For the latest amateur classical music listings in and around Portsmouth, including Fareham, Petersfield, Chichester, Havant and Hayling Island

Profile: Elizabeth Pow, soprano, teacher and composer

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

Unlike many other people gracing the pages of Music in Portsmouth, I don’t come from a musical background. Although my parents were more into Rock music, they encouraged me to take up the violin at an early age as something useful to do at school. Once I was given a guitar as a teenager by a cousin, and recognising my own vocal talent, all I wanted to do was to front up symphonic metal bands, which I began doing, taking inspiration from bands such as Nightwish and Within Temptation.

The head of music at my school, Nick Ridout encouraged me to join the choir under the Tutor Kerry Watson. I loved choir but blending wasn’t my thing: I wanted to sing bigger and louder, so took formal classical singing lessons. After music A level I chose Chichester University as it had a small and friendly music department. It’s still friendly but it has one of the largest music departments in the UK these days and I’m now fortunate to work there too!

The choreographer Matthew Bourne piqued my interest in performing: for me, he changed the mould by re-interpreting the well-known ballets such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, making them truly spectacular. And I became transfixed by the voice of Renee Fleming – so kaleidoscopic and versatile.

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

Managing my time – I’m one of those people who likes to be busy, but at one point in time I was doing my masters at the LCM at the same time as teaching, performing and conducting, which was quite a stretch. I got a good grade, so it shows you can find a way if you are determined.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

From a collaborative perspective, or when I am assessing a student for an up-and-coming performance, it’s a joy to be with them to find out their naturally suited repertoire. Most can play or sing the notes in the correct order, but it’s great when you find a piece, genre or style that allows them to truly perform.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity? 

At college and university, I used to do a lot of French Romantic repertoire – for example, Fauré, Bizet and Poulenc. I have a great love of music written in the French language: it has such a wide colour palette.

I’m completely fascinated by Richard Strauss, about whom I’ve completed 2 theses. He was a controversial figure: Salomé was widely censored in several countries after it premiered. I was very fortunate to have won the Funtington Music Group’s Bursary which allowed me to spend time in Germany appreciating how well he writes for the voice. I absolutely love the breadth of his work, from the mighty Rosenkavalier through to the placid Lieder, such as Morgen.

Which works do you think you are able to perform best, and why? 

The expressiveness of French chansons and opera suit my voice well, and my studies have focused on these.

Which performances are you most proud of?

I’m proud of having put performances of Handel’s Dido & Aeneas and Acis & Galatea on tour with City Wall Productions. Our re-imaginings of these famous works won us a significant prize.

I had the great fortune to have collaborated with Carl Davis on his Oratorio The Last Train to Tomorrow at Chichester Cathedral. Fellow colleague at Chichester University Crispin Ward asked me to assist with rehearsing the children’s choirs and coordinating the logistics for it. At the last minute, Davis asked me to co-conduct, since his baton could not be seen by the children.

I also appeared in the premiere of Davis’ tribute to Leonard Bernstein, Sing God a Simple Song, a collaboration with Pamela Howard OBE for ‘Bernstein at 100’.

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

As a performer, when I was an undergraduate it was exciting to have put on Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in Italian with Crispin Ward at the Alexandra Theatre in Bognor in Italian, at a time when there was no Italian teaching at the University. It was a baptism of fire to have played the part of Susanna in a production that lasted more than 4 hours, and it was a huge effort with many late nights and long cast meetings. This confirmed my interest in performing in opera.

As a listener, in my teens I had the opportunity to see the soprano Angela Gheorghiu in Tosca at the Royal Opera House. This was greatly influential on my choice of degree.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?     

Take every opportunity, no matter how small. Out of the work that I did on a minor production with Pamela Howard and Carl Davis I was able to move on to bigger things. You may feel that your career is somewhere on a long and winding road, but then by being flexible you suddenly discover there’s a shortcut. And if possible identify the kind of music you enjoy and that interests you, not necessarily the simply kind that you think other people will enjoy.

How would you define success as a musician?

The past two years of the pandemic have been quite dark. I’d been asking myself if I was helpful or useful to society. But it’s actually been quite cathartic: my musings have confirmed my belief that I’ve made the correct career choice.

For me, success can be defined as doing something healthy which brings about a reward as well as joy to others; by doing something gladly and regularly, and not under pressure.

What are you currently working on?

During lockdown it’s been great composing Festive Bells, 10 new pieces with a Yuletide theme for young piano players. I’ve been collaborating with an up-and-coming illustrator. I’ll be self-publishing in 2022 via Amazon.

Some links

Il Est Doux, Il Est Bon – Herodiade (National Opera Studio, July 2018) Elizabeth Pow Soprano – YouTube

Quando M’en Vo’ – La Boheme (G Puccini) – YouTube

So Pretty – Leonard Bernstein – Elizabeth Pow Soprano – YouTube

About Lisa

Soprano Elizabeth “Lisa” Pow completed her BA Hons in Music at Chichester University, delivering a first class dissertative performance of Exoticism in French Romantic Opera and Chanson, before taking an undergraduate performance course during which she was inspired to develop a more hands-on approach to staging and performing opera.

She completed her MMus in Performance at the London College of Music whilst continuing to work as a professional vocalist and vocal tutor in Hampshire and West Sussex.

Elizabeth co-founded the Sussex Opera Company City Wall Productions, whose re-imagining of Dido & Aeneas toured from 2011 to 2014, and Elizabeth, with City Wall Productions, was awarded the Dome Enterprise Business Centre Award.

During her time in Sussex Elizabeth also received first prize for the Clifford-Benson Award, 2010, for a recital of Chanson. She has also studied courses at the National Opera Studio, London, and Berlin Opera Academy.

Elizabeth is multi-disciplined, and trained classically as a ballerina and stage-actress, as well as a violinist and pianist.

Elizabeth holds a position as Associate Lecturer at the University of Chichester and visiting professor of Piano at The Prebendal School.

As an involved director, she collaborated with Carl Davis on his Oratorio The Last Train to Tomorrow at Chichester Cathedral, and appeared in the premiere of his tribute to Leonard Bernstein, Sing God a Simple Song, a collaboration with Pamela Howard OBE for Bernstein at 100. She also appears annually in productions for award-winning playwright, Gillian Plowman.

Elizabeth has enjoyed a variety of fully produced roles including: Susanna, (Le Nozze Di Figaro), Eurydice (Orpheé Aux Enfers), Lucy Lockett (The Beggar’s Opera) and has toured around West Sussex and Hampshire appearing as Belinda/Sorceress (Dido & Aeneas) Coridon/Damon (Acis and Galatea) and Venus (Venus and Adonis).

She was deemed “The Highlight of The Festival” for her appearance as Marguerite (Faust) at the 2012 Annual New Park Cinema International Film Festival. She has also appeared as Zerlina and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Sarah Good and Martha Sheldon (The Crucible), Moll (Dorian Grey) The Lover (Darling – One of us Whitechapel) Nikki Pignatelli (Sweet Charity), and Alice (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).

Preview: Christmas Music with the Luc Family

After last year’s online Christmas concert, the Luc Family are delighted to return to live music-making to celebrate the festive season in Chichester.

They are promising an evening of festive classics including the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky and Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss arranged for two pianos, Winter by Vivaldi for cello and piano and other Christmas-themed tunes.

Siblings Imy (piano), Maria (piano) and Kenji (cello) grew up in Chichester and since then have become favourite accomplished and award-winning musicians.

They will be joined by their mother Yuriko (piano), and father Anva, who will be tuning the two pianos being used for the concert.

The concert will take place at Christ Church, Old Market Ave, PO191SW on Thursday, December December 23 starting at 6.30 pm.

Review: Simone Tavoni at Chichester Cathedral

Simone Tavoni’s piano recital today might be seen as two halves, one ‘classical’ and the other ‘romantic’.

Four pieces from Clementi’s Mon Ferrina, op. 39 were, he explained, by way of preparation for a competition. The first was light, the second more of a march, the third hinting towards the Mozart to come and the fourth gentler, even pensive. I hope the judges are suitably impressed by some dazzling fluency in what was pretty music, Clementi so often seeming to be used as exercises more than concert pieces.

Mozart is inevitably more involving. The first movement of the Sonata no. 14, k. 457 contrasted the serenity coupled with surges of energy and runs in the right hand with more stridency in the left. The second is an Adagio with a reassuring, warm caress that in turn looks forward perhaps to Chopin, the sonata being ‘almost romantic’ in Simone’s words. The programme had a convincing narrative behind it. The Allegro assai to finish was more forte and less flowing, even abrupt in its changes. It’s possible to see Simone as a lyrical pianist bringing out the C19th drama in Mozart’s C18th music but we were robbed of the second half of what Mozart might have written had he lived to three score years and ten and that’s what it might have developed into.

