‘Dueling Pianos’ audience can sing along with pop, classic rock |

‘Dueling Pianos’ audience can sing along with pop, classic rock

Rex Rutkoski

While there may not be any actual dueling when “Dueling Pianos” comes to town, there will be a whole lot of fun.

Keyboardists Harry Levicky and Hermie Granati promise they will see to that in their return to the Oaks Theater in Oakmont at
7:30 p.m. Jan. 26

“We just want everyone to have some fun when they come out to see us,” says Granati of Pittsburgh’s Granati Brothers. “People love the format and love to get involved.”

It’s a classic rock and pop sing-a-long repertoire from the 1950s to today, with more emphasis on the performance than what is found in traditional piano bars.

“Over the years, we’ve added drum loops and left hand bass, making the duo sound like a four-piece band. You can dance to us, too,” Granati says.

Intriguing concept

Levicky, a veteran Pittsburgh musician and music teacher who also plays with Johnny Angel and the Halos, isn’t certain why the concept of two pianos/keyboards intrigues people, but suggests, “Maybe because two guys are putting out a lot of music versus a band. Plus I think it’s more intimate; the audience is usually up close. Hermie and I try to entertain but we also try to showcase our musical talents.”

They don’t really “duel,” Levicky says.

“If the crowd is being active, I might divide the room on a sing-along and have them battle each other for singing the loudest or making the most noise, “ he explains. “We both often take solos, but it’s more of presenting our musical abilities and not saying, ‘I’m better than you playing this.’ Hermie is a talented musician who makes it both easy and fun to work with.”

The format took some adjustment for Granati.

“In the beginning, I went into this kicking and screaming. It took a while before I developed a way to utilize my rock and roll persona,” he explains. “I eventually adapted the basic sing-along concept to my strengths and energy as a performer.”

A good fit

He now finds it a good fit because he has always encouraged audiences to be interactive at his shows.

“Together with Harry, we have a great deal of versatility,” Granati says. “First of all, he’s bigger than me, so I don’t worry about troublemakers. But seriously, he’s a solid musician and he does songs that are well-suited to his style. He’s also a very likable chap. Together we create a good balance, an odd couple if you will. He’s a music teacher, I’m a lunatic!”

Levicky has been involved with the format since about 1996, working at JellyRolls in Station Square. He also has been a fill-in player at Sing Sing on the Waterfront and Charlie Murdock’s on the South Side.

Make it look easy

“I definitely feel that it isn’t something everyone could do. Part of it is to make it look easy and be able to play requests, just pull songs ‘out of the air,’ ” he says. “Then add the participation factor. Getting people involved is also a tough job, especially when it’s an audience that has never seen any type of dueling piano show. You need to be able to read the audience, know when to push a little and when to back off and try something else.”

They try to improvise on a request whenever possible, but he admits on occasion they can be stumped.

“Whatever song we do, we try to do it with some integrity. Girl songs don’t always work for us,” Levicky says.

“When you can get the audience to react positively to what you’re doing, you get a sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction doing what we all love to do — play music,” he says.

The Oaks Theater has been an “awesome” venue for the duo, he adds. “Every time we’ve been there we have had a great experience. The people who attend are very appreciative of our music and eagerly show it throughout the night.”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.