Tag Archives: amateur pianists

An evening concert at Brunswick House

A stag with an impressive set of antlers surveys the room, while a white-tuxedo’d Tony Curtis keeps watch over the proceedings from his niche in a corner near the piano, a John Hopkinson baby grand with a rosewood case. Glittering chandeliers hang from the ceiling, illuminating the exposed brickwork on two walls of the room and highlighting the colours of the stained glass panels in the elegant sash windows. Exotic oriental rugs are draped over vintage British Rail first class seats, and at the back of the room, a glass cabinet is filled with antique pharmacy jars. Welcome to Brunswick House, part of the London Architectural Salvage and Supply Co, a Georgian mansion just five minutes from London’s Vauxhall Station, flanked by the brand new 5-star hotel and luxury apartments of One Nine Elms. Brunswick House is a treasure trove of antiques and salvaged curiosities, and on Thursday night last week, it provided a wonderful and eclectic venue for a fine evening of music making and conviviality.


Lorraine Banning, Frances Wilson & Lorraine Liyanage (and Tony Curtis) at Brunswick House

“A superb evening – huge fun was had with a mix of musical genres in a delightfully decrepit and stylish Georgian mansion. Best of luck promoting these salon recitals, the way music is meant to be played and heard.”

Rosalind, audience member

The concert was part of the South London Concert Series, and featured a recital by BBC Music Magazine’s “rising star” Emmanuel Vass, together with supporting performances by three talented members of the London Piano Meetup Group, who despite not being “professional” pianists, played with equal poise, musical sensitivity and professionalism. The diverse programme matched the unusual setting, with music by Bach, Chopin, Turina, and Mozart together with Emmanuel’s own transcriptions of pop songs by Queen and The Prodigy. In keeping with the SLCS ethos of recreating the nineteenth-century musical salon, an hour of music was followed by much conversation and socialising in the ante-room next to the Saloon, and continued downstairs in the restaurant adjacent to the house.

“The South London Concert Series is both innovative and traditional. Events blend an appreciation of fine music and music making with conviviality, and blur the artificial distinctions between professional and amateur”

James Lisney, international concert pianist

The final SLCS concert of the 2013/14 season is on Friday 16th May at the 1901 Arts Club. Entitled ‘Eastern Accents’, the concert includes music from Russia and Japan, and features a performance by guest artist Vatche Jambazian. Further details/tickets here

View more photographs from the Brunswick House concert

A selection of videos from the concert:


Anne Shingler

South London Concert Series Spring recital

“The South London Concert Series is innovative……..events blend an appreciation of fine music with conviviality”

The third concert in the South London Concert Series featured guest artist Anne Shingler, a vibrant and sensitive pianist whose programme reflected her wide-ranging musical tastes with music by Bach, Suk, Messiaen, Stevenson and Rodgers & Hammerstein. Anne was supported by performances by Jose Luis Gutierrez Sacristan, Edi Bilimoria and Lorraine Womack Banning, all members of the London Piano Meetup Group who play to an extremely high standard and who offered works by Ginastera, Brahms and Debussy. The programme was a musical travelogue, taking the audience from Argentina (Ginastera) to the Far East (Debussy’s evocative ‘Pagodes’) via Europe and America.

With a loyal band of “regulars”, who have been to every concert in the series so far, members of the London Piano Meetup Group, friends, family, supporters and music lovers, the atmosphere in the salon at the 1901 Arts Club was warm and convivial, while the after party was cheerful and noisy. All in all, this was very much an evening of music for friends, played by friends and amongst friends, confirming once again that the South London Concert Series offers a formula that works. The enthusiastic feedback from performers and audience more than endorsed this, and we are eagerly looking forward to the next concerts in the series, and to developing the SLCS concept further.

