Pianist lends his talents
Pianist and composer John Nilsen goes everywhere — including Prineville.
Next Saturday, the accomplished Oregon musician will swing by the Prineville Nazarene Church for an evening concert that benefits Redemption House Ministries' homeless shelters.
"I live in Portland, but I tour all the time, and Prineville is a nice town, and it's a lot closer than Florida," he chuckled, noting that he had just returned from a multi-state tour that began in Florida and ended in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nilsen will perform his piano solo music in Madras at 7 p.m. Friday, March 8 at the Madras United Methodist Church and then will head to Prineville for a 7 p.m. 75-minute show Saturday, March 9.
Nilsen, a pianist, guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and a performance and recording artist, will play a variety of genres.
"It'll cover folk and jazz and classical, and there'll be some boogie-woogie in there, and there'll be some songs that everybody knows, and there'll be some songs that nobody knows," he said, adding that some of his songs are traditional hymns as well.
He was born in Seattle, Washington, in the 1950s and was raised primarily in Portland. He currently lives in West Linn.
Nilsen's father was a pastor, and his mother was a private piano teacher and music director. He began studying classical piano with his mother at age 6 and started playing guitar at age 14.
His recording career began in 1983 when "Sea of Inspiration," a collection of original piano solos, was released on Eagle Records in Los Angeles, California. He founded his own recording label, Magic Wing, in 1987 and has since released several albums.
In the past 35 years, Nilsen has averaged 250 shows a year around the globe, performing as a solo pianist and solo guitarist. He also performs with his two bands, folk-rock band John Nilsen and Swimfish and the John Nilsen Trio, which performs a mix of folk, classical, jazz and rock.
"It's hard to put me into one genre because my music is sort of a combination of folk and jazz and classical, but I've built my career upon being a composer first," Nilsen said. "I will play some songs that I wrote and play some songs I didn't write, but being a composer comes first with me — that's my main deal."
Seventeen of his 20 records have been all original compositions.
"Local Ocean," his newest release, features Swimfish and was released in January 2017. Sessions for the 20th Nilsen recording began in 2017, continued throughout 2018 and are nearly completed.
His other album titles include "Above Me," "Across Oregon," "Footprints on Water" and "From the Sky."
"He does the traditional hymns with more of a contemporary touch as well," said Mike Wilson, who is on the Redemption House Ministries board. "It's a real nice workup of that."
Wilson said Nilsen comes through Prineville every three or four years.
"He's always been very well received," Wilson said. "This year, we want to make it a benefit concert to help support Redemption House Ministries' homeless shelters, and given the current weather conditions, you can understand the need for secure shelter."
Redemption House Ministries is a nonprofit organization that provides transitional housing, food and other resources for those in need. They operate Redemption House, a women and children's shelter; Regeneration House, a men's shelter; and Craig's Compassionate Café, a community meal service.
Prineville Nazarene Church planted Redemption House Ministries in the Prineville community in 2013 and continues to partner in ministry with RHM as it grows. The women and children's shelter and café are based at the Nazarene Church.
Nilsen said it is wonderful that the concert will benefit the local homeless shelters.
"I am happy to lend myself and my talents to a worthy cause," he said.
Concert admission is a free-will offering.
"We're hoping for generous spirits," Wilson said.
John Nilsen Piano Performance
Date: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 9
Location: Prineville Nazarene Church, 780 E. First St.
Admission is a free-will offering to benefit Redemption House Ministries.
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