Much less well-known is Moszkowski (1854-1925) but on the evidence of the two pieces here, he belongs alongside Chopin. I suspect the programme of listing these in the wrong order. The first was expansive and lyrical while the second was the duskier and poignant, finding an eventual calm resting place. Au Crepescule was listed ahead of Poème de Mai but I think they might have been played in reverse order. The poem sounded the more crepuscular to me.

Chopin’s Rondo, op. 16 began tentatively before a top note blitzed us into stormier territory. It’s unsettled if not quite unsettling, melodic lines appearing in the busy, busy right hand. There’s often twice the value in a view of the keyboard and being able to watch such fluency that you wouldn’t appreciate from the wrong side or from further back. The Rondo didn’t end with a flourish as a gesture but it had been doing all its flourishing throughout, often sounding like a big ending when none of them were.

As an encore, Simone played a Toccata by Frescobaldi, written well before the invention of the pianoforte and thus for organ if not harpsichord. Such music entirely works on piano even if its composer had no knowledge that the instrument would one day be invented. After some lively exploration of its themes, it resolved itself to an undemonstrative ending and left me wondering whether Buxtehude’s organ music has ever been played on piano. I’m going to try to find out and if it hasn’t, maybe I’ll suggest the idea and see if it’s likely to work.

With all best wishes to Simone in his forthcoming competition. I heard the finalists in this year’s Leeds event and have no idea how anybody can find fault with any such musicians. There are no losers, really, or there shouldn’t be.

Musicians from Portsmouth Grammar School at Lunchtime Live!

In a late change to the advertised programme, it turned out not to be our local piano superstar, Angelina Kopyrina with her fiery Rachmanninov that I and my select entourage saw today, but Angelina can be saved for another time and, by happy accident, we had a different sort of treat at Lunchtime Live! at Portsmouth Cathedral on 4 November.

Karen Kingsley, Head of Keyboard at PGS and surely a profound influence on these young musicians, did the honourable thing by going on first, possibly so that nobody else had to. Peter Copley’s Aubade seemed to begin before sunrise in a disarmingly bleak opening but splinters of light from the top end of the keyboard broke through in what was an adventurous, modernist choice. Good Grief, when the composer’s date of birth shows them to be younger than me, it must be either me that’s old or them that’s young and Copley’s 59. It must be me, then.

That was surprising enough until the ‘kids’ came on. I thought Thomas Luke yesterday in Havant was amazingly accomplished not only as a musician (obviously and astonishingly so) but as a person for someone of 18. The three musicians here are a few years behind the likes of him but it was heartwarming, if not heartbreaking to see and hear the results of all the hours of hard practice.

Bach’s Ave Maria uses that uplifting riff most famous from Handel’s Zadok the Priest and then Daisy Sissons looks unassuming until filling the acoustic of the St. Thomas Chapel with her soaring voice. Equally impressive was her enunciation of the Italian in Gluck’s O del mio dolce ardor from Paride ed Elena, not something I knew but I’m always ready to make the case for Gluck, who only died two years before Mozart but would represent the ‘classical’ period gorgeously had he not been overshadowed by such a superstar name.

Erik Hillman played Jan Sandström’s Sang till Lotta on the trombone and, not being word-perfect in Swedish, I would have liked a translation of the title. Thinking that it might be about blood, given the French, I was entirely down a blind alley trying to make more of the resonant brass sound and moving piano part from Karen than was necessary. It just means Song to Lotta and makes much more sense as such as a love song so sensitively done.

Jason Shui completed the programme with his own show within a show. There’s nothing much more sensible in the piano repertoire than a Scarlatti sonata and he began with no.29, having been spoilt for choice, I’m sure, and brought it to life with what is often the part to listen to in baroque music, the walking left hand, while the right-hand thinks it’s doing the star turn. That lead, very naturally, into Mozart who, unlike Shakespeare, never blotted a line, is as close to a glimpse of heaven as we can realistically expect even in a cathedral and in the Adagio, Jason brought out the logic and mannerisms of some choice Amadeus in what had the makings of a hymn tune while I was inspired enough to cast my theatrical friend, Graham, as Mozart opposite my sinister, diabolical Salieri.

Very unfair it was of Peter Schaffer to give us that version of Salieri in his play. Salieri wasn’t Mozart but neither was anybody else. The merry Allegretto completed a fluent exposition of ‘classicism’ before first a swerve into to two C20th miniatures from Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives, which were fragments from a later world that perhaps didn’t seem to hold together so well, as by now we are well aware, and then, as any programme is well advised to, you finish on an upbeat with the jazzy, syncopated, slightly Scott Joplin, maybe even ‘stride’ piano of Fats Waller, with Sweet William by Billy Mayerl.

We couldn’t have gone over the road to the pub much happier than with that, with or without having seen the glamorous pianist from Moscow. It’s not obvious where hope comes from in a climate catastrophe with the most hapless vanity project in charge of our little bit of it, but here was some.

Thank you very much for being there, Daisy, Erik, Jason and Karen.

Review of Thomas Luke on piano at St Faith’s, Havant

Havant has joined the local lunchtime concert circuit, wisely doing Wednesdays, and is most welcome. We are especially lucky to have Thomas Luke, the piano section winner from this year’s delayed Young Musician of the Year, in the area and St. Faith’s were lucky to get such a high profile talent.

Bach’s Toccata in G major, BMV 916 was begun with relish and at a speed that made it flashy and emphasized more the shift to dreamier restfulness in the middle section. Bach is never less than a joy (except perhaps, some might say, in The Art of Fugue) and Thomas brought out the difference of the fast-slow-fast to great effect before the cascade of notes that unwrapped the well-organized mind of the composer like a kid opening a Christmas present.

By way of further contrast, Ravel is a very different composer and, I think, a bit of a speciality for Thomas. He played the Miroirs with spell-binding assurance. Ravel doesn’t these days find a very high place in my list of favourite composers but in a performance of his ‘impressionistic’, descriptive or even programmatic piece like this was, it’s easy to be convinced.

The Noctuelles are fluttery, light-strewn moths caught in a fractured melody. The Oiseuax tristes was played by Ben Socrates recently in Chichester and it was equally hypnotic here except I wrote ‘desolate’ in my notes this time rather than focussing on the repeated note it ends on as I did then. I’m sure the same piece of music can have a different effect at different times, some of which might depend on what else is on the programme and thus given a different context.

Une barque sur l’ocean was restless melancholy and the sense of fluency and flow that made this performance so coherent was becoming apparent. The Alborada del gracioso is perhaps most often heard in isolation with its disjointed rhythms maybe evoking the distress behind the jester’s act and it was the one section that had a crescendo for an ending rather than a softer, less determinate one. In La vallee des cloches, the bells are tolling for someone and Ravel is sinister as well as flirting with lyricism.

An encore of a setting of Clair de Lune offered some release from the mild torment with its gentle and airy atmosphere accompanied by something more rhapsodic.

Thomas was entirely assured at what he was doing and I thought how much more enjoyable it must be to play for pleasure, for the sake of the music, rather than for some career-defining moment in competition. He will be around for a long time and it will be interesting to see which further repertoire he gathers. 18 is an impossibly young age to be quite so mature about music like this but it already isn’t a matter of his fulfilling potential, he’s there already. Isata Kanneh-Mason didn’t even win the piano section in 2014 and look where she is now. Competition surely isn’t the point.

Review: Chichester Cathedral music events – Robert and Linda Stoodley

Performers in Chichester Cathedral at present have an imposing Moon to play under, Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon, which the likes of Pink Floyd might have envied.

One might have thought it fitting to gaze at such a thing during dreamy or slow passages but there turned out to be no such thing in the Stoodleys set and those astute enough to have found a seat with a view of the keyboard would have to save the Moon for later and be more enthralled with what was going on there.

Beethoven’s Sonata op.6 is pretty, twinkling and might plausibly have been attributed to Mozart, being early Beethoven and not the larger themed and more troubled or compelling later work. Nonetheless, the four hands shared the work as one unit as they were increasingly to do and, like Mozart was the other week, the star name did the job of support act for once.

Mendelssohn, Richard explained, ‘suffered nothing’ until the death of his sister, Fanny, after which he died soon after. Perhaps his lack of suffering is why he’s always such amenable listening and rarely dark but thus maybe not rated quite as highly as a few other major, major names. Richard and Linda changed places for this, with Richard taking the top end of the scale and both contributing to the torrent of notes that comes from their exchanges.

That was a fine thing but turned out to be something of a warm-up for a thrilling Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 by Liszt. From an ominous beginning, the programme seemed to be taking us chronologically to more shadowy Romantic thoughts, not immediately all that rhapsodic but for some yearning implications until the fast-paced circus with Linda in the engine room and Robert embellishing over the top, the Chichester Yamaha being turned into a jangle box of energy and enormous good fun.

