A musical prodigy recently took his show on the road in a big way.
Fifteen-year-old Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute (MBCI) student Kenny Ingram played two shows as part of Muzikjakit Productions’ presentation of "Long Long Time: A tribute to Billy Joel by his original 1971-72 touring band."
The show, which recreated the show Joel performed at the Sigma Studio for Philadelphia’s WMMR radio station in April 1972, played at rock club The Bitter End in New York City on Sept. 22 and at World Café Live in Philadelphia on Sept. 24.
Ingram sang on two songs — opening number Got to Begin Again and Nocturne — while New Yorker David Clark and Briton Elio Pace took turns in the Joel role on vocals and piano. Original band members Rhys Clark (drums), Larry Russell (bass) and Al Hertzberg (guitar) were also joined by Cold Spring Harbor studio guitarist and Piano Man touring guitarist Don Evans.
Ingram was initially discovered through YouTube by show organizer Russell in June 2012.
Ingram noted he originally commented on one of Russell’s posting on a live video of Billy Joel at the Mar y Sol Festival where Russell identified himself as the bassist in the video. Ingram linked Russell to one of his own Billy Joel covers. Russell liked the video and got in contact with Ingram. The two spoke for the first time on Ingram’s 14th birthday.
"I sent him my phone number, and he called me and we talked for an hour," Ingram recalled. "He asked ‘How old are you’, and I told him ‘14.’ He said ‘You don’t sound like it.’"
Ingram began playing classical piano at age four, but dropped it in favour of the guitar when he was seven. However, he became a Joel fan after MBCI choir teacher Tim Taves offered him a solo in For the Longest Time. Ingram looked into Joel’s other music, fell in love with it, and began collecting it in as many different formats as possible. He also credits the music with inspiring him to get back into piano, as he learned to play his favourite tunes.
"The way they’re produced and the way he (Joel) wrote them, it’s just eternal or immortal music," said Ingram, who lives in North Kildonan and West St. Paul. "It just sounds so pure and excellent. I just love it.
"I’d never heard something I could relate with so much."
Though the gigs were larger than playing at Sam’s Place and the Ellice Café and Theatre with his rock band, the Nowhere Boys, what floored Ingram the most was when he first met the musicians in studio on Sept. 20.
"Getting to see them play for the first time, I felt like fainting. It was just unreal," Ingram said. "They were so supportive, especially in the studio."
Ingram said there was a documentary crew capturing the festivities, and he did a brief interview for the project. The concerts were also recorded, and he’s excited to share some of his favourite music with the world.