Forthcoming SLCS concerts:

3rd April – Emmanuel Vass at Brunswick House

BBC Music Magazine’s March “rising star” performs music by Bach, Liszt, Granados and Turina, together with his own transcriptions. Emmanuel is supported by Jose Luis Gutierrez Sacristan, Rob Foster and Lorraine Womack Banning, who will perform works by Bach, Chopin and Mozart. Ticket price includes a glass of Prosecco on arrival, and guests are invited to join the performers and hosts for dinner afterwards (not included in ticket price). Tickets here

16th May – ‘Eastern Accents’ at the 1901 Arts Club

Vatche Jambazian is the guest artist for an SLCS concert with a special accent on music from eastern Europe and Russia. Vatche will be supported by SLCS co-founders Lorraine Liyanage and Frances Wilson, LPMG member Jennie Barham and violinist Alex Ewan. Music by Shostakovich, Ustvolskaya (a student of Shostakovich), Khatchaturian, Szymanowski, Biber, and Rachmaninov. This is the final concert of the SLCS 2013/14 season. Tickets here

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South London Concert Series

London Piano Meetup Group

1901 Arts Club

Piano Techniques App from ‘Pianist’ magazine

All the enjoyable and engaging features of ‘Pianist’ magazine are included in this new piano techniques app: informative and easy to understand articles on technique and repertoire, how to play a particular work with guidance from a top teacher, free sheet music (18 pieces in fact, from beginner to advanced level), an interview with Lang Lang, contributions from expert teachers, and more, all presented in an interactive and accessible format.

The organisation of the content will be familiar to anyone who reads Pianist magazine regularly. Clear, well laid out articles are enhanced by video tutorials by renowned teachers and pianists, and soundclips, which enable the reader to listen to the pieces presented in the free sheet music section.

The app is easy to navigate, with clear swipe commands and helpful notes and asides which enhance the articles. In effect, the app offers the very best of ‘Pianist’ magazine in a user-friendly and portable format – read it at the piano or in bed – and is ideal for the beginner, intermediate or more advanced pianist.

Download the app from the iTunes app store

Emmanuel Vass at Brunswick House

Pianist Emmanuel Vass performs at a unique London venue in a concert hosted by the innovative South London Concert Series.


Described by ‘The Independent’ as “one to watch” and named as BBC Music Magazine’s March “rising star”, Emmanuel has been praised for his suave showmanship and his ability to merge traditional classical piano repertoire with his own transcriptions of popular music.

His concert at London’s Brunswick House is complemented by supporting performances from talented amateur pianists from the London Piano Meetup Group in a programme featuring music by Turina, Granados and Chopin.

The concert takes place in the opulent Saloon at Brunswick House, a Georgian mansion just five minutes from London’s Vauxhall Station, flanked by the brand new 5-star hotel and luxury apartments of One Nine Elms. Brunswick House, part of the London Architectural Salvage and Supply Co, is a treasure trove of antiques and curiosities and offers a wonderful and eclectic venue for a fine evening of music making and conviviality.

Ticket price includes a glass of Prosecco on arrival, and guests are invited to join the performers and hosts in the restaurant afterwards for dinner.

Doors 6.45pm for 7.15pm concert
Dress code: smart

Created and co-curated by Lorraine Liyanage and Frances Wilson, the South London Concert Series is a new concert concept which gives talented amateur musicians the opportunity to perform alongside professional artists in a formal concert setting in some of London’s most beautiful and intimate venues. The series has a special accent on lesser-known and rarely-played piano repertoire and actively supports young and emerging talent.

“A wonderfully creative idea”
Peter Donohoe, international concert pianist
“The South London Concert Series is both innovative and traditional. Events blend an appreciation of fine music and music making with conviviality, and blur the artificial distinctions between professional and amateur”
James Lisney, international concert pianist


London Piano Meetup Group

More than hobbyists: the world of amateur pianism

In a recital space somewhere in central London a group of people are seated in a rough semi-circle around a Fazioli 212 grand piano. Some lounge in their seats in a pretence of relaxation, others crane forward eagerly for a view of the keyboard, many clutch music scores. The young man seated at the piano composes himself for a moment, takes a deep breath, and then lifts his hands and launches into the iconic opening bars of Rachmaninov’s G minor Prelude. The music soars from the piano, filling the space. The small audience listens attentively, and at the end there is enthusiastic applause. Welcome to the world of amateur pianism.

