A ‘Mediterranean Cruise’ with Noona

Published 12:33 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

The Walter Noona Trio is returning to the town of Smithfield this month, and it’s bringing the sounds of the Mediterranean with it.

The musical excursion, a special extension of the Summer Concert Series, is designed to take listeners on a melodious cruise around the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church. The concert features songs to transport attendees from Rome to Casablanca and back home, without any chance of seasickness.

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Tickets are free but are required for admission. They can be picked up at The Smithfield Times and the Isle of Wight Arts League. Seating is limited to 140. Approximately 90 tickets remained to be distributed Tuesday. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Nationally renowned pianist Walter Noona will pilot the event on the keys, accompanied by Greg Hanson on the bass guitar and Ralph Copley handling the percussion.

The event will begin, as all voyages must, with a “departure,” set to the tune of “Sway with Me,” an old Dean Martin classic, according to Noona.

When in Rome, the trio will perform “Non Dimenti Carr” and “Arrividerce Roma,” and a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “On the Isle of Capri” as the evening cruises on by the Isle of Capri.

When the voyage reaches France, “La Vie En Rose,” “Love is Blue” and “I Love Paris” will play.

And of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, the Walter Noona Trio will walk into Rick’s as it performs its rendition of “As Time Goes By” while passing Casablanca.

The event will also feature, as “entertainment aboard ship,” performances of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” and the theme songs of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

As the cruise heads home, the trio will serenade the two coasts with “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “New York, New York.”

Noona, a winner in the district and state competitions of the Steinway Centennial Contest, said he got the idea of the theme for the concert by actually performing on a similar cruise in the past.

“I thought it’d be kind of neat to take the people on a short Mediterranean cruise,” Noona said, noting that the actual Caribbean has a rough winter forecast ahead of it.

A native of Norfolk, Noona’s private piano studio is located at Norfolk Academy. He has previously taught at institutions such as the University of Illinois, Xavier University in New Orleans and Old Dominion University.

An orchestral music aficionado, Noona presides as the musical director and conductor of the Virginia Beach Pops Orchestra. He has been a guest conductor all over the country, with orchestras including the Pittsburgh Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Nashville Symphony to name just a few.

He founded the Walter Noona Trio in 1961 after having difficulty securing a teaching position during his return to Virginia from New Orleans, reeducating himself to play “cocktail piano” at bars and clubs.

“The fact is that I’m the soloist and I’ve got two guys that follow me wherever I go,” he said of his continued fondness for trios. “They’re always there.”

Noona played his first full concert at Smithfield High School when he was a senior in high school, as a practice run for a performance he had scheduled at Catholic University in Washington D.C.

The performance went well, he remembers, though he does recall being somewhat distracted by a young girl chewing gum rather loudly in the front row.

He was later treated to a meal at the Smithfield Inn, where he ate way too much Smithfield ham.

Regarding improvisation, Noona said he can stick to a script, but he doesn’t typically like to.

“My hands become an extension of my mind,” he said of when he’s performing, “and that’s what I enjoy.”  {/mprestriction}