Arts Around: The spirit of pianist Richard Krauk lives on at Mills House
We have artists all over this town, and sometimes I’m reminded that they work within their own small realm, bringing pleasure to others without taking a lot of credit along the way.
Such was the case of Richard Krauk, who played piano at the Mills House Hotel for 41 years.
He was a Navy man who settled in Charleston after learning sonar and radar for submarine duty. He strolled into the newly renovated Mills House Hotel in 1971, looking for a part-time gig.
Instead, it became his home away from home, as he built a loyal following, much like Sam in “Casablanca,” with songs such as “As Time Goes By,” “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and other favorites.
In his prime, Krauk’s repertoire included thousands of tunes, from complicated classical and Viennese waltzes to Roaring ’20s staples and simpler ragtime riffs. He worked six days a week, twice on Sundays.
He serenaded three presidents, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, during their visits to Charleston.
Later in life, he went deaf and struggled with blindness, but he still played on, his playlist narrowing to his favorites. At the beginning of this year, he was still to be found behind the piano on Fridays and Sunday brunch.
Krauk died in April, but on Wednesday, a group of family and friends gathered at the hotel to unveil a portrait commissioned by another Navy man, Admiral Charles Horne, who was a faithful follower of Krauk.
Horne had award-winning portrait and gallery artist Rich Nelson paint the likeness, which shows a handsome, slightly graying man at his favorite piano, the hotel lovingly painted in the background.
Horne himself is getting up in age, but he always appreciated the fact that when he walked into the Barbados Room, Krauk would play his favorites tunes.
Krauk’s wife, Sissy, was there for the unveiling, and said with a laugh, “I always knew what we were doing for vacation and holidays because he would be playing here. I was always grateful that Dick was loyal to the Mills House and not another woman!”
So Krauk will still grace the hotel, the small portrait by Nelson hanging in the corner by the bar, looking out over the patio. And those who hear his favorite tunes as another player sits in his favorite spot, can remember him once again.
There are so many Christmas offerings that it is hard to choose what to see this year, but for me, no Christmas would be complete without hearing a performance of “Handel’s Messiah.” Luckily, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra is performing it several times in different locations so lots of people can hear it.
This week, there are still tickets available for the 7 p.m. Thursday performance at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Summerville and the 7:30 p.m. Friday performance at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Mount Pleasant. I like that the CSO is performing in community locations, and the “Messiah” is so appropriate to hear in a church. It adds a special touch to the Hallelujah Chorus.
Tickets are $25 for adults; $10 for students (ages 6-22).
For the kids, the CSO will be performing “Hansel & Gretel” several times Friday and Saturday at the Dock Street Theatre. The timeless fairy tale of lost siblings, candy delights and a wicked witch comes to life in this semi-staged family presentation of Engelbert Humperdinck’s captivating opera.
Since the kids will be out of school, and performances are about an hour, their patience won’t wear thin.
Oh, yes, the CSO will host free Instrument Petting Zoos starting one hour prior to the Friday performance, and Saturday at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. This is a great chance for little ones to have hands-on experience with professional musical instruments before hearing them on stage. At the Instrument Petting Zoos, you can enter to win one of three gingerbread houses made by chefs and donated from the Culinary Institute of Charleston.
Tickets are $10 for everyone. Go to www.charleston symphony.com for times and tickets.
Have a great week before the Christmas rush!
Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.