That wasn’t just the highlight of the show, it will be among the highlights of the season and remain in the memory for a long time. It will be worth watching for the next disc from the duo because Robert told me this piece will be on it.

For many, I’m sure their arrangement of Gershwin’s An American in Paris was as good if not better, moving into the Jazz Age. Sadly, I’m not a Gershwin man, just not ‘getting it’ but at least having him ahead of Korngold, Bruckner and most of Wagner. That didn’t prevent me from appreciating an equally well done, and choreographed, performance and the intimate understanding they have of each other.

Review: Marino Tirimo and Atsuko Kawakami, Chichester Music Society

The Chichester Music Society welcomed back Marino Tirimo and Atsuko Kawakami to the 10 November Concert at the University of Chichester. The two pianists had come last in lockdown a year ago and had played to an empty hall, apart from one lonely Chairman. This time there was an expectant audience, many of whom had heard their last concert on-line and were now looking forward to a special live evening of piano duets. They were not to be disappointed.

The first piece was Fantasia for 4 Hands in F Minor Opus D940 by Schubert. This piece was written for the drawing room rather than the concert hall, but the musicians’ interpretations and performance brought the piece to life in the University Chapel.

For this concert the 19th Century Steinway Fancy D, which had been resurrected and repaired by the University, had been tuned specially for this occasion, as it was a very appropriate instrument for this introductory piece. Both musicians played together for the Schubert but after that they were on separate grand pianos.

Read more at the link below.

Chichester Festival Theatre: a celebration of Rachmaninoff in words and music

Olivier Award-winning actor Henry Goodman returns to Chichester with concert pianist Lucy Parham in Elégie, chronicling the fascinating life of composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff in words and music (November 12, 7.30pm).

Though he became an exile in 1917, Rachmaninoff’s cultural identity and longing for his homeland imbue his music, not least the many works he wrote for his own instrument, the piano.

Elégie, scripted by Lucy from letters and diaries, follows the composer from his youth in Russia, through his subsequent self-imposed exile in 1917 and finally to California, where he died in 1943.

It’s a format Lucy has pioneered over the years – a series of performances in which she is joined by an actor on stage to deliver the words and the music of some of our greatest composers.

Read more at the link below.

Profile: Thomas Luke, pianist

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

For me as a listener, there have been so many important musical influences that I feel if I were to name one, I’d have to name them all. I love to listen to any kind of music of any style, any time period, from any place in the world. There’s so much out there to explore and all of it has something new and unique for us to discover.

As a pianist, I’d have to say that some of my biggest influences as a player have included pianists such as Vladimir Horowitz and Martha Argerich. They have such unique and individual artistic voices which are incredibly inspiring.

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

As a school student, trying to find a sustainable balance between schoolwork and music practice has always been and continues to be a real battle. I always prioritise music above anything else, which often means I am cramming in school work whenever I have a spare moment. It can be incredibly busy and draining, so I have to make sure I am taking care of myself both mentally and physically.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Collaborating and playing with others is one of the best things about being a musician. It can be challenging to achieve a consistent collective artistic voice as an ensemble, especially when you’re working with players you’ve not worked with before, but it is incredibly fulfilling when the ensemble gels and you all play and perform as one force.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

Depending on when you ask me, the answer might change dramatically. If I absolutely had to choose, I could perhaps narrow it down to three: J. S. Bach, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. However, to be so generalist is to be inaccurate.

Which works do you think you are able to perform best, and why?

I have never felt strong with any one particular composer or work. I enjoy embracing the variety of challenges that the piano repertoire has to offer.

Which performances are you most proud of?

I find this question very difficult to answer. I am always very critical of my performances, sometimes perhaps too much so, but as a result, I struggle to say I’m ever proud of them. I perform because I love playing music. I would play music regardless; a performance is just that people want to hear me play.

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

Some of the most memorable experiences for me have come from listening because when I perform, I’m usually so in the flow in that moment that when I walk offstage for the final time, I’m completely drained and hardly remember any of what just happened!

I try to actively listen to music as much as possible and I have had so many memorable experiences listening to music. Obviously, how you react to a recording changes depending on your own mental state and the stimuli acting on you in that moment, so what does or doesn’t move you one time may have more or less of an impact another time.

I was lucky enough to see Yuja Wang perform with the Berlin Philharmonic at the BBC Proms a few years ago, which was a very memorable experience.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Honestly? Only do it if absolutely nothing else will make you happy.

How would you define success as a musician?

Being happy. That is always the most important thing, and I don’t think it is something that can necessarily be achieved through wealth or fame.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane under lockdown? 

I found the lockdowns incredibly difficult. Whilst naturally I am extremely introverted, I have a strong sense of adventure. I really love travelling, going to new places and experiencing new things. Spending so long in the same place was something I found incredibly unstimulating. However, I did things to help myself realise how lucky I actually am, to have been born into such a position of privilege where I am safe and healthy, and a whole world of opportunity lies before me. I began running more seriously, and indulged in my passions (some might say obsessions) for music and Formula 1.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

It’s hard to say. The world is changing at such a rate that to predict what it will look like in 10 years’ time is difficult. However, I know that I want my role in the world to be one in which I am playing and performing music. I’d really like to travel and experience different places and cultures whilst doing it too.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

For me, my idea of perfect happiness would probably be living in the cold mountains with people and animals who are very special to me. And there would be pianos too. Lots of pianos, and not necessarily all black ones.

What is your most treasured possession? 

Naturally, my pianos (Freddy and Domenico) are very important to me.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Either playing music or playing with our cats (Teddy and Rosie).

What is your present state of mind?

Semi-reflective boredom as I sit on the ferry back to the Isle of Wight… The word ‘boredom’ often carries negative connotations, but I find boredom, whilst not always immediately appealing, can allow me to investigate and learn more about something or myself.

Widely praised for his exceptional musicality and depth of interpretation, Thomas Luke is an award-winning 18-year-old pianist from the Isle of Wight whose performances have been broadcast on national television and radio.

Thomas was the keyboard category winner of the prestigious 2020 BBC Young Musician competition. Watch him playing. He has also recently been awarded first place in the 2021 Iris Dyer Piano Prize at the Junior Royal Academy of Music, and been recognised by the Vienna International Music Competition as possessing “outstanding talent, a remarkable musicality and a very accomplished technique”.

Thomas began piano lessons at the age of four and currently studies with Eleanor Hodgkinson at the Junior Royal Academy of Music in London. Thomas has been the recipient of the Richard Toeman Memorial Award for Young Pianists and a Robert Lewin Scholarship from Awards for Young Musicians.

Thomas also enjoys playing chamber music and composing, as well as maths, sciences and languages.

Recently he’s been playing with the Solent Symphony Orchestra. He’s playing on Wednesday 3 November 2021 at St Faith’s, Havant. Read a review of this recital.

Further info:

Review: Solent Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth Cathedral, October 2nd

Finally! Live music and the Solent Symphony Orchestra (SSO) are back!

After nearly 19 months of silence, it was marvellous to see again so many musicians in one place, at Portsmouth Cathedral plus a good size audience, despite the weather! However, alongside this joy, we were saddened by the loss of those who were missing… The concert was dedicated to the wonderful Gwen Robson, a member of the cello section of the orchestra for many years, who sadly died in August. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for the chosen repertoire? The handful of gorgeous cello themes throughout the programme seemed most appropriate.

Out of the silence and stillness in the Cathedral, the first few notes of Borodin’s Prince Igor Overture, sounded mysterious, even perhaps slightly nervous… but within few bars, as the music unfolded, the sound gained intensity and depth and we were all immersed in rather dark and slow opening of this incredible masterpiece, but most importantly – in the magic of live music!

The Overture was masterfully performed under Steve Tanner’s fantastic leadership.

Maybe some of the clarity and orchestral balance might have not been like on a CD or even as on a live streamed concert (there are sound engineers to adjust that!) but these imperfections didn’t take away from the sheer emotion even physical feel of the music surrounding us.

Magical and priceless!!

The second item in the first half of the concert was Liszt’s Piano Concerto No1, with 17 years old soloist, Finalist of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2020, Thomas Luke. Thomas, who lives on the Isle of Wight, won the SSO Concerto Award at the Portsmouth Music Festival back in 2019 and had waited a long time for his opportunity to perform…. but it was well worth the wait and we were in for a treat indeed!

Although the concerto itself perhaps is not the favourite of many musicians (including me), Thomas found a loving tenderness in the lyrical passages and at the same time was fully equipped to meet this virtuoso work’s challenges.

Perhaps a few occasions in the 1st movement when the young blood stepped in and few passages ran ahead, but Thomas’s excellent musicianship and unexpected (for 17-year-old) maturity, kicked in and in the rest of the piece Soloist and Orchestra bonded beautifully to become one – a great performance.

However, the highlight of the 1st half of the concert was actually the encore!
Thomas transported us from the virtuosity of Liszt to a much more intimate and wonderfully lyrical place – that of Rachmaninov’s Prelude in D Major, Op.23!

