Yesterday I spent a thoroughly enjoyable morning at Kings Place (a hub for the arts near Kings Cross Station in London), soaking up a Christmas Gala concert with a difference. I don’t write many reviews (you’ll already know that if you are a regular reader of this piano blog), and I rarely go to concerts (just too busy with my work, sadly), but I wanted to write a few words regarding the value of concerts such as this one.
Organised by British concert pianist Lucy Parham and agent extraordinaire, Lisa Peacock, Lucy Parham & Friends consisted entirely of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s (1843 -1907) piano music, focusing on his Lyric Pieces (Lyric Suite Op. 54). At first glance, this might seem a fairly standard concert with conventional repertoire, but a ‘typical’ recital this was not. The programme featured a raft of celebrity amateur pianists, all playing for fun and for the love of music.
There’s no doubt this concept transformed the ‘traditional concert’ into a wonderfully inspiring, innovative event. Introduced by charismatic BBC Radio 3 presenter Sean Rafferty (who interviewed every performer before their performance), a group of fourteen pianists, who make their living doing something totally different, braved a fairly discerning, but sympathetic audience to play one or two works. Overcoming nerves is an issue for many professionals, therefore to witness those who aren’t professionals playing with confidence and clear enjoyment, was splendid.
The line up included; Sarah Walker (BBC Radio 3 presenter), Edward Fox (actor), Oliver Condy (editor of the BBC Music Magazine), Alan Rusbridger (journalist and Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), Sophie Raworth (presenter of the BBC news and other programmes), David Pickard (Director of the BBC Proms), Conrad Williams (writer), William Sharman (athlete), Myleene Klass (radio & TV presenter), Peter Fincham (TV producer and executive), Alistair McGowan (impressionist, comedian, and actor), Stephen Boxer (actor) and Cathy Newman (Channel 4 news presenter and journalist). Some had played for a few years, whilst others had been learning since childhood, and one or two had only been practising a few months. Duets and solos cascaded between two model D Steinways which dominated the stage of Hall One.
Repertoire included a delicious selection of Grieg favourites such as Morning (Peer Gynt), Arietta Op. 12 N0.1, Puck Op. 71, No. 3, and March of the Dwarfs Op. 54 No. 3, to less familiar pieces such as the beautiful Notturno Op. 54 No. 4. Observing those who are famous in their chosen fields, tackle piano works of considerable difficulty, and move completely out of their comfort zone, was fascinating, and I appreciated the dedication, care and genuine enthusiasm for the instrument, which was displayed by every performer.
Concerts such as this not only provide a superb platform for those with a desire to improve their playing (I guarantee all performers will have found the experience musically beneficial, even if they were terrified!), but they also highlight classical music, and in particular, the piano. In a climate where instrumental tuition is seriously declining (and generally underfunded), and music study is progressively sidelined in our schools, such interest is heartening and of great importance.
The concert ended with a rousing account of In the Hall of the Mountain King arranged for two pianos, and four pianists (eight hands), played by Lucy Parham, Sarah Walker, Oliver Condy and David Pickard.
Lucy continues her highly successful series of Word/Play concerts (this is her fifth season at Kings Place), on Sunday 8th January 2017 with The Fox Family & Richard Sisson performing The Tales of Beatrix Potter. There are five concerts in this series and you can find out much more here. I interviewed Lucy a few years ago as part of my Classical Conversations Series, and you can enjoy our chat by clicking on the link here.