Port Moody pianist is a celebrity in China

Martin Mayer is quite happy to call Port Moody his home.

Martin Mayer is quite happy to call Port Moody his home.

In the Tri-City community, where he’s lived for the past two years, he can shop at the local grocery store and walk down the street virtually unnoticed.

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In China, though, Mayer gets little privacy unless he’s dressed in a ball cap and sunglasses.

There, nearly two decades after he broke out as a performing artist — selling out 20,000-seat theatres in large cities for his piano acts — he’s a celebrity.

“It’s sort of this massive head trip for me,” he told The Tri-City News by phone last Friday. “In Canada, I’m just a regular guy and it smacks me in the face when I get off a plane. It’s surreal.”

Mayer, who will be at Coquitlam’s Evergreen Cultural Centre on Saturday for a “homecoming” concert and to preview his next tour in China this spring, gained his fame at 19 after he spent $35,000 to produce high-quality show with a 20-piece orchestra.

The live recording caught the eye of a talent agency in China, which invited him to play 16 cities across the country. Media and music fans waited for him as he and his fellow musicians stepped off the airplane and as they arrived at concert halls.

Still, being around the spotlight isn’t anything new for Mayer.

His mother was an entertainment reporter in Prague in the 1960s, who Mayer said interviewed the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, while his father was a famous folk singer, with a sound comparable to John Denver.

Mayer, who immigrated to Canada with his parents in the 1989, said he still hears his dad’s songs on the radio when he returns to the Czech Republic. They have attention in Europe and in Asia, but in Canada, there’s only peace and quiet, he said with a laugh.

On Feb. 17, Martin promises to deliver on his aptly titled “Grande Piano Show,” with such songs from the Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and Pirates of the Caribbean.

He’ll have two special guests to help perform his original music — including from his latest album Unbreakable, which Mayer released last month and will have for sale at his Evergreen concert — as well as Chinese, Latin, Irish and rock tunes, among other genres. “It’s definitely not your standard show,” he said. “It’s not a piano recital.”

Mayer added, “I’ve been to a lot of shows over the years and I know what the audience likes and doesn’t like. You need to be energetic and you need to entertain. It can’t just be technical…. I really have a Grande Piano Show because there’s so much going on and there’s something for everyone to enjoy.”

• Martin Mayer: The Grande Piano Show is part of the TD Music Series at the Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way). For tickets at $29/$15, call the box office at 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca.

jcleugh@tricitynews.com

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