There were beautifully shaped and layered textures with a splendid sense of atmosphere and heart-warming lyricism. Most enjoyable!

In the second half of the concert, the Solent Symphony Orchestra and Steve Tanner delivered an inspiring realisation of Dvorak’s Symphony N8. The interpretation struck a perfect balance of darkness and sunshine, sadness and triumph where all solos in the wind sections (as well as strings, especially orchestra leader Kirstie Robertson’s violin solo in the Liszt) were splendidly executed. Pure delight!

What an evening of live music!
The future of music is looking bright…

Music returns to Holy Trinity, Gosport: Fumi Otsuki

Regular music-making returns to Holy Trinity, Gosport!

We welcomed Fumi Otsuki (violin) accompanied by Sarah Kershaw (piano).

What a ‘come back’ concert we had!  It was a superb programme: just right for the time of year and beautiful setting.  We enjoyed every piece, from Delius to Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells to Mussorgsky, Grieg to Massenet, we were delighted, and transported to images of cascading streams, gambolling lambs in pastoral scenes, larks ascending, folk dancing in Norway – and what a terrific way finish, with ‘Meditation’ from the opera ‘Thais’ by Jules Massenet.

We have a full programme of recitals planned going into the autumn.

Review: Stradivarius Piano Trio

The Stradivarius Piano Trio of Andrew Bernardi Jonathan Few and Maria Marchant performed a brilliant evening of music in Chichester as part of the celebrations.

With a carefully constructed programme including pieces by some female composers, Joanna Gill, Rebecca Clarke and Clara Schumann, the trio spoke about why the pieces had been chosen and what was special about them.

With solos, duets and trios, the passion and emotions of the musicians shone through.

For further details of their future concerts, see

Read more at the link below.

‘Boissier: Two Piano Concertos and a Sonata’ CD by Valentina Seferinova

Hello people – at long last my latest CD – number 14 ! – the one I made in Lviv, Ukraine, with the Ukrainian Festival Orchestra under Grammy-winning conductor John McLaughlin Williams, and in a recording studio in Paris – just over 2 years ago, has finally been released.

It’s delay has been caused by Covid issues along the way – but has now received its first international review.

Its title is ‘Boissier; Two Piano Concertos and a Sonata’.

The first in-depth and fantastic review has appeared online at Music Web International. The review is mostly an analysis of the music; and of the composer himself.

Here are some edited extracts relevant to the actual recordings.

“I clicked on the first of the available samples out of interest, but literally couldn’t believe my ears. The start was exactly like hearing the ‘Warsaw Concerto’ all over again, and as I then avidly played through the remaining samples, I quickly realised that the musical content of the disc was something quite different from what I’d initially imagined it to be.… ”.

“The highly-committed performances from the Ukrainian Festival Orchestra are very much at one with the composer’s intentions, with inspired American conductor, John McLaughlin Williams, constantly keeping them on their toes, and extracting the maximum pizazz from each section.”

“In Bulgarian pianist Valentina Seferinova, Boissier has a fine exponent to deal with the powerful style of writing, which frequently leans more towards the massive chordal writing in Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto, ………”

“The absolutely first-rate recordings are most vivid and additionally add to the Boissier’s total credibility and overall appeal of his works.”

“You could become instantly smitten by what you hear ….”—Philip R Buttall, MusicWeb International

Elsewhere it’s apparently receiving plenty of airtime in the USA and across Europe (where someone says “just luxuriate in it!”)

Suggest you seek out samples of each track – widely available across the internet – including on the ‘Latest News’ page of my website then make up your own mind! before making your final decision.

Read an earlier Noticeboard item.

Read more about Valentina.

Review: Chichester Music Society: Tanya Ursova (piano) & Anna Gorbachyova (soprano)

See associated Noticeboard item.

The Chichester Music Society had their first 2021 Concert that finally had a live audience, and as usual the Society met at the University of Chichester, where 30 members and guests attended on 9 June. The artists were Anna Gorbachyova-Ogilvie [soprano – right in photo] and Tanya Ursova [piano].

The programme was a fascinating mixture of Russian, German and French songs, involving music by well-known composers such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, Richard Strauss and Poulenc. Interestingly they also included music by other lesser-known composers such as Henri Duparc, and Anna chose his Chanson Triste to open this concert. Immediately the audience was captivated by her confident and dramatic conviction, her volume, which, when needed, was impressive, and her ability to temper this appropriately according to the demands of the music.

Another particularly interesting choice was In the Autumn, a piece which was written by Georgy Sviridov who only died in 1998. Much of his career had been spent working in the Soviet era, but this piece was part of the New Folk Wave, and Anna and Tanya together created a memorable performance which demanded both sensitivity and emotional musical scene painting.

Anna sang throughout with both technical fluidity and produced some highly polished singing with a voice full of emotional intensity, which was particularly noticeable in her rendition of Richard Strauss’ Three Songs of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Opus 67.

Tanya Ursova’s accompaniment was fluid and at times fiery, at times breathtakingly haunting, always anticipating the mood of each piece, and she was a perfect instrumental companion. She also played a piano solo by Rachmaninov that was well chosen to demonstrate her ability to articulate both poignant, moving music, as well as light-hearted crescendos and more melodic themes.

The concert programme ended with a sensitive performance of Poulenc’s Fiancailles pour Rire where much of the music was anxious and wistful. The Duo ended the concert with an encore by Gershwin that certainly lightened the mood.

This concert was a prime example of what the Chichester Music Society does best, which is to introduce our members to new music, as well as reminding them of old favourites. Chairman, Chris Hough, thanked the two musicians “for giving the Society a wonderful evening of marvellous music”, also thanking Tanya Ursova for her valuable work on the detailed programme notes and translations which greatly added to the audiences understanding & enjoyment of the music.

Profile: Angelina Kopyrina, pianist

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

When I was 5 years old, Denis Matseuv lived with my family for 3 years (1991- 94) while studying at Central Special Music School under the Moscow State Conservatory. It was his presence in my life that inspired me to pursue a career in piano. He insisted to my mother that I study with his professor and mentor Valery Piassetski, which gained me entrance into the CSM school where I studied for 11 years.

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

It’s been challenging completing a PhD while learning new repertoire and simultaneously giving recitals. And, as English is my second language, it took time for me to develop the academic conventions.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I mostly do solo recitals: I like to have the audience to myself!

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

I am currently completing my PhD entitled “Rachmaninov’s Piano sonatas: author’s editions; challenges of interpretation” so it’s fair to say, I have a strong affinity to Rachmaninov, however, most of my recitals normally include Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Prokofiev.

Which performances are you most proud of, or are the most memorable for you?

At 14, I performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 with the Yaroslavl Philharmonic Orchestra in Yaroslavl, Russia. Also, at 14 I won second prize at the 4th International Nikolai Rubenstein piano competition in Paris.

While studying in London, I performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 and Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini at the Barbican Hall, as well as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at Dukes Hall, Royal Academy of Music and St Martin-in-the-Fields which of course was memorable. I was just 18 and had just arrived in England when I played at the Barbican. I was a bit overawed by the fact that the concert was a sell-out, perhaps aided by the fact that it was for the Princes Trust charity – nothing to do with me!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

It depends on their ambitions. If you want to be a Classical/Concert pianist then you will need to give 100% dedication and sacrifice your time. Practising 6 hours a day, every day. Being a concert pianist is a lonely life!!

How would you define success as a musician?

Achieving your goals/ambitions, whatever they are.

Angelina Kopyrina is a multiple classical pianist who has won prizes in several UK and European competitions including the International Czech Republic competition, Morey Piano Competition and 2nd prize at The Hastings Music festival Piano Concerto competition.

She attended the Central Music School, held at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory, aged 6 where she studied under Valery Piassetski.

“Angelina’s interpretation of the Mephisto waltz is unique, a mixture of grandiose power combined with a delicate touch.” – Yonty Solomon

At 14, Angelina performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 with the Yaroslavl Philharmonic Orchestra in Yaroslavl and won second prize at the 4th International Nikolai Rubenstein piano competition in Paris.

“Brilliant virtuosity with great sonority in Rachmaninov’s Concerto No.2” – Philip Fowke

Angelina continued her studies under Nina Sereda at Trinity College of Music, London where her natural virtuosic, passionate and powerful interpretations led to performances of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2, Mozart Piano Concerto No.23 and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini at the Barbican Hall, London as well as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 at Dukes Hall, Royal Academy of Music and St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

“Absolutely stunning and brilliant interpretation of Liszt’s Dante Sonata”- Tatiana Zelikman

Angelina is studying “Rachmaninov’s Piano sonatas: author’s editions; challenges of interpretation” as the subject of her PhD at the University of Chichester.

