The Westport Library’s Transformation Project has been a daring adventure.
For nearly 2 years, officials masterminded a top-to-bottom (literally) metamorphosis of an already great institution. In less than 3 weeks they’ll cut the ribbon, opening it officially to the world.
Last night, a couple of hundred folks got a sneak peek.
Library officials took the bold step of scheduling — as their first event in the new space — their signature fundraiser of the year.
Booked For The Evening is a night of fine food, socializing, and honoring a noted member of the literary or arts world. Expectations are high.
The library had never tested its innovations before a live audience. High-tech video and sound systems; a beautiful Yamaha Disklavier piano that can play itself; the vaunted grandstand seating — all rolling out for the first time ever.
It was one of the best Booked evenings ever.
The stunning reception area; the new performing arts space; the flow, the ambiance, the energy — it was all there, just as the hundreds of men and women who had worked for so long on the project hoped (and prayed).
Frederic Chiu — the world-renowned pianist and longtime Westporter — gave an inspired performance.
In keeping with the theme of the night — and the Transformation Project’s emphasis on creativity — there were wonderful touches.
The audience voted to see an alternative (happy) ending to Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet” ballet, performed by dancers Marlon Grigsby and Harlee Trautman, as Chiu inaugurated the new piano.
Chiu then played a movement from Philip Glass’s “4 Movements for 2 Pianos,” with his protégé Timo Andres.
There were video — and live — tributes to the honoree.
Then, the finale: Chopin’s “Rondo in C Major, Opus 7 for 2 Pianos.” Chiu did something he’s never done, in his long career: He accompanied himself. The magic came courtesy of the Yamaha; one part was recorded weeks ago.
It was a warm, varied and community-minded evening. It flowed easily, and flawlessly.
This morning, everyone who was there is talking about Frederic Chiu — and the newly transformed Westport Library.
It will be booked — by proud, pleased patrons — for decades to come.
(The ribbon-cutting and opening ceremonies for the new library are Sunday, June 23. Festivities begin at 11 a.m., and last until 4 p.m.)