17-20 September

CityMusic Live, a new online concert platform, announces its 2020 Piano Fest

Over four days, pianists Warren Mailley-Smith, Yuki Negishi, Daniel Grimwood, Duncan Honeybourne, and Julian Jacobson will present concerts online in a celebration of the piano.

The extended weekend of concerts begins on Thursday, 17 September with Warren Mailley-Smith in a programme featuring works by Beethoven, Brahms and Ravel.

Piano Fest continues on Friday 18 September with Duncan Honeybourne’s programme Forest Idylls featuring enchanting, evocative works by Sibelius, MacDowell and Schumann echoing nature. Known for his technical precision and warm musicality, Duncan Honeybourne has been lauded as “heroic” by Musical Opinion and “a gifted pianist in whom a spirit of adventure meets high musicianship” by MusicWeb International.

Saturday 19 September features two concerts. At 6:00 PM, Daniel Grimwood presents Nocturnes and Variations featuring one of his own compositions, “Variations on a Theme by Field”. Daniel Grimwood’s playing has been characterised as “stimulating and revelatory in equal measure” by The Telegraph, and his programme promises to exhibit both his virtuosity and his intellectual sensibility. Following at 8:00 PM, Yuki Negishi performs a concert entitled Passion, featuring works by Franck, Chopin and Beethoven. Praised for her “Piano Music by Women” series in June and July, Yuki Negishi was chosen in the Top 5 online performances for the week of 29 June by Pianist Magazine.

The weekend continues on Sunday with a matinee performance which celebrates The Piano Sonata by renowned pianist and Royal College of Music professor, Julian Jacobson. The programme features sonatas by Scarlatti, Berg and Beethoven. The weekend comes to a close on Sunday evening with Warren Mailley-Smith’s celebration of Chopin, a composer very close to his heart – he was the first British pianist to perform Chopin’s complete works for solo piano from memory in a series of 11 recitals at St John’s Smith Square in 2016.

Single tickets and festival packages are available. Book tickets

All concerts will be streamed to worldwide audiences through www.citymusiclive.co.uk

City Music Live is in the brainchild of pianist Warren Mailley-Smith. Since lockdown began in March, has presented over 30 online concerts through social media with over 400,000 total views, reaching audiences world-wide.


[source: press release]

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I grew up surrounded by music.  We always had the radio playing at home and my older sister played the violin and piano. I wanted to be just like her so was more than happy to start playing those instruments at a young age, but I pestered my parents for years to start learning the harp!

I remember getting my first CD of harp music when I was young and it was all played by the incredible Marisa Robles; the ‘Impromptu-Caprice’ completely mesmerised me. I have been so fortunate to have lessons with Marisa and consider her a friend, thanks to my amazing teacher Daphne Boden.

There are so many wonderful harpists and nowadays it is so much easier to discover new (and old!) music through social media and online platforms. One of the most inspiring harpists I discovered in recent years has to be Dorothy Ashby.  She broke stereotypes in all walks of life, especially in harp playing, and her music is very special.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

When I was younger I struggled with stage fright, so although I was busy performing on a regular basis, it was a challenge for me once I was on stage. I can still remember the day I was fortunate enough to turn this around and it made me very aware that I was pursuing the right career path. I now enjoy nothing more than sharing my music with others.

The last few months have been tough to say the least, not just for me but for all those who work in the arts. When the country pretty much closed overnight due to COVID-19, freelance musicians lost everything and it is still very uncertain when we will be able to return in full force. I was very fortunate to have some teaching I could do online, however the loss of income and opportunities to make music with others has been a real challenge.

Of which performances/recordings are you most proud?

I am so pleased with the singles I recently recorded as part of my new contract with Sony Music Masterworks.  With the wonderful team at Sony and my incredible producer Anna Barry,  we recorded some of my favourite harp pieces and also some exciting new material.  Ronan Phelan at Masterchord Studios is a brilliant sound engineer and I hope everyone will enjoy the tracks as much as I did recording them!

Baroque Flamenco (opens in Spotify)

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I have always enjoyed playing uplifting and rousing music! That’s why ‘Baroque Flamenco’ was a piece I really wanted to record for my first single. It has so many exciting and unusual elements to it. That being said, I’ve also always enjoyed the French-Romantic genre.  Harp music is spoilt for choice when it comes to French composers and there is some incredible music for us to play.

I am always open to new musical suggestions, genres and styles. I have often been asked by audience members to play some Metallica or Led Zeppelin, usually as a joke, because the majority of people would presume you can only play classical music on the harp.  I took on the challenge and it really diversified my play list so that I could show that the harp is incredibly versatile and the possibilities are endless!

