simply our candid conversations and reflections as we chatted with the audience," Preston Steele said. 

"I have loved becoming acquainted with Jamie Pauls, the adult, after not being around him for almost 40 years! Fun, funny, clever, sensitive, intuitive, smart—all besides being a phenomenal musician….what a gift to our world! And by the way, he looked pretty natty in his tux & tails, thanks in large part to wife Stacie helping him get all decked out.

And the most beautiful thing? Sunday we were playing not as student/teacher but as great musician friends with very different musical styles in some areas. We were blessed with melding those styles into a musical gift for our friends and families who were in the audience. To me, that was the very best thing about the opportunity given us by the Chillicothe Area Arts Council," said Preston Steele. 

Pauls commented," For me, it is not an exaggeration to say that this concert was the culmination of everything I have ever done in my life, musically speaking.  Not only did I have the pleasure of becoming re-acquainted with the best piano teacher anyone could possibly ask for, but over the past three and one-half months, I have gotten to know Betty as a true friend and fellow musician.  I don’t expect this to be our only concert “together again!”  

Following the performance a reception was held in the PAC.

" I felt so honored to be asked to play with such fine musicians.  Loved every minute of rehearsal with them.  Betty selected such perfect music for us to play," Terri Critten said. 

Zeb Yoko said, "It was an honor to be invited to play—the rehearsals were a treat and I thought the performance was fantastic!" 

Wanda Pauls, Pauls mother reflected, " The performance was moving, entertaining and professionally done—couldn’t have been any better!  Refreshing to take a step back in time and take the musical journey with Jamie and Betty through their stories, reflections and musical arrangements.

"It was especially moving when they played my favorite hymn, “It is Well with My Soul”!"

When asked to share from her perspective what it was like to raise a blind child, she shared—“When Jamie became school age, we moved to Texas to enroll him in a school for the blind.  It quickly became obvious that this wasn’t the best place for Jamie.  We were encouraged to enroll him in public school.  That’s when we came back to Chillicothe and enrolled him in Central school.  As Jamie’s parents, we knew he wasn’t handicapped, he just couldn’t see!  He was always an amazing child and when Betty acknowledged his musical ability and agreed to give him piano lessons, it changed his life. Jim and I are blessed to be the parents God chose for Jamie!” 

Arts Council Members, students and fans attending shared:

"Mary Lou & the CAAC, David & I appreciate so much your efforts to bring Betty Preston Steele and her former student, Jamie Pauls “Together Again.”  The concert was delightful, beautiful, and inspiring.  If the program had only been about the variety of the music, that would have been a great performance, but their story along with their musical personalities meshing so nicely, made the program outstanding! We consider the concert one of your best efforts!  Thank you, and Betty and Jamie for a program that will be long remembered!"  Darla & David Macoubrie

"Well done!  My daughter started playing the piano about 12-15 months ago and participated in her first performance or beginner competition this past week.  She was really impressed with today's performance and loved the song selections."

"The concert today was absolute perfection!!!!! Betty and Jamie are both amazing pianists but more than that I so enjoyed their dialogue on stage and the ease of conversation that they shared with one another and the audience!  It was a thoroughly delightful concert and afternoon!"

"The concert was a smash!  I loved your music selections.  Kudos."

" "Together Again” was the culmination of efforts and skills of two very dedicated people.  As I sat at the concert watching and listening, I could see the pride of satisfaction and accomplishment on both faces and hear the results of hard work and that sense of pride along with the happiness that goes with a task well done. One thought continually ran through my mind, being, “Betty brought light to the life of one young man who is now spreading light to others!  Jamie’s not blind, he just can’t see!”

Board comments:

"What an amazing performance!  The folks in attendance loved it!  Those that weren’t there missed out!”

So many folks commented “This was the best show we’ve ever been to!” 

"Loved the music—their selection of songs was wonderful—most all were familiar, even the classical arrangements.”

"Terri Critten and Zeb Yoko added a special touch!  They are excellent musicians!  Hoping to see and hear more from them in future performances!”

"The entire event was classy, beginning with the beautiful programs, the formal attire of the musicians and finally the beautiful reception table.”  “The punch was refreshing and the cookies tasty.”  “Wonderful way to wrap up the event!”

Administrator, VanDeventer and CAAC board were extremely pleased to present this excellent group of professional artists as one of the season performances for season ticket holders.