This is an extract from a longer article I wrote for Bachtrack’s ‘Piano Month’. Read the full article here


The South London Concert Series launches at the 1901 Arts Club

“a wonderful range of repertoire in this most intimate of venues”

“proactive and inspiring”

“Enjoyable time travel at the 1901 Arts Club: The venue was perfect.  It transported us back a century or so to the salons of the late 19th century.  Even the subdued lighting contributed to the effect.  Then the performers gave us a fascinating, varied programme of piano music which again whizzed us from the 18th century back to the present day.  The playing was of an excellent standard, and the pre- and post-concert atmosphere warm and convivial.  Highly recommended.”

On a windy Friday evening at the end of November, a group of pianists, piano fans and music lovers gathered in the gold and scarlet salon of the 1901 Arts Club, an intimate and stylish venue close to London’s Waterloo Station, for the launch of a unique new concert series.

Conceived by pianist, harpsichordist and piano teacher Lorraine Liyanage, and hosted and curated by Lorraine and myself, the South London Concert Series (SLCS) developed out of the London Piano Meetup Group, which we co-host. We are both passionate advocates of amateur pianism, and we wanted to give adult amateur pianists the opportunity to perform in a formal concert setting on a really beautiful piano (a Steinway C). But that is only half the story: we also wanted to give young and emerging professional artists exposure and support as they embark on a performing career. So we wondered what it would be like to place professionals and amateurs in the same concert format. Our first guest recitalist was Helen Burford, a Brighton-based pianist with a keen interest in contemporary British and American repertoire and an unerring ability to create exciting programmes with unusual musical juxtapositions.

Any anxieties about this new concert concept were soon dispelled when the first performer, Mark Zarb-Adami, stepped up to play two stormy and passionate Preludes by Karol Szymanowski. This was followed by the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K576, played with conviction and some sensitive articulation and shading by Emma Heseltine. Then it was the turn of Helen, our guest artist, whose programme lasting approximately 35 minutes combined the sensuality of Chick Corea’s Three Piano Improvisations with the powerfully haunting Incarnation II by Japanese composer Somei Satoh, an elegantly romantic reading of a Sonata by Scarlatti, the industrial sounds of Martin Butler’s Rumba Machine, and ended with the exuberance of David Rakowski’s Etude: A Gliss is Just a Gliss. In a nice gesture, Emmanuel Vass, guest performer at the second SLCS concert in January 2014, presented Helen with a bouquet, before Susan Pickerill played works by J C F Bach and Stephen Heller. The final performance was by Daniel Roberts, a young professional pianist who will also feature in as a guest recitalist in a later concert in the series. He played a work by his teacher, the maverick pianist and teacher Peter Feuchtwanger. Subtitled “study no. 4 in an Eastern idiom”, Tariqa 1 recalls the harmonies and timbres of Middle Eastern instruments, in particular the santur, an Iranian dulcimer.

Throughout the concert, the audience listened attentively and applause was given enthusiastically for every performer. The immediate reaction from audience members after the concert was praise for the venue, its decor and its unique ambiance – like enjoying music in your own home – and the unusual repertoire choices, which created an interesting and contrasting programme. This is, in fact, the other unique selling point of the SLCS: we actively encourage people to play lesser-known and/or rarely-played repertoire, which one is unlikely to encounter in mainstream concert venues.

The elegant upstairs bar and sitting room at the 1901 Arts Club was available for the exclusive use of performers, audience and hosts, and we enjoyed a very cheerful and noisy post-concert reception, enlivened by Prosecco, the positive feedback from audience and performers, and the feeling that we have created something rather special. A short concert (60 mins) of varied and unusual repertoire in an accessible format combined with the opportunity to meet the performers and socialise with other music lovers seems just about perfect, but perhaps the best part was the poise and conviction with which the “amateur” pianists played, their performances fitting in perfectly with Helen’s recital in the middle of the concert. It was an extremely enjoyable, stimulating and successful launch to what we hope will be a long-running series of concerts.

