I understand you took up the piano during lockdown. What prompted you to do this and did you have any experience of playing the piano before then?

Yes, I started learning the piano shortly after the first lockdown hit, when I went to stay with my girlfriend (for the lockdown period). She has played the piano since she was a child. We dug her keyboard out of the loft with the intention of her brushing up on her technique, but after an hour of us playing around and her showing me a couple of easy things to play, I was hooked.

I have not had any experience with, or exposure to any instruments before, so I had to start with the basics. Not knowing anything at all about reading music, chords, key signatures etc., but with a brain that has a thirst for knowledge, I set out on my journey.

What attracted you to the piano?

It was more about circumstances than attraction. I had always wanted to learn an instrument and when I was presented with lots of time on my hands and the keyboard in front of me, I jumped at the chance.

What have been the pleasures and challenges of learning to play the piano?

There have been many challenges, but I think the main one for me was finding the right things to practise/learn and in what order. Whilst teaching myself in a lockdown, I read many books and watched loads of YouTube videos. I found that information was often just repeating things I had already learned. The other challenges included getting my hands to do different things at the same time and then, when I bought myself a pedal, adding that third thing ….. a challenge which I still struggle with.

When I am sitting at my keyboard and no matter what I am doing, whether it’s playing a piece, doing scales of chord progression, or learning a new piece, the pleasures for me are that nothing else matters in the world at that point, I am completely present in the moment. That is what hooked me at the beginning and still does now.

How much practising do you do on a daily basis?

I can normally manage an hour’s practise each day; more if I am lucky enough. I normally start with some scales, chords and arpeggios working my way through the keys. A different key each week. Then I learn more and practise the piece I’m working on at that time. Following that, I like to just ‘free play’, learning what sounds good (and what doesn’t!!) and not be tied to the music on the sheet. I usually finish by playing some pieces that I have already learnt and enjoy playing.

What kind of music do you enjoy playing?

My favourite genre is Jazz and Blues. I love the sounds of jazz chords as they resolve into each other and with blues, I love the swinging rhythm and that soulful feel it has. I get lost in it. I do also enjoy playing classical music, although I am sticking to playing some slower pieces for now.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata 2nd movement at the moment. I have
learnt the 1st movement and love playing it. I am also trying to teach myself to improvise Blues.

You belong to a piano meetup group. What are the benefits of belonging to such a group? How do you feel it supports your progress as a pianist?

I highly recommend joining a meetup group. I have been fortunate enough to meet some encouraging and supportive people there. I was very nervous at first and not sure what to expect; my hands were shaking and half way through my first piece I froze. Everyone was so supportive that I managed to carry on and finish!

I am a perfectionist and very tough on myself and seeing that even the best players can hit a ‘bum note’ or even lose their place at times, helped me loads. Also just seeing pianists perform in real life was inspiring.

Would you consider attending a piano course, and if so why?

Definitely. I have been looking into getting lessons now and things are going back to normal (post lockdown). I am struggling to find someone that has space that fits around work. I feel that I need some direction now. I have tried some online subscription lessons but they’re not for me. Although they did help, I would like someone to whom I can ask questions and who can watch me and tell me what I am doing wrong (and hopefully right!)..

What about piano exams… do you have any plans to take grade exams?

Yes, I will definitely be taking some graded exams at some point. Actually when I started to learn I used the grade books as a starting point for learning and would love to go through them with a teacher and sit the exams.

What advice would you give other adults who are considering taking up the piano?

Do it!!!! Sometimes it feels like a mountain to climb. Reading music, theory, scales etc but keep it simple. For me, the more I did scales and read music, then looked into the theory, timing and key signatures, the more it made sense. Learn an easy piece or song that you enjoy playing so when the practise gets boring you can play it and lose yourself in it. The most important thing is to have fun.

If you could play one piece what would it be?

I long to be able to ‘jam’ and confidently improvise on the piano.


Biography
I grew up in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. After leaving school I trained as a plasterer, which I still do today. I suffer from drug addiction and I spent twenty years in active addiction; not really living but just existing and the last eight years of those I was homeless. After making the decision that I needed to change, I moved to nearby Luton and started attending Cocaine Anonymous (CA) meetings. After a six month detox program and support from CA, I now work a 12 step program and have reintegrated myself back into society. I will be three years clean from all drugs and alcohol on the 13th October 2021. I met my girlfriend, Abbie, whilst working in the school where she works, and now live in Surrey with her.