Watch her playing on YouTube
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Watch her play Rachmaninov’s piano sonatas No.1, D minor, op.28 and No.2, B flat minor, op.36.


Angelina Kopyrina: Rachmaninov Lecture Recital

Angelina Kopyrina presents a lecture-recital on Rachmaninov’s first piano sonata in D minor, op.28, its history, background and influences on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 7.30pm.

She plays Rachmaninov’s Piano Sonatas on Tuesday 11 May.

Click the link below then.

CD released featuring music by Corentin Boissier and played by Valentina Seferinova

Finally, my 14th CD has at long last been released for worldwide distribution – itself having been delayed by the Covid pandemic. It’s the one I recorded in Lviv, Ukraine and Paris – some 2 years ago. Today, finally, CDs have arrived from Naxos in Germany!!

The gorgeous Corentin Boissier’s Piano Concertos were recorded with the wonderful Ukrainian Festival Orchestra conducted by the brilliant and most amazing John Mclaughlin Williams. The dramatic and passionate Piano Sonata Appassionata – CD, released on the Toccata label…

Absolutely thrilled – holding it in my hands! Now proudly taking space on one of the shelves in my music room.

Available in multi formats (CD, MP3, FLAC, HD WAV) on the ToccataClassics label.

You can hear a sample of every track if you go to my website ‘Latest News’ page – a scroll down a little bit.

It is already attracting very encouraging comments, with the owner of another record company saying, “I have just listened to the excerpt – sent shivers down my spine – gorgeous playing as always.”

The original Recording Engineer’s comments on the post-recording processing and mastering – “the sound has a vinyl-like quality” (a high compliment!.)

Read a later Noticeboard item about this CD.

Read more about Valentina.

Sophia Rahman and Catherine Martin on the plight of musicians

The UK government must act now to put arrangements in place to enable musicians and other performing artists and their support teams to travel within the EU without crippling costs and excessive paperwork. Pianist Sophia Rahman, with violinist Catherine Martin, explains what this means in practical terms.

‘A glance through my own accounts for the year ending April 2020 shows that well over two-thirds of my income was either earned within the EU (Austria, Estonia, etc.) or within the UK but with one or more collaborators from the EU. As well as producing foreign earnings, UK musicians touring abroad are a showcase for our country’s rich cultural heritage. When foreign musicians come to the UK to collaborate with us, they are not ‘taking work away’ from British musicians but generating an exchange of ideas which stimulates both sides and offers a chance for unique work to be created. Artistic standards are driven up by such interaction as each party benefits from the opportunity to learn from and inspire the other. The government apparently refused to agree a visa-waiver scheme offered by the EU as it was regarded as opening the door to free movement. Touring is emphatically NOT an immigration issue, as we all wish to return to our home bases after creative interaction; it is an issue of healing and well-being and has huge cultural and economic value.

Because of Covid travel restrictions I have given only two live performances within the EU since March 2020. I am extremely concerned that when these restrictions are eventually lifted the practical difficulties (red tape and associated costs) of touring post-Brexit will spell the permanent loss of a significant part of my income. The performing arts are now struggling with the absence of workable post-Brexit arrangements. When, as directed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, I go on and ask a Brexit-related work question I get a Covid answer. Despite considerable media attention, there is still no sign of any government initiative to solve the potentially much longer-lasting problems that the absence of a visa waiver agreement creates for artists and their touring support network.

As things stand the (non)deal for artists would render my formerly viable performing career unsustainable. The same goes for many other musicians. As the violinist Catherine Martin explains:

“I’ve been doing some maths with regard to what I earned, and where, in the year March 2019 to March 2020. I spent just over a third of my time (37%) rehearsing in the EU for concerts abroad. This includes my teaching abroad and reflects the work that I did for groups based in the EU. I spent just over a third of my time (35%) rehearsing in the UK for concerts in the UK. This includes my teaching in the UK. I spent the rest of the time (28%) doing concerts in the EU but rehearsing in the UK. So, this is the time I spend with UK groups who perform abroad. If I were to lose my work in the EU I’d probably lose half of my income. I am established and successful. I shudder to think how anyone is going to be able to earn a decent income who is just starting out.”

The situation is even more disastrous when you consider the double-whammy that has already hit performers. Work at home has been so limited during the past year due to Covid restrictions, with still no prospect of a return to anything like normal service in the foreseeable future. Moreover, the streaming which the public has relied upon to comfort and ease them through successive lockdowns is not adequately remunerated. To put this last point into perspective, violinist Tasmin Little speaking recently on BBC Radio 5 stated that a year ago from her (then) 700,000 listeners she had garnered a total of £12.34 over a six-month period.

Performing artists and their support crews have been incredibly hard hit by the Covid restrictions. Many of us have not benefited at all from the cultural recovery fund, and many have been excluded from government assistance, though those who have benefited are grateful. Now we urgently need the government to return to the negotiating table and forge a solution to the pressing problem of being denied work in the EU through a Brexit deal that utterly failed to acknowledge the needs of our industry. We have to be able to travel in order to simply do our jobs, to start on a level playing field with our fellow players within the EU and with our co-workers from all fields at home.

Whichever way readers may have voted in the Referendum they certainly would not have intended Britain’s creative industry, the second fastest growing sector of the economy pre-lockdown, to wither in this way. Nobody likes to see businesses go to the wall but imagine if the delicate ecosystem of the arts world, which provided so much solace to people during the extreme times of the pandemic, were to collapse through political mismanagement. If you value access to the performing arts, if you value creativity and the vast support network that sustains it and helps to make life worth living, then support us in the fight for a solution.’

Sophia Rahman

Sophia Rahman made the first UK recording of Florence Price’s piano concerto with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, broadcast on BBC Radio 3. She has recorded Shostakovich’s piano concerto Op. 35 with the Scottish Ensemble for Linn Records and over thirty chamber music discs for a host of international labels including (German) CPO, (Swiss) Guild, Resonus, Dutton/Epoch, Naxos, ASV and Champs Hill. Sophia teaches on the String Masters programme run by the Irish Chamber Orchestra at the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and has also coached at the University of Malta, junior chamber music at the Sibelius Academy, Finland and Lilla Akademien, Sweden, and on a course she designed at the Arvo Pärt Centre, Estonia, especially for young Estonian chamber musicians. She is Artistic Director of the annual Whittington International Chamber Music Festival which brings together distinguished artists from across the globe to play chamber music together in rural Shropshire. After early schooling in the Chichester area, she attended the Yehudi Menuhin School where both student and staff membership was truly international. This created a unique environment for the highest artistic standards to flourish, which developed into a career founded on international exchange of ideas and freedom of artistic expression across borders.

Catherine Martin has been leader of the Gabrieli Consort and Players since 2005, appearing on many award-winning recordings. From 2010 to 2020, Catherine also led Die Kölner Akademie in Germany. From the inception of the Valletta Baroque Festival in 2003, Catherine has had a continual relationship with the Valletta International Baroque Ensemble, going to Malta three times a year to direct concerts with Maltese musicians and give masterclasses. She is a frequent guest leader of Barokkanerne, a baroque orchestra based in Oslo. Catherine has previously taught at the Norwegian Academy of Music, and currently teaches historical violin at the Royal College of Music.

Read their stories at:


Profile: Jelena Makarova, pianist

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

I started playing piano as a child at a very early age in Lithuania where my family relocated to from Russia.

I was born into a musical family. My mother was a pianist and there were also musicians on my father’s side – some violinists and an opera singer.

I was also blessed with receiving a great musical education and being trained by fantastic piano teachers, each of whom contributed towards my development as a pianist.

I received my first piano lessons with Liudmila Deksnienė in a music school where my mother was also teaching at the time. Ms Deksnienė had a very important influence on my musical career. On her advice I auditioned and was accepted to study piano at M.K.Čiurlionis School of Arts, Lithuania’s top specialist boarding music school. My piano teacher there was Jūratė Karosaitė, who has taught many wonderful pianists all of whom have developed very successful international careers.

I am also extremely grateful to my piano teachers professor Olga Steinberg at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre and professor Colin Stone at the Royal Academy of Music, as well as my chamber music teachers Irena Čiurilaitė, Michael Dussek and Nicola Eimer, who further moulded me into a musician that I am today.

I also participated in several masterclasses with world-renowned pianists Pierre Laurent-Aimard, Paul Lewis, Ian Hobson, Roger Vignoles, Joan Havill, Nelly Ben-Or, Herbert Zahling and pianist-composer György Kurtág, whom each had an influence on my style of playing.

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

The greatest challenge for me as a musician so far has been undoubtedly surviving during these times of the pandemic.

Just like many professional musicians across the world, I lost the majority of my performances last year (and some this year) due to cancellations arising from Covid-19 restrictions. Luckily most have been re-scheduled. It was a great challenge to cope with this loss both, emotionally and practically.