The first SLCS concert of 2014 with Emmanuel Vass is already sold out. Further concerts take place in March, May, July and September. Full details of upcoming events are on the SLCS website. Visit our dedicated Facebook page for more content, including photographs and soundclips, and follow us on Twitter – @SLConcerts.

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Lorraine and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the launch of the SLCS, from performers and audience to our media partners, friends, family and many other supporters.



Courses and summer schools for pianists in 2014

Is your practising getting you down? Do you need inspiration and encouragement? Would you like to meet other pianists and learn from the professionals? Then why not try a course or summer school this coming year…..

There are courses and summer schools for pianists of all levels, from single days and “taster” courses to piano weekends and whole weeks of piano goodness in the company of some of the finest pianists and teachers from around the world. Courses are a great way to connect with other pianists and like-minded people and are brilliant for improving skills such as technique and performance. Here is my round up of some of the best courses in the UK and beyond:

Hindhead Summer Piano Course. Held at Hindhead Music Centre in the picturesque South Downs, the 2014 course will have a special accent on the last three piano sonatas of Beethoven. Masterclasses, lectures, faculty and student concerts, discussion groups, “recorded treasures”, and more, plus fine food and a relaxed country house atmosphere. Taster and single day options. Faculty: James Lisney and Simon Nicholls. Ability cGrade 6 to post-diploma. Places still available on this popular course, now in its 11th year. Details here

**NEW** Lythe Chamber Music Course, 20-24 July 2014 Set in the historic coastal village of Lythe on the edge of the glorious North York Moors, LYTHE CHAMBER MUSIC COURSE 2014 is a DeNOTE Educational project offering a unique opportunity to explore a wide range of solo and ensemble repertoire for early keyboards (fortepiano, harpsichord, clavichord) and early clarinets, chalumeaux from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with specialists JOHN IRVING and JANE BOOTH. It is also a celebration of the craftsmanship of local keyboard builder JOHANNES SECKER and clarinet maker GUY COWLEY, whose instruments will be used in the course. Aimed at aspiring professional players, teachers, advanced students, and amateurs with good sight-reading ability (Grades 6 – 8+), the course will be of particular benefit and interest to clarinettists and pianists who wish to develop their interest and experience in playing on early instruments. Teaching will be in a diversity of formats, including individual tuition, ‘technical surgeries’, group workshops, lectures, seminars and a film showing. The course will include several concerts (including student performances) in local venues, including the historic St Oswald’s Church – an enchanting setting for music. A PDF giving more information about the course, along with application details as costs are available from the Lythe Chamber Music page of the Ensemble DeNOTE website: www.denote.org.uk

Jackdaws Music Education Trust. Courses throughout the year for pianists, instrumentalists and singers of all levels. Piano faculty includes Philip Fowke, Elena Riu, Margaret Fingerhut, Mark Tanner and Julian Jacobson. Details here

Chethams Summer School for Pianists. Known affectionately as “Chets”, this is probably the most famous summer school and boasts a fantastic faculty of international artists and teachers. Masterclasses, concerts, ensembles and more. 2014 faculty includes Leslie Howard, Carlo Grante, Leon McCawley, Murray McLachlan, Ashley Wass and Noriko Ogawa, amongst many others. Full details here

Walsall Summer School for Pianists. Formerly the well-established and popular Hereford Summer School for Pianists, the course successfully moved to a new home at the University of Wolverhampton in 2013. Mixed ability classes. Tutors will aim to cover both technical problems and interpretative points which will be of interest to the entire class. Faculty for 2014: James Lisney, Christine Stevenson, Graham Fitch, Lauretta Bloomer, Karl Lutchmayer. Details here

Penelope Roskell’s Advanced London Piano Courses. An inspiring and supportive weekend course (3 full days) focussing on repertoire, technique, and yoga for pianists. Ideal for pianists preparing for concerts, competitions, diplomas or auditions, or for anyone suffering from technical problems, physical tension, injuries or nerves. The course is run as a series of masterclasses with plenty of opportunities for discussion and exchange of ideas, and ends with a concert on the Sunday afternoon. Ability level: post-Grade 8 to post-diploma. Due to the popularity of these courses, Penelope will be running three courses in 2014. Full details here.