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I love being surrounded by nature.  My favourite places in the world are the Lake District and Malta and I have been so fortunate to enjoy both, being of Maltese heritage and growing up in the UK. I could not be happier than when I am swimming in the Mediterranean or when I turn off my phone and go for a hike with my husband in the Lake District.  I think cutting yourself off from technology and enjoying the simple things around you is so important and grounding.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I try to listen to as large a range of music as possible. I don’t tend to stick to traditional harp repertoire all the time and I have started exploring a lot more piano music recently as that was how I originally started my musical journey. There is so much that can be arranged for the harp and I enjoy  challenging myself technically as well as musically.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

There are so many wonderful venues but in terms of acoustics, I think Wigmore Hall is very special.  It provides an intimate and unique setting for recitals.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?

I really do feel that a love of and interest in music has to be developed at a young age whilst still at school. Music is a vital part of every child’s education and it is so important overall development. It can increase self-confidence and there are many studies which suggest that music helps brain development which can help in the learning of many other subjects.

I am incredibly fortunate to have grown up listening to classical music and having the chance to have music lessons from a young age. I think it is important to remember that classical music is a huge part of all our lives whether we realise it or not. Many film scores are based on classical music and many current pop singers use classical music for samples.

To this end, I think that the Senbla Concert Orchestra’s performances of popular movies with live orchestra is a brilliant idea.  Although people are going to watch the film, speaking to audience members after the concerts showed up how many people do not quite realise what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in terms of the music and were blown away by the sound a live orchestra could make.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My debut concerto at the Barbican when I was eighteen really stands out for me.  It was such an honour to be given this massive opportunity and I worked so hard to make it as brilliant a performance as possible. I was so nervous before going on stage but can still remember the joy I felt once I finished.

In an orchestral setting, playing under Sir Roger Norrington’s baton when I was leading six harps in ‘Symphonie Fantastique’  was so inspiring and a really enjoyable experience. His humour and musical expertise are unrivalled in my opinion and it’s an experience I will never forget!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I don’t think there is one way to define success as a musician. We are always striving for better, hence why you can never stop practising as there is always room for improvement. I am so very fortunate to have been given a platform to share my music and I think success for me is being able to continue making music and sharing it with others.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Keep an open mind. Explore all avenues of music, even the ones you might think you do not like. Do not compare yourselves to other people, just keep working hard and have confidence in yourself and your choices. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by others on social media but if you are making yourself or another person feel something through your playing, then you are doing something right.  Also, keep up the practise!  Watching other musicians performing, whether at a live gig or on a recording or online can also be very inspiring. There is so much that can be learnt from musicians all over the world, playing in all kinds of genres and styles.

What is your most treasured possession?

My harp really is my most treasured possession. I try not to get too attached to material objects in general but my beautiful harp is something I have had for twenty years now.  It has travelled the world with me and been there for all my auditions, exams, high and low points.

What is your present state of mind?

I am excited to see what the future holds. This has been an interesting year to say the least but I am determined that musicians will be back, stronger than ever and with even more to share than before.

Cecilia Da Maria’s second single is released on 4th September on the Sony label


Born in the UK to Maltese parents, Cecilia recently completed her Masters degree with distinction at the Royal College of Music where she was an ABRSM scholar, studying with Daphne Boden. Prior to this she graduated from the same institution with a First Class (Honours) undergraduate degree.

Cecilia originally started her musical life as a pianist before starting the harp at the age of eleven. A year later she was accepted into The Purcell School of Music and later joined The Royal College of Music, Junior Department.

Cecilia has been fortunate enough to travel extensively with her harp to countries including; Italy, Spain, Portugal, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and The Baltic States.

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An Introduction to the Piano – Christopher Northam

Amidst all the recordings of virtuoso repertoire comes this delightful collection aimed at amateurs and piano students from pianist Christopher Northam.

Northam takes us on a chronological journey through some 300 years of keyboard music, from Byrd to Debussy, with plenty of gems of the repertoire, as well as lesser-known works by Pachulski and Alkan.

Although described as music “for beginners”, the selection includes some challenging pieces of cGrade 6 to 8 standard, including Beethoven’s much-loved Für Elise, Field’s Nocturne in B flat and Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk. Admittedly, these are not necessarily “concert pieces”, but they certainly require a fair degree of technical and artistic facility.