Needless to say, losing many of your performances like that has a very significant impact on one’s mental state. Like many musicians, I lived for the stage. It was very challenging to stay motivated. I had to review what it means to be a musician in times of the pandemic and to review how to continue to keep going. Also, from a practical point of view, in order to continue to perform, just like my colleagues, I had to move my performing activity online, which was a very unfamiliar territory to me. I had to really work on myself to quickly adapt to this new way of making music.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I am a very sociable person and I enjoy collaborating with other musicians very much. I have been very fortunate to have been working with many amazing musicians, some of whom became my very good friends.

Being a soloist can be quite a solitary experience, so collaborations are a great way to connect with your colleagues and exchange musical ideas. I find making music with others very stimulating: one can learn a great deal. I also like applying my skills in a variety of different ways and participating in various interesting performing projects as a chamber musician and an accompanist.

I am a co-founding member of Trio Sonorité, Living Songs, the vocal and piano duo, the St. Katharine’s Piano Duo and Chromatikon, the cross-arts ensemble of the composer, musicians and an artist. I have also collaborated with the London New Orchestra, Baltic Art Form, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and Royal Ballet School.

During this pandemic it’s become so important to make music with others. In fact it has become a lifeline. Although the majority of it has been online, I have been very grateful that this option has been available to me, for it has been a great opportunity to re-connect with my fellow musicians.

It can be challenging to schedule rehearsals, as each musician has their own international careers and freelance work. Also, each musician has their unique personalities and different ideas about musical interpretation. However, overcoming these differences is all part of the process and the pleasures of collaborating with other musicians greatly outweigh the challenges.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

My musical tastes are quite varied. I feel that I am quite versatile in that respect. I would say that I particularly enjoy playing music by 20th-century composers, especially works by Shostakovich and Stravinsky, who composed in the neo-classical style. Here is one example: Stravinsky’s Sonata 1924 which I recently recorded.

I also have a close affinity with music by Schubert. I regularly perform his music as a soloist and chamber musician, including on behalf of the Schubert Institute UK (SIUK). There is a natural simplicity of his melodic lines and an intimate sincerity of his music that is very close to my heart.

Because of my Russian and Lithuanian background, it is only natural that I perform a lot of music by Russian and Lithuanian composers, both historic and contemporary. I recently have been performing a lot of repertoire by female composers including works by Galina Ustvolskaya, and intend to perform more of her works. Her style of writing is so unique.

As well as music of a more traditional nature I perform a lot of modern music. I have collaborated with and premiered works by many living male and female composers, including Causton, Riley, Hesketh, Wallen, Woolrich, Vitkauskaitė, LeFanu, Westwood, Slater and Medekšaitė.

I love that feeling when you première works that have never previously been performed.

Which works do you think you are able to perform best?

I usually perform best the works which I can connect and relate to.

I tend to tailor my recital programmes with great care, so that they flow well. This is very important to me and that is how I chose works I perform.

And then it’s a matter of how much work I put into practising so in that respect I don’t favour any particular works I have performed. The amount and effort of my preparation is what determines the quality of their execution.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

I tend to value all my performances. Each is a stepping stone in my artistic journey and each is a learning curve.

I am particularly proud of my recent lockdown performances. I am delighted to have been able to overcome the challenges of losing many of my concerts due to the pandemic lockdown restrictions and create new opportunities for performing online, which was way outside my comfort zone.

I was involved in a series of lockdown performing and recording projects.

I premiered ‘Kindred’ 6 miniatures for piano composed for me by Sarah Westwood in a popular online concert series called Bitesize Proms“. 

I also recorded “Kindred” and music by Rameau for an upcoming album to be released later this year. With our Trio Sonorité, I also premiered – in an online live and also via video performances – a work by the Lithuanian composer Rūta Vitkauskaitė called “Edge of Time”, which was funded by Help Musicians Scotland and the Lithuanian Council for Culture. The live performance also included projections of paintings by the British-American painter Aimee Birnbaum (The Royal Institute of Painters with Watercolours).

My other lockdown premieres were Heads on Sticks by Colin Riley and Textile_6 by Lithuanian composer Egidija Medekšaitė which I performed along music from Beethoven and Ustvolskaya for the 250th Beethoven’s Birthday Anniversary recital series at Brunel University London.

I also very much enjoy to perform music by Čiurlionis, which I grew up with, at London’s Razumovsky Academy for the composer’s 145th Birth Anniversary, which was also played on the Lithuanian National Radio. Here is an excerpt from the performance.

What are your most memorable experiences as a performer, composer or listener?

As a performer I have many wonderful experiences. It would be difficult to list them all but here are some that are particularly vivid in my memory.

Back in my student days at the Royal Academy of Music I took part in the György Kurtág’s music festival Games, Signs and Messages where I was coached by the composer. György Kurtág is such an inspiring and monumental figure in contemporary music. Despite his age he was full of life and creative energy. Working on his piano pieces (“Játékok”) was great privilege to me. This inspired me to play more music by contemporary composers.

I also performed at the festival’s gala concert, where I shared the stage of the academy’s Duke’s Hall with the great Mitsuko Uchida. Performing along one of my favourite pianists and seeing her backstage getting composed prior to her performance was very special.

Undoubtedly one of my most memorable experiences was performing at the Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall) in New York.

I was invited to perform music by the renowned Azerbaijani composer Jevdet Hajiyev (student of Dmitry Shostakovich) by his daughter Pervin Muradova-Dilbazi, to mark the composer’s 100th birthday anniversary. It was a very interesting project to be involved in. I love New York. It is the city where I got engaged. It has amazing energy. To perform here in one of the world’s greatest concert halls was a huge honour and experience I will never forget.

A very special memory was performing for a Holocaust Memorial Concert at the Lithuanian Embassy in London, where I was an accompanist to a celebrated Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Judita Leitaitė, who sang a soundtrack in Yiddish to a film about the Vilnius ghetto called “Ghetto” by Audrius Juzenas. This was a concert performance I will never forget. It was so much more than just about performing. The atmosphere in the room was electrifying, it really made me reflect on terrible events in our human history.

A more recent memory was my performance in Portsmouth for the Portsmouth Music Club. I really enjoyed giving the recital there. The audience was so very welcoming and supportive. I would definitely like to come back to Portsmouth and perform there and in the surrounding area.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Go for it, but be prepared that you will need to have a lot of inner strength, patience, determination and perseverance.

Talent alone is not enough; you will need to work hard and not only at practising. You will have to create your own opportunities, build your audience and also do your own self-promotion. That takes a lot of time and effort, so it is important that you set clear goals and maintain the right balance in order to not burn out.

The majority of modern musicians have so-called “portfolio” careers, which for pianists comprises being a soloist, a chamber musician, an accompanist and also teaching. It can become quite overwhelming. Be prepared for the possibility that you may end up doing many different things.

There are many fantastic musicians out there, so I think it is important to have your own unique voice and follow your own path.

Collaborations are a great way to meet and make music with other like-minded musicians, share musical ideas and expertise.

Keep your eyes on online courses, summer schools, masterclasses and workshops.

No matter how hard it can be at times, it is all worth it in the end.

How would you define success as a musician?

To me being a successful musician means reaching a level of technical proficiency in musical skills that allows you to freely communicate with your audience through the music you perform.

A successful musician always continues to perfecting one’s craft and understands that one is as good as one’s last performance.

He/she respects the audience and is humble and polite to the people he/she works with.

A successful musician is someone who understands that failure is part of being a musician, and is not afraid to experiment and take risks.  Music is a journey and not a destination.

A successful musician walks his/her own path and has his/her own story to tell.

A successful musician is an integral part of society and musical legacy.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

It is difficult to think about long-term goals in light of the current situation. The priority right now is to set short-term goals and adapt to all the changes caused by the lockdowns and the restrictions.

Ultimately I will continue working hard, pursue new horizons and will keep setting new musical challenges. I would like to perform with more orchestras and keep recording new material.

I also feel inspired by current movements of female empowerment and racial diversity such as Black Lives Matter. As a global citizen I want to make sure that I also play my part through the music I perform. Therefore in the coming years I intend to perform more diverse recital programmes which will include works by historically underrepresented female composers of all racial backgrounds as well as Asian and Black male composers.

I would also like to leave a legacy by working with a variety of musical organisations and by inspiring future generations.

Lithuanian-Russian pianist Jelena Makarova is based in London and is in high demand as an international soloist, chamber musician and an accompanist.

She performed in the world’s finest concert venues which include Carnegie Hall in New York, Mozart Konzerhaus in Vienna, St. John’s Smith Square, St. George’s Hall in Bristol and St. Martin-in-the-Fields, for the “Pianists of the World”, ILAMS and New Music concert series.

Jelena also performed for the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe, Lidköping Music Festival in Sweden, London Contemporary Music Festival, London Open House Day and Chetham’s International Festival and Summer School for Young Pianists.

