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  • Section C

    Days of wine and Mozart
    By Tim Rios - Staff Writer
    Posted on July 1, 2005

    Photo by Tim Rios

    Eric and Catherine Thompson, in their role as Duo Polyhymnia, make beautiful music together to the delight of the guests they invited to their home for an evening of wine, food and music.

    What do you do when you and your wife both have Masters degrees in music from San Francisco State and would love to familiarize your community with the beauty of classical piano? If you’re Eric and Catherine Thompson, you open your home, offer wine and food, and hold a recital in your living room.

    Playing to a packed house on June 25, the Thompsons, performing under the pseudonym Duo Polyhymnia, uncorked the wine, broke out the music sheets and treated their guests to an evening filled with Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven.

    Named after one of the nine Greek muses, the duo has been playing together for 15 years and studying music for more than 20.

    “There was another muse that symbolized sacred poetry and dance and was probably a closer match but is largely associated with flute music,” Eric said. “But Polyhymnia had key elements in the name that were more sacred – pensive, thoughtful, and serious.”

    Seriousness about the music is not only evident in the couple’s masterful playing but also in their knowledge of the pieces they are presenting. Before playing each piece, the couple described the composition and the era in which it was written. They also told of the composer’s life at the time the piece was created.

    The Brentwood couple runs their Thompson Music Studio from their home, where lessons are taught throughout the week. Catherine also teaches piano at Los Medanos College and the couple hosts several recitals for their students throughout the year.

    The idea for their own recital was born out of an ongoing gathering that the couple has been a part of for more than 10 years, according to Eric.

    “We’d get together with friends and have monthly music soirés,” Eric said. “Where we’d sing, play, read poetry and have wine and food.”

    The circle of friends always dreamed of expanding their monthly gatherings, mostly because of the sheer joy they experienced every time they met, but also to be able to make classical music accessible to the community.

    “Concert halls are so stiff,” Eric said. “We wanted a real relaxed venue.”

    “So we thought, ‘Why don’t we do it at home?’” added Catherine.

    A rebuilt 1920 Steinway piano sits in the entrance of their home, where on concert night rows of chairs fill the front room. Passing through an arch reveals a series of couches and more chairs and leads to the kitchen full of treats. Low lighting, a colorful fish tank and hors d’oeuvres with wine augment the welcoming ambience.

    “It’s a casual atmosphere where people can be introduced to classical music where they don’t feel intimidated,” said attendee and longtime friend Lynette Stack.

    Performing solos and duos last, the couple, both 39, brought the classic Steinway to life with their 20 fingers, performing pieces delivered with gusto and passion. They took their final bows and thanked their guests for their part in the evening.

    The first in a Music and Wine Series, the Thompsons hope that the momentum will continue and that the community’s interest in rediscovering the arts will catch on.

    For information on future dates for the Music and Wine Series or lessons at Thompson Music Studio, e-mail info@thompsonmusicstudio.com.