We are so used to high-quality recordings of concert repertoire by leading, acclaimed pianists, it is refreshing to have a selection which is clearly aimed at amateur players. The actor and keen amateur pianist Alistair McGowan attempted something similar a few years ago with his Piano Album, though the music selection was almost as unimaginative as his playing, and I am not convinced by McGowan’s assertion that hearing someone like him playing this music will inspire others (I suspect most aspiring pianists find inspiration in high quality performances, whatever the difficulty of the repertoire). By contrast, Northam treats this music with all the authority, care and commitment one would afford virtuoso repertoire, and performs it as if in a concert rather than strictly pedagogical setting.

Remarkably, the recording was made over 20 years ago at St George’s Bristol, which boasts one of the finest acoustics for piano and chamber music in the UK. Northam’s sensitivity and attention to detail in this crystalline acoustic results in a recording which sounds fresh and immediate.

The amateur piano world is huge, and very supportive of professional players, from whom many amateurs not only drawn inspiration but also receive tuition, in private lessons, masterclasses and summer schools. Yet the amateur world is often barely acknowledged; this excellent contribution from Christopher Northam recognises the importance of amateur pianists while offering inspiration in repertoire which is accessible and achievable. If I have one criticism it is that there is not a single piece by a female composer included in this otherwise excellent selection, but I am told by the manager at the recording label that the music selection was based on the then ABRSM syllabus, which, at the time, included no pieces by women composers.

Recommended


 
An introduction to the Piano is available on the HOXA label distributed via Naxos. Catalogue no. HS950701
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Cast your mind back to the end of March. It seems like another time now, doesn’t it – a period of great uncertainty and anxiety for all of us. For many musicians, whose busy lives up to that point were dominated by full diaries of rehearsing, performing, teaching, recording, initially it felt like an opportunity – to pause, reflect, rest and reset. And with the venues shut and performances cancelled, it was a chance to spend valuable time with the music.

At first it felt like a great gift – to have so much time, free of punishing rehearsal and teaching schedules, tiring travel and late nights, post-concert. Here was an opportunity to learn new repertoire, music one had had on one’s “to do” list for years (a pianist friend of mine enthused about learning Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ sonata for the first time, in a professional career of over a quarter of a century); or to revisit previously-learnt works – an experience akin to reacquainting oneself with an old friend – and discover new details.

But soon the time became a curse – because the more time one had, the more it confirmed that there would be no swift return to “normal life”. The venues remained shuttered; there were no performances, beyond livestreams from living rooms, and an enervating weariness set in. Why practice when there was nothing to practice for? My pianist friend admitted that the ‘Hammerklavier’ had mostly lain unopened on his music desk….

The situation has been rather different for amateur musicians, who have revelled in this gift of time. Working from home or furloughed, these months have provided hours of pleasure. Practising is no longer shoe-horned into one’s busy daily schedule, no need for precious moments to be snatched amongst the responsbilities of work or family life. Oh the joy of guilt-free practising and playing for the sheer pleasure of it (something which professional musicians often envy in amateurs).

Focus, and having something to work for, is so important for the professional musician. It provides motivation and fuels intent. Without it, one can feel stranded and unsettled, dislocated and depressed. Routine is also crucial, and the self-discipline of a daily routine not only gives structure to one’s time, but also feeds creativity. In addition to solitary practice, musicians find stimulation and structure in rehearsal with colleagues and ensemble work – all of which has been, until very recently, put on hold.

Perhaps the worst part, the most draining aspect of this situation, was the not knowing: not knowing when it would end, or how the industry would look as we emerge from this grand fermata. Not knowing if one would still be able to sustain a career in music (the subject of a future article). The government sent out confusing messages, or retreated on previous announcements, offering crumbs of hope and then retracting at the eleventh hour, only adding to the uncertainty and frustration. We looked at our European counterparts, many of whom had endured even more severe restrictions than us, with a degree of envy as it appeared most were getting back to normal life far more quickly than us, with venues opening up, albeit with smaller, socially-distanced audiences, and some festivals running, scaled down but, importantly, with real, live audiences.

Now UK concert life is beginning to re-emerge from the great hibernation as venues prepare to reopen and admit audiences once again, with restrictions. There’s a renewed energy as musicians shake off the debilitating ennui of the past five, yes, five months, and return with renewed focus to their practice schedules and rehearsals. Diaries are open again. It’s a time of relief, tinged with trepidation: musicians are pleased to be getting back to doing what they do best, but there’s caution too, about what the future holds….


Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

En Pleine Lumière – Sandra Mogensen, piano

A multi-volume recording and concert project

Women such as Clara Schumann, Amy Beach and Cécile Chaminade are now recognised as a significant pianist-composers, who also enjoyed international performing careers, but in the course of her research, pianist Sandra Mogensen discovered many other women composer-pianists who were well-regarded, but whose names and music are hardly known today. These include Mélanie Bonis, Helen Hopekirk, Agathe Backer-Grøndahl, Luise Aldopha Le Beau, and Laura Netzel. The piano music of these composers was widely known and played during their lifetimes, but for much of the 20th century, their works were rarely played. Now, in the changing climate of classical music, with a greater emphasis on diversity, these once-forgotten composers are being given the recognition they deserve.

The music I have found is again incredibly beautiful….and all of it is new to me

Sandra Mogensen

Released in December 2019, the bicentenary year of Clara Schumann’s birth, the first volume of pianist Sandra Mogensen’s multi-CD and concert project, En Pleine Lumière (“in full light”), focuses on piano music by women composers born in the middle part of the nineteenth century (c.1840-1870). Each composer is represented by two short works and the entire project will have an international reach. Volume one includes composers from France (Chaminade and Bonis), the USA (Beach), Scotland (Hopekirk), Norway (Backer-Grøndahl and Lærum-Liebig), Sweden (Netzel and Aulin), and Germany (Le Beau and Menter). The subsequent two volumes will include music by women composers from Canada, Russia, Australia, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Latvia, Estonia and the Netherlands.

En Pleine Lumière will eventually comprise six albums, each focusing on a 30-year period – rather like a recital disc. En Pleine Lumière Volume 1 was recorded at Immanuelskirche in Wuppertal, Germany in June 2019, produced by an all-female team, and crowdfunded via Indiegogo. The subsequent volumes will be recorded with the same team and also supported by crowdfunding.

En Pleine Lumière is available on CD or digital download.


Canadian pianist Sandra Mogensen is equally at home in two worlds: performing as a solo pianist and co-performing with singers in recital. She has played in concert in both capacities in Canada, the United States, Denmark, Latvia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria. Sandra is also well-known as a vocal coach and piano pedagogue

Meet the Artist interview with Sandra Mogensen

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

As a child my aunt was a pop singer, and released music; she also recorded my first song. My music teachers at school were supportive, and luckily Northamptonshire had a great music service when I was a child.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

As a composer I have been lucky to have great female role models – Rhian Samuel, and Diedre Gribben briefly taught me at post-graduate and undergraduate levels.Sadie Harrison is a great mentor and teacher, an inspiring woman. I am also incredibly lucky to have worked with Kuljit Bhamra on his Tabla notation project. I was commissioned by Sound and Music to learn a new notation system for Tabla and compose new work for Kuljit, Anne Denholm and Joe Richards, mentored by Colin Riley. Most recently, the amazing soprano Gweneth Anne Rand is advising and mentoring me on composing for voice for my new work for Téte å Téte Festival in September 2020.

The music industry is tough and it is so important to have guidance and support. I have been lucky to be surrounded by strong female spirits throughout my life; even now my own grandmother has been teaching my son piano over Skype through lockdown. Her mother was a pianist (whom I never met), born in Greater Manchester, and studied in Vienna as a young girl. She married a lovely man from Lancashire who worked in the cotton mills and she ended up teaching and playing in the pubs of Oldham. My Grandma was keen to buy us a piano when I was little, so we got one from a pub in Wellingborough, where I grew up, and I began lessons as a child. Later I learnt cello, through the Northants Music Service at Junior School. I probably resonated with the cello after listening to the Bach Cello Suite’s, by Jaqueline Du Pré, on a tape cassette of my Mum’s that I think she was introduced to through contemporary dance. I grew up listening to a mixture of Bach, Dave Brubeck, Nina Simone, Carol King, The Specials, Madonna and Soul to Soul. Lisa Stansfield was my first proper concert at Sheffield City Hall with my Aunties, Mum and sister. As a young person I went to concerts at The Stables, a 40mins drive from where we lived, and performed in Youth Orchestra Concerts at The Derngate, Northampton. There was also a local Jazz night at a local pub which had some good players that my sister’s saxophone teacher let us know about, my Dad has always been really into Jazz and Blues and has been a huge influence on my listening. Latterly I became introduced to all kinds of music, North Indian Classical, Bartok, Shostakovich, Mahler, Saariaho, Cage, Oliveros, and all kinds of dance music, from electronica, drum and bass and Techno.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