She is a regular recitalist for various concert societies and music clubs in the UK and is also an educator at her local organisation Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Educational Services (THAMES).

Jelena received her initial training at M.K.Čiurlionis School of Arts, Lithuania’s specialist music boarding school. She continued her studies at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Drama, graduating with honours and obtaining a master’s degree in Piano Performance, Accompaniment and Piano Teaching. During this period she won J. Gruodis Lithuanian National Competition for Young Pianists.

Jelena then moved to the UK and completed a Postgraduate Piano Performance Diploma course at the Royal Academy of Music, where she studied piano with Colin Stone and was supported by the Kathleen Trust.

During her studies, Jelena performed for a public master class with world-renowned French pianist Pierre Laurent-Aimard and participated at the György Kurtág’s music festival, where she was coached by the composer and played at the festival’s gala with a guest appearance of Mitsuko Uchida. She also won third prize at Marlow International Concerto Competition.

Jelena is a co-founding member of the RVW Trust-funded Living Songs project with acclaimed soprano Jessica Summers as well as St. Katharine’s Piano Duo, Chromatikon collective and Trio Sonorité, which was featured on Women’s Radio Station as part of the Future Classic Awards.  

She has collaborated with the New London Orchestra, the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain, the Baltic Art Form and the Royal Ballet School.

As well as performing traditional repertoire, Jelena actively promotes New Music. She has performed music by many established and emerging living composers including works by female composers.

Just before Britain went into a first lockdown, Jelena played a piano recital for the “Illuminate Women’s Music” concerts series, where she performed music by historic and living female composers, including Angela Elizabeth Slater, the founder of the series, and Sarah Westwood.

Her other lockdown performances included an online piano recital at Brunel University London and “Bitesize Proms” online concert series by Help Musicians, where she premiered a set of piano pieces entitled “Kindred”, composed and dedicated to her by Sara Westwood, which Jelena also later recorded along with piano music by Rameau for her upcoming album.

Recently awarded with a prestigious grant from the Lithuanian Council for Culture, Jelena premiered piano works by Lithuanian composers Medekšaitė, Bružaitė in the UK. She also, with her Trio Sonorité premiered online audio-visual work by PRS composer Ruta Vitkauskaite called “Edge of Time” for clarinet, cello and piano. The livestream performance, co-funded by Help Musicians Scotland, included art projections by British-American artist Aimee Birnbaum.

As well as being a pianist Jelena is also an educator. She currently works as a piano tutor and an accompanist at her local organisation Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Educational Service (THAMES)

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Pianist Maria Luc offers Chichester Cathedral recital

Maria Luc, who usually plays regularly at Chichester Cathedral, has come back to record the last concert of Chichester Cathedral’s lunchtime concert series after almost a year of silence.

Maria is delighted to be back in the cathedral with a programme of the complete Chopin Preludes Op.28 on a Yamaha grand piano on Tuesday 23 March at 1300.

“Although the concert is online, the video depicts the wonderful interiors of the Cathedral. The video will also be able to view after the premiere alongside previous concerts on the Chichester Cathedral Live YouTube Channel.”

Read more at the link below.

Chichester Cathedral lunchtime concerts resume

At 1pm on Tuesday 23rd February, Chichester Cathedral’s weekly lunchtime concert series will resume, online, for five weeks. Details of programmes and performers can be found on the cathedral website or by downloading the Chichester Cathedral spring 2021 lunchtime programme.

Each concert will be preceded by a short talk on the programme led by the Cathedral’s assistant organist Tim Ravalde. You can register for these by following this link: Register for pre-concert talks on Zoom.

Future concerts:
Tuesday 23 February, 1.00pm – Charles Harrison, organ – watch this on YouTube
Tuesday 2 March 2021, 1.00pm – Tim Ravalde, organ – watch this on YouTube
Tuesday 9 March 2021, 1.00pm – David Alexander, piano – watch the pre-concert talk and watch the recital
Tuesday 16 March 2021, 1.00pm – Louise Salmond Smith, recorder, and Charles Harrison, piano – watch the pre-concert talk by Louise and watch the recital
Tuesday 23 March 2021, 1.00pm – Maria Luc, piano

Tim says, “We look forward to welcoming our community and beyond back to the Cathedral’s Nave for the irreplaceable experience of enjoying live music in person. Until then, we invite you to join us online for music by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Franck, Handel, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Telemann, Widor and more.”

Review: Chichester Music Society – David Owen Norris

Chichester Music Society was pleased to welcome David Owen Norris on 9 December at the University of Chichester when he gave his lecture-recital entitled “Beethoven at the Piano – a Path of his own Discovery.” This concert was live-streamed courtesy of the University.

David Owen Norris is a consummate and experienced lecturer and pianist, performing all over the world and presenting regularly on BBC radio & TV including BBC Proms Extra.

He started his lecture/recital on a historical note, pointing out that Beethoven had had lessons on the harpsichord, but that he was a self-taught musician on the piano. He was of course an exceptional pianist as well as a composer, able almost effortlessly to improvise, as he showed aged 21, when he just added variations to his performance of his own work, the Righini Variations, by playing new variations in the elegant style he had just heard for the first time.

Throughout his presentation, David Owen Norris played a wide range of illustrative excerpts from Beethoven’s compositions to emphasise the points he was making. He explained that Beethoven, over the coming years, began to create his own style of playing in his compositions, such as adding scales and trills from 1791. The result was that we began to hear phrases such as “mercurial characteristics” or “irreverent impudence” that surround reviews of his music.

David Owen Norris then played the Moonlight Sonata, Opus 27, No 2, which was written in 1802 when Beethoven knew he was going deaf, the final movement a poignant reminder that the composer did not accept this threat to his life of music. The transformation from the tranquil first movement to the finale was ably played by the pianist, where he created endlessly varied colourings and subtle changes in dynamics and phrasing, with a firm and exciting finale. A real loss to members that no audience was able to be present to enjoy this fine performance.

The second piece was the Sonata Pathetique Opus 13, which was written in 1799. Again, this was beautifully performed, with the pianist ably interpreting the fiery and darker elements of the music.

The final piece was a special composition for the evening. David Owen Norris created a possible scenario imagining that were Beethoven alive today, being Christmas, he might have added a set of variations on a Christmas carol to his catalogue of works. Thus, our lecturer and pianist gave us a set of Christmas variations written in the style of Beethoven. This was an exercise which really worked and seemed to this reviewer to be eminently possible and would believably be approved of by Beethoven himself!

Chris Hough, Chairman of Chichester Music Society, thanked David Owen Norris, and said, “This was a wonderful evening, and it was fitting to have such a remarkable and sensitive pianist and presenter to end our 2020 celebration of Beethoven’s birth 250 years ago. What a delight to be able to enjoy David’s remarkable compositional skills and share his fascinating interpretations and insights into Beethoven’s great music.”

Lunchtime live recital by Karen Kingsley at St Thomas’ Cathedral

Watch Karen playing on St Thomas’ Cathedral’s Facebook page, see link below.

Karen’s programme consists of two piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven. Firstly, his Sonata in F minor, Op. 2 no. 1 (Allegro – Adagio – Menuetto and Trio – Prestissimo). Secondly, his Sonata in E, Op. 109 (Vivace ma non troppo – Adagio espressivo – Prestissimo – Andante Molto cantabile ed espressivo).

Chichester Music Society: David Owen Norris: ‘A path of his own discovery’: Beethoven at the piano

Wed 9 Dec 2020 7:30pm, Chapel of the Ascension, Bishop Otter Campus, University of Chichester. Links below.

David Owen Norris is a pianist, composer and broadcaster. He won the Prize of the City of Geneva in the Geneva Competition, and the Accompanist’s Prize at Leeds; and since his appointment to the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, has performed all across the world, with four appearances in the BBC Proms, concert tours of Europe, Australia and North America, including performances at Sydney Opera House, the Kennedy Centre, Lincoln Centre, Ravinia Festival Chicago, the South Bank Centre etc. and a discography of 60 commercial CDs including his own Piano Concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and his oratorio Prayerbook. His other compositions include a Symphony, a Piano Sonata, the oratorio Turning Points, and the multi-media tribute to the passing seasons, HengeMusic.

His Chord of the Week programmes on BBC2 television were a popular feature of the Proms for six years. His Perfect Pianists is often shown on BBC4. He has contributed to programmes on Parry, Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn & Elgar, including ninety minutes on BBC2 dedicated to Elgar’s Piano Concerto, with a full, filmed performance with the BBCSO. His first TV presentation, The Real Thing? from 1990, was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the most literate and probing programme on music for many years’, and his most recent Chord of the Week was reviewed by the Observer as ‘the most consistently intelligent three minutes you’ll watch on this or any other television this year’. The Beethoven 9 app for which he wrote the book and the analyses won the Best Music App Award.

