Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Nora the piano-playing cat inspires orchestral 'catcerto'

Nora the piano-playing cat has become an internet sensation after a concerto was written for the five-year-old tabby.

Fresh from a Lithuanian concerto written just for her, the YouTube sensation gets fan mail by the bushel, has her own groupies and could be an addict if her owners ever forget to put the catnip away.

The five-year-old tabby's latest cyber splash was Lithuanian conductor Mindaugas Piecaitis' first composition, featuring Nora's solo video performance in what he called his CATcerto.

The performance with the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra on June 5 has become a web sensation at www.catcerto.com , with hits closing in on one million.

In all, nearly 20 million people have watched Nora play. She has made the television talk show circuit and has videos, two books, her own website, a blog, three calendars, mugs, greeting cards, T-shirts and posters under her belt.

Nora is owned by piano teacher Betsy Alexander, 53, and her artist-photographer husband Burnell Yow. They live in a house splashed with floor-to-ceiling colour with five other cats - Gabby, Max, Rennie, Miro and Clara.

Ms Alexander said Nora, a photogenic green-eyed rescue cat, had been a diva as long as she had known her. In fact, the day they found each other, at a New Jersey shelter, there was a sign on Nora's cage that said "bossy". She doesn't like other cats.

Nora has an agent, her own photographer and an entourage. But she isn't into bling (make that collars) and she doesn't like riding in a car - even a limo - or a plane.

"She loves visitors. She is a very gracious performer and she feels indebted to her public," Ms Alexander said.

And Nora doesn't play just any piano. She plays a Yamaha C5 Disklavier - a Lamborghini of a piano, Ms Alexander calls it.

Most of her performances come when someone else is playing the turn-of-the-century, ivory-keyed and restored Briggs piano next to the Yamaha.

"She plays in rhythm and on key," said Ms Alexander. "She plays in the same area of the keyboard as the person on the other piano and when the student stops, she stops.

"More often than not, she is in the same octave as the student. Sometimes she plays loudly, softly, quickly, slowly."

A music teacher in Japan wrote to say Nora had superb technique and used her as an example to her students on how to strike the keys - Nora releases the key instead of pounding it, Ms Alexander explained.

Nora purrs when she plays and when she dances, it is in circles on top of the grand piano.

When she was young, she chased her reflection for so long she would get dizzy and fall off the piano, Ms Alexander said.

Nora does have one little problem. "She loves to eat. She will eat as much as she possibly can. She's not picky either - fried chicken or filet mignon. She's like a little bowling ball, just roly-poly, like a seal, Ms Alexander said.

Ms Alexander is putting the finishing touches on a gift book called Nora the Piano Cat's Guide to Living the Purr-fect Life, and Nora has also received offers from magazines, cat toy manufacturers and fellow musicians.

Ms Alexander says she has been swamped by cat owners who want her to teach their cats how to play.

Nora has received thousands of emails and thousands of letters from all over the world. She is constantly asked for her autograph or pawtograph, but fans are unlikely to be in luck.

"We tried putting some food colouring on her paw but she didn't like that at all," Ms Alexander said.

A sock monkey sends Nora a love note every Valentine's Day and she has had offers of marriage, notes of encouragement and video messages.

Related links:

Pics: Cats will sleep anywhere

Play Him Off Keyboard Cat

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