If you are an adult amateur pianist and you would like to take part in the Piano Notes series to share your personal piano journey, please get in touch

A great deal is said and written about “integrity” and “honesty” in musical performance. For most people, this means respecting the score by following the composer’s markings and attempting, as far as possible, to interpret the composer’s intentions in the music. In addition, musicians who are praised for “honest” performances tend to play without surface artifice or flashy pianistic pyrotechnics; they attempt to “let the music speak”, free of ego, offer insights into the music, and communicate with the audience.

But there are other aspects to the musician’s honesty which are not immediately obvious to audiences, nor generally acknowledged within the profession, yet these can have a profound effect on a musician’s approach to their music making and their professional life.

For young musicians there is great pressure to conform to established ways of learning and presenting the music. A large part of this is concerned with repertoire, where student musicians or those at the beginning of their professional career may feel under pressure to play certain works to satisfy teachers, concert promoters or critics. (This is borne out when one considers the piano concertos which regularly appear in piano competitions and which are held up as “core works” which every young pianist should play or aspire to play.) Yet for some, these works may not suit them or be to their taste, and as a result they may not play them at their best. Being honest about the kind of repertoire one enjoys and wants to play will make practicing more productive and bring greater integrity to one’s performances. 

This is related to another aspect of the pianist’s honesty – accepting that one cannot “play everything”. Again, the notion that one should have broad musical taste which extends to what one should play is often inculcated during training. There are very few professional pianists whose repertoire extends from the Baroque to the present-day, the notably exceptions being Maurizio Pollini and Marc-André Hamelin (who seems to be able to play anything!). The British pianist Stephen Hough has been open about his reluctance to play the music of J S Bach, a composer whose oeuvre is revered and resides, for many, at the very heart of the core canon. In interviews Hough has admitted, to gasps of horrified disbelief, that he doesn’t feel a deep connection to Bach’s music. Such honesty is commendable in a world where choosing not to play music from the core canon is regarded by some as a form of musical heresy!

There is another more personal kind of honesty, which is to be admired, and that is when musicians open up about injury or performance anxiety. By doing so, they support others who may be similarly suffering, and being honest about one’s frailties helps break down the taboo surrounding musicians and injury. This goes even further in the case of pianist Lars Vogt, who in very public statements on social media and a particularly moving interview for Van magazine revealed that he has cancer and is receiving chemotherapy. It takes a special kind of honesty, indeed courage, to share such personal information, but for Vogt from the outset this was what he intended to do:  “This is a part of my life. It gives people the chance to take part in it. It was supportive, the amount of kindness I encountered….” (interview with Van magazine).

Allied to this is the ability to accept and admit that it is time to quit the concert stage. The great pianist Alfred Brendel, who retired in 2008, wanted to stop performing while still at the peak of his powers in order to pursue other activities, such as writing and lecturing. It takes a degree of personal insight and honesty to make such a decision; for others, the honesty of friends and colleagues may be the catalyst to encourage a musician to review their career and adjust it according to their age or personal circumstances.


This site is free to access and ad-free, and takes many hours to research, write, and maintain. If you find joy and value in what I do, please consider making a donation to support the continuance of this site

Make A Donation

 

‘Piano Meditations’ is a brand new 5-track EP of calming piano music by British pianist and composer Adrian Lord. It is available on CD, and as a piano sheet music book (grades 5-7) from Adrian Lord’s website.

Talking about the creation of this album, Adrian Lord says:

The coronavirus lockdowns of 2020 saw many changes to live music and the series of concerts I had arranged were, of course, all postponed. A former school friend suggested that I offer live-streamed performances, which resulted in me giving two performances a week on Facebook over the 15 weeks of lockdown.

The pieces I chose for this were from my first two albums, ‘Journey – Twelve Romances for Piano’ and ‘Sky Blue Piano’. People tell me that it is the slower and more relaxed pieces that they have found a connection with during this time.

For this book I have decided to continue this theme. The five pieces I have composed are designed to be played with an unhurried feel and a relaxed approach to time.

 

The individual sheet music for Evermore can also be digitally downloaded from: https://adrianlordpiano.com/evermore/

Stream ‘Piano Meditations’ on Spotify and Apple Music: https://linktr.ee/adrianlordpiano


British pianist and composer Adrian Lord studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and at Colchester Institute’s School of Music.   

During his time at Colchester, Adrian studied composition with Alan Bullard and Christopher Ball.  His piano studies with Martin Hughes, and Robert Bell, led to him winning the Canon Jack award for Piano Performance.  