On leaving Newcastle University, I initially found it really difficult to find work, and was on The New Deal for Musicians. It was amazing as I got business advice and support from various professionals. I also got a Prince’s Trust grant to buy a computer as I had never owned one and then when I began working professionally as a cellist I had some guidance and awareness of the industry. A year later I was performing on The Mercury Music Prize (2000); perhaps without the chance to learn the ropes of being a self- employed musician I would not have had that opportunity. An RSI injury in my late 20s and early 30s was a real low point. My inspiring cello teacher at the time, Sue Lowe, built me back up again, emotionally and physically, which took several years. Luckily my composing career has been building slowly since then. My most recent career high was hearing my work for Tabla and String Quartet performed at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter just before lockdown in March. The work was for amateur performers from the Devon Philharmonic with professional Tabla player Jon Sterx. The musicians were amazing – with very little rehearsal time they performed with such vitality and commitment.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

The pleasures often outweigh the challenges; however since the Covid-19 lockdown I feel many musicians and artists in general are facing huge barriers to their livelihoods. Currently I am composing new work for Fenella Humphreys, and have contributed to her Caprice’s project, funded mostly by Kickstarter (see her website). It is thrilling when performers like Fenella agree to perform and record your music. Fenella has a Youtube channel which is enabling new work to be premiered to wider audiences, so moving on from the devastating lockdown challenges, people are really trying to overcome them through digital platforms, and I just hope people can continue to contribute to artists’ projects financially right now, as so many freelance artists have lost so much work and income.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

So much of my work, commissions and premieres have either been postponed or cancelled, and as an emerging composer, it is especially tough and heartbreaking. I only began composing again seriously after my son was born, so I am a bit of a late starter, and I just hope my energy and determination carries me though this unstable period. Some amazing opportunities have still managed to happen. I am currently working on a new Imaginary Opera project Song of Isis, Goddess of Love, for the Tête-à-Tête Festival 2020, which is a truly inspiring, inclusive and exciting festival to be part of. This wonderful opportunity is a lifeline as it is still going ahead in September, regardless of Covid restrictions. See the wonderful blog from Bill Bankes-Jones for more information. The practicalities of working on this are huge – devising and rehearsing new work with actor/singer Sèverine Howell-Meris over Zoom will be particularly unique to these times. I will be documenting this process online on the blog but really also hope to share our work in a real live format somehow.

Our performance date is, hopefully, 9 September 2020 (please follow us on @imaginaryopera or @laurareidmusic to find out when/if the performance will be going ahead live at The Cockpit Theatre, London). Again finances are tight, and Tête-à-Tête are fundraising for the festival on their website.

I am working with writer Chris Aziz, and animator Martha King to provide online content. I am hoping to include a virtual chorus, using singers and friends around the UK to participate in some capacity from their homes. Working with an all-female team is exciting, but as it is our first opera it is incredibly daunting at the same time. Networks such as Engender, run by producers at the Royal Opera House, are proving to be so important right now to get things to happen. Hearing leading figures like Gweneth Ann Rand and director Adele Thomas talk at the last meeting was inspiring and really encouraging.

Of which works are you most proud?

My commission for the Dorset Moon ‘Celestial Bodies’, performed to over 1,000 members of the public via headphones underneath Luc Jerram’s amazing Museum of the Moon.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

Eclectic, diverse, contemporary folktronica.

How do you work?

Sporadically. In the old days pre-covid, I had routines and time to think. But now it’s in odd moments when I am not doing childcare or home-schooling, mostly in the evenings since lockdown, although I am usually a morning person. I am really looking forward to, and feel incredibly lucky to be going to Made at The Red House, Aldeburgh, hosted by Wild Plum Arts, which will be an amazing opportunity to compose and think away from domestic responsibilities.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

My tastes are always evolving and changing. I currently love listening to Jill Scott, Tallis, and Bach. I really enjoyed listening to After Rain by Hildegard Westerkamp recently at the UK and Ireland soundscape conference in Sussex.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Happiness balanced with enjoying the process of composing and playing, and working on projects that inspire change and amplify narratives from the margins.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Keep a sense of your self and what feels right to you. Learn the rules, and then how to break them. Nothing matters very much, except staying sane and positive. We all face challenges so try and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

What is your most treasured possession?

My cello J

 

Song of Isis. Goddess of Love, with music by Laura Reid, will be premiered by Tête-à-Tête on 9 September. Further information here


www.laurareid.co.uk

@laurareidmusic

@imaginaryopera

https://imaginaryopera.wordpress.com/