A week ago, I hiked along Avenue of the Americas at Forty-Sixth Street. I observed the boundless bright lights of “Christmas Cheer,” then strolled sometime later into the Church of the Heavenly Rest at 2 East 90th Street and 5th Avenue.
At 5:00 PM, the church seemed empty except for the serene sounds from a lady playing on a Steinway piano. As I listened to her eloquent performance; her music reminded me of a time growing up in Georgia; and hearing the heartfelt music at “Little Friendship Baptist Church.”
When she finished playing, I introduced myself; and asked if I could interview her for Catch It?
The following week, November 26th, I met with Phamie Gow at the Heavenly Rest Stop (Fifth Avenue, between 89th and 90th Streets). Ms. Gow is a classically trained pianist, an international musician/singer, composer, and recording artist. She has a degree in Scottish Music from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in Glasgow, Scotland.
CI: Were you born in Scotland?
PG: Yes, although, I have lived in different parts of the world: France, London, Spain, and North America. Now, I am living in New York City. I am open and receptive to all cultures, and it sort of changed my sense of nationality, I feel a little Spanish, French, British, but never shall I forget my Scottish roots, so I am a tiny bit of everything.
CI: When I listened to your music, I felt “universal love,” when did you know you were a pianist?
PG: I have to give a lot of credit to my parents, my mother was a poet and a painter; my father is a painter, and he used to be an art teacher. I remember my mum said when I was two years old; I was dancing along to the rhythm of the washing machine. I was just musical; I had rhythm, because rhythm is music—heartbeat.
CI: Did you have a piano while growing up in your home?
PG: I started playing when I was eight years old; my parents got me a piano, a real honky-tonk piano. It was only when I was twelve and a half years old; I was composing and finished my first composition. From then, my music was something I had to express; I felt something from the heart. In fact, I taught myself to play the harp from the heart. Six months later, I had my first public performance. And from that time, people were interested in my music and encouraged me to stay with it.
CI: Could you expound more about playing from the heart?
PG: I feel a spiritual connection; I feel so much love for this music when I play. It’s almost an out-of-body experience, and people have mentioned it to me that they feel it, too.
CI: Are there any special performances you have had that stands out more than another?
PG: When His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to visit Scotland, I was honored to perform at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh; and I was invited by the composer, pianist Philip Glass to perform with Patti Smith and her band at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
CI: What is the best part of living in New York City?
PG: You get what you want out of the city; there is so much here, you can make your life the way you want it. Every time I have been here, I have learned so much. And then, I have the Church of the Heavenly Rest—I go there to worship, to play, and the people are delightful, very nice. Finally, I have Central Park, I love being so close to nature.
CI: If you could ask a question to Ludwig van Beethoven, what would it be?
PG: I would ask Beethoven about his work in the latter part of his life. Did he have a vision of what he wanted to achieve when he was younger?
CI: It was as if, he didn’t have a disability, because he created so much work.
PG: He was awesome. And, I just wondered if he didn’t have that disability, would he have written so much music. It is almost like that pain and ethos brought more to the musical world that he created.
—Personally, I feel very blessed to be on my musical journey, thus far.
CI: Thank you, Phamie Gow.
Last Wednesday, I skipped by West 58thth Street, and glanced at two teen-aged girls who glared through the windows of Beethoven Pianos at 232 West 58th Street, New York, NY 10019. I smiled and murmured, “There goes two other geniuses—in motion.”
—Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays