'Grumpy Old Men' planning to duel

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News (From left): Ian Nie and Bill Cunningham show off their grumpiest selves by a nearby garbage can in preparation for the Grumpy Old Men on Dueling Pianos event set for Oct. 26. The upcoming event will include classical music amidst satire and laugh-until-your-ribs-ache laughter.

BELOIT - There will be even more grumpiness as music mavens and best "frenemies" Ian Nie and Bill Cunningham duke it out once again at the upcoming Grumpy Old Men on Dueling Pianos event.

Nie and Cunningham have more surprises and shenanigans in store for the audience than ever before in this event, which is the third round of Dueling Pianos.

"We want to play serious music and make people laugh for 90 minutes," Cunningham said.

In Dueling Pianos, Cunningham and Nie work to present serious music in a much more fun and satirical way. Attendees can expect pranks and shenanigans in between rounds of classical music.

Music will be played on a grand piano as well as an electric piano supplied by Knapton Musik Knotes of Janesville. In one corner there will be Nie, former music director at United Church of Beloit, Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra (TCCO) Executive director and master of jest. Cunningham hails as a music director at St. John's Lutheran and St. Thomas Catholic churches, TCCO legal consultant and lord of laughs.

"We make fun of each other in a good way," Cunningham said. "Ian's a pathetic piano player."

The event will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 26. The suggested donation is $10 per person or $25 per family, but is not required. Dueling Pianos 3 will be held on the second floor of the Hendricks Center for Performing Arts, at the corner of East Grand Avenue and Pleasant Street in downtown Beloit.

Cunningham will perform the "Warsaw Concerto" the non-Liberace version. The piece was featured in the British film "Dangerous Moonlight," a political propaganda film against Nazi Germany from 1941.

Cunningham said he feels it's one of the most beautiful pieces ever written.

Cunningham also will perform "boogie-woogie" and jazz, while Nie performs music by Frédéric Chopin and other classical works.

The event builds upon the idea that Cunningham and Nie are disagreeing on the legitimacy of "classical music" versus more accessible music such as the "Warsaw Concerto."

Vocalist Shannon Schoville and Katie Swanson will make a cameo appearance as well as violinist Zach Peterson.

"Peterson will surprise the audience a number of times," Cunningham added.

The event will also include what Nie calls "the burying of Mozart."

"We are going to give Mozart a proper funeral with hilarity," Nie said.

The evening will also include a special dedication to a friend of Cunningham's who is battling pancreatic cancer.

All money will be dedicated to the Pancreatic Cancer Network. The TCCO has raised $8,000 for the organization in the past year. Cunningham was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July of 2017 after eight months of tests. After a year of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery he was considered cancer free at the end of 2018.

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