Michael Allen Harrison has important ties to Sisters.photo by Katy Yoder
Michael Allen Harrison has important ties to Sisters.photo by Katy Yoder

When Portland piano great and philanthropist Michael Allen Harrison drove along the Metolius River and into the secluded woods to reach House on Metolius, his mind churned with ideas for the evening's performance.

"This is a coming-home kind of place," he smiled after his arrival. Inspired by the sounds of the river and views of the Cascade Range and Metolius meadow, he entered the room ready to transport the audience.

Harrison welcomed everyone and thanked them for allowing him to do what he loves to do ... play the piano. Before he began to play he took the time to meet the audience, letting them know the evening would be an intimate one. He reminisced about his time in Sisters, years before when he came to perform at Sisters High School and present the school with its first grand piano.

During his time in the schools, he met Kerani Mitchell, who was in the Americana Project.

"I never forgot her voice," he mused. "I'd love to sing with her again, her voice was so uniquely her own."

Audience members promised to let Mitchell know and help him get in touch with her.

As the sun set, Harrison began his performance in the Gorge Living Room with a fire crackling in the old stone fireplace. The audience sat comfortably around linen-clad tables with hors d'oeuvres and complimentary wine.

Harrison's solo performance mesmerized the audience with his spontaneity and obvious command of any musical genre he chose.

He began the first set with a medley of songs, but he made a disclaimer before he began, "I don't know what the middle will be," he laughed, "I won't know until I sit down and let the ideas flash. Let's go on a music adventure." And so it was.

Before he concluded his first set, Harrison told the story of a show in Portland where he asked a woman celebrating her birthday to give him five notes and he'd compose a song for her. She chose B, G, F, A and D. When he first played the notes together he grimaced playfully as if this might be a feat even he couldn't achieve.

Then he closed his eyes for a moment and created a song both haunting and beautiful that seemed to tell a story stretching back through time. Once again the audience was transported to almost a meditative state where they relaxed into the adventure Harrison was taking them on.

Harrison is founder and president of The Snowman Foundation, which has raised over $2 million for music education supporting school programs. He is also a Steinway artist, which means he is given the opportunity to perform using Steinway pianos on loan from the company. A teacher and entertainer, Harrison found the serial number on the Lundgren family piano he was playing. Based on the number, he was able to tell that the piano was built in the 1920s or '30s and had been used during the era when George Gershwin was composing music. He played a beautiful rendition of "Summertime" and mentioned what a treat it was to play on an instrument from the same time-period.

House on Metolius is planning a return performance around the holidays. There's also talk about his annual fundraiser "Ten Grands" being hosted in the area. With Harrison's enthusiasm, talent and passion, it was easy for audience members to believe that anything he put his mind and heart into was possible.

Harrison is the third artist to perform at House on Metolius. More events and performances are planned for the future. Guests are able to stay at the lodge and enjoy all the amenities available at House on Metolius. For more on Harrison visit www.michaelallenharrison.com. For information about House on Metolius visit www.metolius.com or call 541-595-6620.