88-Year-Old Pianist Adds to Ambiance at Alpine


(Tuesday, July 22, 2008 5:06 AM EDT)

Walk into the Alpine Restaurant on a Friday evening, and you'll be greeted with jazzy piano tunes wafting from the bar and lounge area.

It might be “As Time Goes By” or “Lara's Theme,” but one thing it definitely will not be is a recording.

Pianist Larry Maher has been playing live music at the Alpine for 11 years, and can be found every Friday night entertaining guests from happy hour until the restaurant's lounge is empty.

Maher, who is 88 years old and has been a local resident since 1939, doesn't perform as much as he used to, but in years past, he played all across the metropolitan area.

Gigs ranged from parties for incoming press secretaries to birthday bashes for governors' wives. The native New Yorker had numerous encounters with presidents, including Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and other celebrities.

One of the most unforgettable experiences for Maher was accompanying actress and singer Ethel Merman.

He said he remembered thinking, “I'm just not qualified!” But he went on with the show and was relieved to be told later that he'd “done a hell of a job.”

Another memorable experience probably may not have seemed life-changing at the time, but it was. Playing at an Army club in 1944 in Belgium, he met his future wife, who was a teletype operator for the 9th Air Force.

“She asked if I could give her lessons,” he said. “One thing led to another. We were married for 59 years.”

Although Maher isn't meeting as many celebrities now, he said he truly enjoys working at the restaurant and is very fond of the owner, Ermanno Tonizzo.

“This is a neighborhood joint. Everyone's on a first-name basis,” he said. “I love the people and the food here is delicious.”

And when he's not playing piano at the Alpine, Maher is home practicing.

“My technique isn't where I want it to be . . . I have no intention of quitting,” he said. “I'm going to play till I can't play anymore.”

Maher plays at the Alpine Restaurant in Arlington on Friday evenings. For more information, call (703) 528-7600.

Larry Maher performs on the piano at the Alpine Restaurant, where, he says, "I love the people and the food is delicious."
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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