The London Piano Meetup Group celebrates its 10th birthday on 20 May, with an event at Steinway Hall in London.
When I co-founded the London Piano Meetup Group back in 2013, I knew very few amateur pianists. I’d been playing seriously for about 5 years, having returned to the piano after an absence of nearly a quarter of a century. I’d been on a number of piano courses and appreciated the value in connecting with other pianists but these were not regular interactions. I, and my co-founder (a piano teacher based in SE London) were both keen to connect with other adult amateur pianists on a regular basis – not just for the opportunity to play regularly in front of others but also to socialise with like-minded people. Thus the London Piano Meetup Group came to be.
Our launch event at Peregrine’s Pianos on 18 May 2013 was very well-attended and the young pianist Emmanuel Vass, who has been a good friend to the group over the years, was our guest performer. We were a mixed bunch, of various ages and abilities. Some people had played all their life; others, like me, were returners; some were beginners who had taken up the piano in retirement; others had been to music college but had chosen a different career path. All shared a deep passion for the piano.
The ethos of the group has always been to provide a friendly, positive and ‘safe’ environment in which people can perform and socialise. Many people want the experience of performing without the stress (as far as possible) – music is, after all, for sharing. Some find the performance platforms useful in preparing for exams or diploma recitals. Others simply come along to listen and enjoy the varied repertoire. One of the big attractions of the group is the chance to play a really nice instrument; venues are selected for the quality of their pianos, giving participants the opportunity to experience the pleasure and challenge of playing a really fine grand piano.
The group was popular from the get go – a mark perhaps of people’s enthusiasm for the piano and also an opportunity to connect with others, to share stories, discuss practising, repertoire, concerts we’ve enjoyed, our favourite professional pianists or recordings…..and much more. I’ve made some very good friends through the group (and playing the piano can be a rather lonely occupation, although something that most of us actually quite like!), and many of us bump into each other at other piano events, such as concerts, courses and masterclasses.
The group generated some offshoots too, such as an amateur piano competition, adjudicated by none other than Leslie Howard, and the very popular Diploma Days with acclaimed teacher Graham Fitch, which offer people an opportunity to play some of their Diploma repertoire and receive useful critique from Graham as well as advice on planning a diploma programme and managing performance nerves.
Members also regularly attend courses such as the hugely popular summer school, known affectionately as Chets, in Manchester, the Summer School for Pianists at Stowe, Finchcocks in Kent, Jackdaws in Somerset, and even some summer schools held in France and Italy.
The group has also inspired others to form their own meet-ups and piano clubs in the UK and beyond, and in 2015 the LPMG met up with the Vienna Piano Meetup Group at a piano showroom in Vienna (the trip also included a tour of the Bösendorfer factory).
The popularity, and longevity of the group – and its offshoots – is an indication of how many pianists there are in and around London who enjoy the opportunity to meet and explore repertoire, and to share their passion for the piano. It is also a credit to Rob Foster, who now runs the group, and who continues to give amateur pianists regular performance opportunities in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.
The London Piano Meetup Group (LPMG) meets monthly at venues such as the 1901 Arts Club (Waterloo), Peregrines Pianos (Clerkenwell), Café Yukari (Kew) and Gaspard Music Academy (Richmond). The group is run via a Facebook group and mailing list. If you would like to join LPMG, please contact the organiser at email@example.com
Dedication & Passion: The inspiring world of the amateur pianist
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