Read more

Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts (WLCC) is delighted to announce its 2021/22 season of concerts which take place once a month at St Mary’s Church, Weymouth. This season is particularly special as not only does the series return to full capacity concerts, it also celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2022.

Despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, WLCC was able to present four concerts in its 2020/21 season which were enthusiastically received by a socially-distanced audience – proof that people really craved and appreciated live music.

The first concert of the 2021/22 season will be given by Penelope Roskell, who was brought up in Weymouth, and was fortunate to study piano with Elsie Monckton from an early age. As a child she played regularly at Weymouth Arts Centre. Since then, she has gone on to a stellar career as an international concert pianist, writer and Professor of Piano at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Penelope’s programme features three much-loved works for piano by J S Bach, Fryderyk Chopin and Franz Schubert, spanning over 100 years from the Baroque period to the Romantic era.

Future performers include pianists Margaret Fingerhut, Jelena Makarova, Nina Savicevic, Alan Schiller, John Humphreys and Duncan Honeybourne, violinist Peter Fisher, bassoonist Antonia Lazenby, and cellist Ulrich Heinen.

Founded in in 2002 by concert pianist and Weymouth resident Duncan Honeybourne, Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts presents high-quality chamber music in the heart of Weymouth and offers a platform for musical partnerships with friends and colleagues, many of whom enjoy international acclaim. The concerts also give young musicians, often recent graduates from conservatoire or university, valuable performing experience to a friendly, loyal audience.

WLCC programmes are varied and imaginative, mixing well-known works with lesser-known repertoire and composers, and all concerts take place in the attractive, welcoming surroundings of St Mary’s Church, Weymouth. WLCC is very fortunate to have use of an excellent Yamaha grand piano maintained by Weymouth Pianos Ltd. Tickets cost just £5, which represents extremely good value considering the very high quality of WLCC performers and programmes. WLCC is grateful for the support of staff at St Mary’s Church in ensuring concerts are covid-secure, safe and enjoyable for performers and audience alike.

Penelope Roskell performs on 15th September 2021 at 1pm. BOOK TICKETS

Full details of WLCC’s concerts can be found at weymouthchamberconcerts.com/.

Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts provide the whole musical package. Their programme includes established artists and emerging talent; and the conditions are superb for audience and performer alike.

Under the professional and experienced guidance of Duncan Honeybourne and Frances Wilson, Weymouth is truly fortunate to have a concert series that benefits both local people and the wider musical community…..this is a valuable initiative that deserves continuing support and celebration.

James Lisney, concert pianist

The series is organised by Duncan Honeybourne and Frances Wilson (The Cross-Eyed Pianist)


Duncan Honeybourne – Founder/Artistic Director

Commended by International Piano magazine for his “glittering performances“, Duncan enjoys a diverse profile as a pianist and in music education. His concerto debut in 1998 at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and the National Concert Hall, Dublin, was broadcast on radio and television, and recital debuts included London, Paris, and international festivals in Belgium and Switzerland. Duncan has toured extensively as soloist and chamber musician, broadcasting frequently for the BBC and radio networks worldwide. His many recordings reflect his interest in 20th and 21st century British piano music. He is a Tutor in Piano at the University of Southampton.

duncanhoneybourne.com

Twitter: @DuncanHoneybou1

Frances Wilson – Concerts Manager

Frances is a writer, reviewer and publicist. Described by international concert pianist Peter Donohoe as “an important voice in the piano world“, Frances’ blog The Cross-Eyed Pianist has an international reputation and enjoys a large following. She also writes for Hong Kong-based classical music website Interlude and has contributed articles to Pianist magazine and The Schubertian, the journal of the Schubert Institute UK. She has appeared on BBC Radio Three’s Music Matters programme to discuss the role of music criticism today and the effect of the internet on music journalism. An advanced amateur pianist, Frances holds Licentiate and Associate Diplomas in Piano Performance (both with Distinction) and has studied with or received mentorship from a number of distinguished pianist-teachers, including Penelope Roskell, Graham Fitch, Murray McLachlan, Stephen Savage and James Lisney.