Penelope also runs one-day workshops for pianists and piano teachers exploring aspects such as performance anxiety and teaching technique. Further details of all courses here

Piano Week. Based at Bangor University in North Wales, Piano Week offers courses for adults and children of all levels. Masterclasses, recitals, talks and workshops. Artistic Director: Samantha Ward. Full details here

Lot Music. A convivial course, now in its 17th year, in a beautiful part of France. Fine food and a relaxed atmosphere for pianists of around Grade 8 ability. 2014 faculty: Susan Tomes and James Lisney (1 week each). Further information here

Music at Ambialet. Summer school for professional, advanced and amateur pianists in the Tarn region of France, established by renowned teacher and Debussy scholar Paul Roberts. The courses are select, with a maximum of 20 resident participants on each of the three eight-day courses throughout August. Full details here

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Summer Schools This five and a half-day intensive summer schools aims to inspire pianists who are currently studying at conservatoire level or considering studying at a conservatoire. Students on the music summer school will benefit from using the Royal Conservatoire’s leading training and performance facilities, including a fleet of new pianos, wonderful concert venues and a state of the art recording studio. Full details here

London Piano Meetup Group. Not strictly a course, the LMPG, run by myself and Lorraine Liyanage, offers monthly performance platforms and masterclasses with visiting tutors for pianists of all levels in a friendly and supportive environment. Full details of all our events here

Dartington Summer School. The Summer School runs for five weeks, with 20-30 courses week-long courses taking place every day during each week – from individual instrumental and vocal classes to chamber music, large ensemble courses and composition. You can take part in up to four courses per week, and stay for one or all five weeks! Full details here

CoMA (Contemporary Music for All) 16 – 22 August. “an exhilarating and supportive environment for exploring new repertoires, developing music-making skills and forging new and enduring friendships.”. Full details here

**NEW** Dublin International Piano Festival Founded in 2013 by pianists Archie Chen and Rhona Gouldson, the Dublin International Piano Festival & Summer Academy showcases mastery in piano performance and provides a series of workshops and masterclasses for advanced students of the piano to improve their own performance skills and technique. The masterclasses are open to the public and will provide a special insight into music making. Full details here


Students with Penelope Roskell (centre) at her October 2013 piano course

The South London Concert Series

At the risk of sounding pre-emptive, it looks as if the South London Concert Series is going to be a roaring success before anyone has even set foot inside the venue and played a single note…… It’s just under a month to the launch of the concert series which I created with my friend and piano teaching colleague Lorraine Liyanage, and we have already sold all the tickets.


The series developed out of the London Piano Meetup Group, which Lorraine and I launched in May 2013, and its raison d’être is to offer support and inspiration to adult amateur and semi-professional pianists by giving them the opportunity to perform in a formal concert setting alongside professional artists. The 1901 Arts Club was chosen as the venue for the concerts: its intimate atmosphere and decor, redolent of a 19th-century salon, and fine Steinway C grand piano seems just about perfect for small-scale concerts. After the recital, guests will have exclusive use of the elegant upstairs bar and sitting room at the club.

As far as we know, our concept is unique and it has been enthusiastically received by professional and amateur musicians, and music lovers alike. We have performers booked through 2014 and we are already making plans for our 2014-15 season. If someone had asked me at the beginning of 2013 whether I imagined I would be launching a concert series, and taking on the role of impresario, I might have laughed, but Lorraine’s entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit, our shared love of all things piano and a wish to encourage amateur pianists and to support young and emerging professional artists, make our exciting plans seem entirely possible. It will certainly be very interesting to see how things develop over the coming year.

