Note worthy: Carnegie Hall concert bassist is now a local treasure | SierraSun.com

Note worthy: Carnegie Hall concert bassist is now a local treasure

Jean Eick
Sierra Sun

For the past 15 years, the Sierra Nevada College Concert Choir has been accompanied on bass by Jay Grauer. Grauer started with the choir after retiring from the motion picture industry in 1992 and relocating in Tahoe.

“I played in 135 films all told,” he said.

The list of films includes such motion pictures as “ET,” “JFK,” “Sister Act,” “City Slickers,” and “Aladdin.”

Grauer studied the piano for six or seven years and started bass at age 13. He has played bass for 60 years. Grauer studied with Herman H. Reinshagen, who required a daily three hour minimum of practice. It paid off.

“When I was with the Army Congressional Band in Washington, D.C., I played for presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Kennedy as well as de Gaulle and Khrushchev,” Grauer said. “I had conversations with President Nixon. He played piano, and was interested in the extension on my bass.”

Grauer no longer uses the extension and plays a five-string bass. For the “Elijah” performances with the Sierra Nevada Concert Choir, he will play a four-string bass.

Grauer is also working on a summer tribute show that will be held at the Tahoe Biltmore. He will be playing a tribute to Patsy Cline and Bette Midler in July and August along with his wife, Jan Short.

“I really enjoy doing that because it is quite different,” he said.

Grauer has played at Carnegie Hall with his wife. They have even been invited back for a return performance, but can’t find the time to fit it into a very busy schedule.

The music for “Elijah” is very difficult according to both Axton and Grauer.

“I think what makes it more difficult is that you are telling a story, more like in an opera,” said Karen Colbert, one of the soloists who will sing in “Elijah.”

“I have been practicing a couple of hours a day for about the last three weeks,” Grauer said. “This is very difficult music.”

“Having a bass really emphasizes and sustains the piano sound,” said Axton.

“It moves the strings on the piano to a bigger and fuller sound.”

Catch a special April 5, Palm Sunday performance at 3:30 p.m. at the Squaw Valley Chapel. Tickets are available at The Potlatch in Incline, Pablo’s Gallery in Tahoe City, the SNC Bookstore or from choir members. For more information, call Donna Axton at (775) 881-7586.