Twitter: @crosseyedpiano

The first jury I served on, I was determined that only the best would win. I suggested to my fellow jurors that we select somebody who could shine in Carnegie Hall rather than play like a well-schooled student. Everybody agreed. We all ranked each pianist and tabulated the results not once, but twice. The pianist who got the most points won. Nevertheless the outcome was disheartening. I thought the silver medalist was outstanding. After the award winners’ gala, I remarked that the second prizewinner would probably become world famous while the recipient of the jury prize might be forgotten. I glanced at my fellow judges — all seasoned musicians — hoping to provoke strong reactions that would betray the culprits who’d propelled the winner to the top. Instead, everybody laughed, and some said, “We’ll see.” And, “Don’t be so sure.”

Israela Margalit – playwright, television and screen writer, author, concert pianist and recording artist – gives some forthright and less than complimentary insights into the world of international piano competitions.

Read the full article here

It was perhaps inevitable that pianist and writer Susan Tomes would turn her attention eventually to the extraordinarily broad repertoire of the piano – her instrument, and mine, and that of countless others, both professional and amateur players. While her previous books have been concerned with the myriad aspects of being a pianist – from performing, recording and teaching, concert preparation, etiquette and attire, and audiences to the daily exigencies of practising and rehearsing – her latest volume, The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces is concerned with repertoire and how the piano’s development and capabilities have influenced how composers write for it. 

The book was inspired by Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, and takes a similar approach, using specific pieces to illustrate the piano’s history and illuminate its development, from the moment in the early 18th century when it began to supplant the harpsichord as the keyboard instrument du jour to the modern piano as we know it today. 

This new instrument offered composers a greater varieties of colours, effects and timbres, and so their music reflected the piano’s capabilities and range, its potential for songful lyricism or an orchestral richness of sound, amply demonstrated in the piano sonatas of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, for example, the song accompaniments of Schubert, or Chopin’s Nocturnes with their bel canto melodies.

The book begins in “pre-history”, as it were, with music written for the harpsichord, the most famous of which is Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a pinnacle of the repertoire and a work which continues to fascinate performers, audiences and commentators alike. Bach’s Italian Concerto also features in this section, together with works by Domenico Scarlatti and CPE Bach – all works which can be played and enjoyed equally on harpsichord or piano.

We then move from the harpsichord to the fortepiano and thence to the piano itself, in its earliest iteration, a much smaller instrument physically, but already one with far greater range and tonal projection than the harpsichord or fortepiano, as is clear from the music of Haydn and Mozart. One of the pieces explored in this chapter is Haydn’s Variations in f minor, Un piccolo divertimento, Hob. XVII: 6, a work of profound expression, which foreshadows Schubert, and pianistic breadth. Unsurprisingly, Haydn’s great E-flat major Sonata, Hob. XVI:52 is also covered in detail in this chapter, a work which utilises the capabilities of the piano to their fullest extent in a work of great character, texture and variety. 

But as these early chapters reveal, this book is not simply a chronology of the piano, not by any means; but rather a detailed exploration of some of the greatest music composed for the instrument as well as lesser-known gems, written from the authoritative standpoint of someone who knows both instrument and repertoire intimately. And it comes right up to date with a chapter focussing on music by living composer Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, Judith Weir and Thomas Adès

Susan Tomes writes with a lucid eloquence founded on knowledge, experience and, above all,  affection for the piano, which shines through every paragraph. She not only offers the reader important analysis, contextual details and performance notes for each work, but also demonstrates a deep understanding of what it feels like to actually play this music, the sensation of the notes “under the hands”, how it sparks the imagination and provokes emotions, and the experience of learning and shaping it to bring it to life in concert – fascinating insights which take the reader “beyond the notes”, as it were. Thus, the book acts as both a historical survey and a primer for those seeking more detailed information about specific works, with guidance on performance practice and interpretation, drawn from Tomes’s own experience as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher. 

The range of pieces explored in the book reflects the vast breadth of the piano’s repertoire, and Tomes is the perfect guide through this almost overwhelming embarrassment of musical riches. 

Nor does she confine herself only to the solo repertoire. Concerti and chamber music also feature heavily, from, for example, Schubert’s much-loved ‘Trout’ Quintet to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, to demonstrate the piano’s importance in these genres and how it interacts with and complements other instruments. Jazz is also covered, while the final chapter explores where the piano and its repertoire might be heading, and how we as listeners, and players, might open our ears and minds to a different range of music, presented in less traditional performance settings. 

This comprehensive, informative and highly readable celebration of the piano and its literature is a must-read for pianophiles and music lovers. With its wealth of analysis and contextual information it is also a significant resource for those who teach and play the piano, a book to keep close by the instrument to refer to, dip into, and cherish.


The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces is published by Yale University Press