Tickets are now on sale for the first SLCS concert of 2014, on 24th January. Our guest artist is Emmanuel Vass, a prize-winning graduate of the RNCM and rising star. Emmanuel, or Manny, will play a programme of music by J S Bach and lesser-known Spanish composers, and a work inspired by the iconic music of the James Bond films. Four amateur pianists will perform in the same concert in a mixture of repertoire. Tickets are by application only: please contact me via this blog or at southlondonconcerts@gmail.com to apply for tickets.

Read more about the series and how it developed in an article I wrote for Jessica Duchen’s Classical Music Blog.

Concerts in 2014
24 January 2014: Emmanuel Vass
21 March 2014: Anne Shingler
16 May 2014: Vatche Jambazian
July 2014: Adwoa Dickson (singer)
September 2014: Daniel Roberts
November 2014: Angelo Villani

Twitter: @SLConcerts


London Piano Meetup Group – autumn events


The London Piano Meetup Group meets once a month in a central London location to perform, share repertoire and socialise. Come and join us for performance platforms, masterclasses and talks, concerts, courses and socialising. Most events take place at Peregrine’s Pianos, Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1 and are hosted by myself and Lorraine Liyanage.

Saturday 5th October – masterclass with GéNIA, Schott Recital Room

A masterclass with GéNIA, Russian Virtuoso pianist and creator of the Piano-Yoga® method. Suitable for pianists of all levels up to Grade 8. The Piano-Yoga® holistic piano method is based on a deep connection between the Russian Piano School and Yoga.

Fully booked for performers. Plenty of observer spaces available. £10 observers.

Tickets http://www.wegottickets.com/event/224943

Saturday 2nd November, 11.05am – harpsichord performance group, Peregrine’s Pianos

Come and play a Goble harpsichord at Peregrine’s Pianos. The Goble pedal harpsichord has a transposing device making it suitable for playing at either 440Hz or 415Hz, and features 2×8′ stops, 1×4′ stop and a lute stop. The instrument has been newly revoiced.

Tickets http://www.wegottickets.com/event/235999

Saturday 2nd November, 12.05pm – Anything Goes! Performance platform, Peregrine’s Pianos

A very, very informal performance opportunity for pianists playing at any level. This event is suitable for beginners and performers that have not played to a small audience before. Observer and performer tickets are the same price due to the limited capacity of the room.

Tickets http://www.wegottickets.com/event/235801

Friday 29th November, 7.30pm – South London Concert Series launch event, 1901 Arts Club

The launch of an exciting new concert concept which brings professional and amateur pianists together in the same formal concert setting in a beautiful, intimate venue. Guest artist – Helen Burford. The 1901 Arts Club bar and lounge will be open for the exclusive use of guests after the concert.

Please note: tickets for this event are by application only: please email southlondonconcerts@gmail.com to apply for tickets

Saturday 14th December, 11-1pm – Christmas Concert at Peregrine’s Pianos

An informal, festive concert, followed by lunch at a local wine bar serving Thai food.

Time limit per performer 5 minutes. We invite pianists and other musicians of all levelts to perform – an accompanist is available if required.

Tickets http://www.wegottickets.com/event/241025

Full details of all these events – and more – can be found on the London Piano Meet Group website  (please do not contact the venues about our events).

We are also on Facebook. Twitter @LonPianoMeetup

A review of our launch event

A summer of piano

London Piano Meetup

We have added another informal performance opportunity to our 10th August event. Called Anything Goes! players of any level are most welcome, and we are particularly keen to encourage beginners and early intermediate players.

Full details, plus listings of other Meetups in the autumn, here

(please note – you do need to purchase a ticket for London Piano Meetup events – RSVPing on the Meetup site will not guarantee you a place at one of our events)


10th Hindhead Summer Piano Course

There are still places on this popular course run by pianists Simon Nicholls (Birmingham Conservatoire) and James Lisney. Participants have the option of attending the full course (4 days) or a single or half day. The course comprises workshops, lectures, and recitals by faculty and advanced students, all in the gracious country house setting of Hindhead Music Centre in Surrey. Further information, including course timetable, here