His many radio presentations have included the Playlist series on Radio 4, and In Tune and The Works on radio 3, where he made his 28th appearance on Building a Library last December. Recordings recently released include Mozart on fortepiano for Hyperion, featured in the New York Times, and the complete Chamber Music of Grace Williams, which was a Guardian CD of the Week. He will shortly conclude his complete survey of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s songs on Chandos.

In this evening’s lecture/recital David Owen Norris begins by tracing the development of Beethoven’s stylistic traits from the variations: triple-time Adagios, such a metrical minefield for performers throughout his work; the ridiculous jokes, the baffling dynamic shifts, the exploitation of each end of the keyboard, even the boldness of tonality – all is here in embryo.

He then turns his attention to Beethoven’s two most remarkable sonatas composed before deafness put an end to his performing career: the Sonate Pathétique, Op. 13 (1799) and the Fantasy-Sonata Op.27 No.2 (1802 – the Moonlight Sonata). Op.13 shows us how Beethoven’s pianism came out of his harpsichord playing – the first edition describes it as being ‘for harpsichord or pianoforte’, and Beethoven arranged many of its details with that in mind. The Moonlight, from the same year as the Heiligenstadt Testament, Beethoven’s open letter of despair to the world, can be read as a personal response to the onset of deafness – it is dedicated to the pupil he had hitherto hoped to marry.

“Beethoven the Revolutionary” with Angela Zanders

This year we are celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth and I shall be giving a lecture-recital on ‘Beethoven the Revolutionary’ on 14th October at 7.30pm for the Chichester Music Society, held at the Chapel of the Ascension, Chichester University.

The event will be live-streamed so that you can watch it free of charge on your PC or another device. Read more on the concert page below.

If you wish to attend, tickets must be purchased in advance – details are available on the CMS website.


Erin on a High Note!

Chichester Music Group welcomed back Erin Alexander [soprano] and Nick Miller [piano] on 29 September to the Society’s first “socially distanced” concert at the University of Chichester, which was also live-streamed. This was a new experience for both the performers and the audience and, given these unusual circumstances, it was an enjoyable experience for all.

This concert was entitled “On a High Note”, which tells the story of soprano Graziella Scuitti (1927–2001), a contemporary of Maria Callas. Erin Alexander played the Italian singer, and she expertly maintained an effective Italian accent when in the role. Nick Miller was an adept interviewer and they both created a believable platform, as they developed the life of Graziella Sciutti.

Graziella Sciuitti’s stage career began in 1951 as she sang the role of Elisetta, the woman in The Telephone, which Erin performed with humour and skill, and then she sang songs from the characters that became Scuitti’s celebrated favourites, which during her career she performed over a hundred times each, Susanna, Despina, Rosina and Musetta.

The audience therefore enjoyed a wide selection of arias from Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini. Erin Alexander’s performance was engagingly dramatic, and she sang with a very self-possessed vibrancy, particularly rising to the challenge of singing in the character of another opera singer. This was an extremely rewarding performance.

The accompaniment by Nick Miller was very supportive yet so buoyant that it led to a highly effective performance by both musicians. They are to be congratulated for producing a near to perfection performance both musically, as well as in the acting necessary to make the format of the evening believable. The small audience that was allowed was very appreciative.

At the short interval the Chairman of the Chichester Music Society, Chris Hough, explained that this concert was dedicated to Chris Coote, the Society’s Treasurer, who unfortunately had just tragically died after a short illness. He said, “This was a concert that Chris Coote would have loved. He was especially committed to the development of young, gifted artists and took a keen interest in our Charity and its work. Chris had many friends in the musical world, especially in the Chichester and Bognor Regis music scene. His financial skills as an actuary, and musical temperament gave CMS an excellent treasurer. He was a talented accompanist and a fine musician. We shall miss his wit, his friendship and expertise. Erin and Nick have produced a torrent of lovely music which we have all thoroughly enjoyed. They are to be congratulated.”

Erin Alexander then closed the concert with a poignant performance of the piece when she had first met Chris Coote at a Showcase Concert Competition. This was the competition which Erin had won. She said he was one of those rare individuals who always had time for her, was always ready to provide help and advice, and as she said “he was so generous, with his time, his love, his soul, particularly for all of us young musicians, and even offered accommodation at his home when she was performing.”

Soprano Erin Alexander to sing for Chichester Music Society

Chichester Music Society (formerly Funtington Music Group) welcome back Erin Alexander (soprano) with Nick Miller (piano) for a show which was to have been their first under their new name in June.

Erin and Nick will present On A High Note, the story of soprano Graziella Sciutti. The singer was a contemporary of Maria Callas and helped pioneer the movement of opera singers becoming actors. Erin will sing the arias by Mozart, Verdi, and Rossini which made Sciutti’s career.

The recital will be in Chichester University’s Chapel of the Ascension on Tuesday, September 29 at 7.30pm.

Read more at the link below.

If you click through to the concert page, you can read details about how to access the livestream of this concert.

Read a review.

“Discovering Women Composers” With Angela Zanders

A ten-week online music appreciation course, starting on Monday 21 or Wednesday 23 September.

Women have been composing extraordinary music throughout history, yet only now in the 21st century is much of this music being heard and appreciated for the first time.

On this course, Angela explores the stories of numerous women composers who have been forgotten by history, illustrating her talks with some of the sublime and inspiring music which deserves a valued place in the classical music repertoire.

See the poster for details and how to register.

Live music returns to West Meon

While the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has forced the Primrose Piano Quartet to scale back on its plans for the 10th Anniversary West Meon Music Festival in September, the quartet is now going ahead with its alternative “mini-festival”.

West Meon Church is happy to host a socially-distanced audience of up to 65 for three concerts on 11th and 12th September, and with Government confirmation that indoor concerts can take place from 15 August, this means that – barring a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases and an ad hoc lockdown – live chamber music will be heard again in the district.

“Like all self-employed musicians we have seen every one of our scheduled concerts cancelled since lockdown began in March,” says Andrew Fuller, the quartet’s cellist and festival musical director. “We’ve missed performing just as much as our audiences have missed listening to live music.”

The three short concerts (no intervals to avoid unnecessary social contact among the audience) on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening will include such favourites as Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E-flat and Beethoven’s String Trio in G major. Saturday afternoon’s concert is a tribute to the plight of the musician in lockdown with each member of the quartet performing their favourite solo works – including a Bach cello suite and chaconne for violin, one of Brahms’ piano intermezzo and Stravinsky’s Elegy for Viola. There will also be a distinct French flavour to the programmes with works by Fauré and Chausson reflecting the quartet’s next planned CD to be released in 2021.

Full details of the concert programmes can be found on the festival website (click the link below) with online booking now available for tickets at £15 for main aisle seats and £12 for side aisles. Given the limited number of seats available, early booking is recommended and concert-goers will need to indicate whether they are booking tickets for a single household or bubble to meet track and trace guidelines and allow seats to be pre-allocated. If you are unable to book online then please contact the box office on 01489 891055 for alternative options.

For those looking further ahead the planned “10th-anniversary” festival will now be held from 9-12 September 2021 when guests will include clarinettist Michael Collins, guitarist Laura Snowden and BBC Young Musician Strings winner 2018, cellist Maxim Calver.

The Primrose Piano Quartet is one the country’s leading ensembles and its acclaimed discography includes classical favourites as well as many unjustly neglected works by early 20th century British composers such as Dunhill, Quilter, Bax and Frank Bridge. Their major commissions include piano quartets written for them by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Anthony Payne. The quartet appears regularly in London at King’s Place and the Conway Hall and has recently toured Denmark, Germany and Bulgaria.

Named after the great Scottish violist William Primrose, who himself played in the Festival Piano Quartet, the Primrose has been selected for the Making Music Concert Promoters’ Network in 2004/5, 2011/2012, 2014/2015 and 2017/18. Its latest recording of the complete Brahms piano quartets, made in Vienna on authentic pianos of the period, has been highly recommended on Radio 3’s “Record Review”.

Susanne Stanzeleit – Violin
Dorothea Vogel – Viola
Andrew Fuller – Cello
John Thwaites – Piano

Profile: Jack Davies, pianist and teacher

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

One of my earliest memories of falling in love with classical music was when I use to visit my grandparents’ house at the weekends. They had the film Fantasia and I use to sit there for hours transfixed by the music and the animations (I still find the Night on Bald Mountain video a bit terrifying to this day!). I use to also sit and play their piano from a very young age until my grandad organised for me to have lessons at the age of 5. I continued taking lessons through school, and it wasn’t until I met the fantastic Valentina Seferinova at A-level at South Downs College that I really ramped up my practising, putting in the hours so that I could be good enough to get into music college to study for a music degree.

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

When I started my degree at the RNCM it was a shock to go from being a big fish in a small pond, to a very small fish in an enormous ocean! I quickly realised the amount of work I needed to put in and it took me a good 2 years to get to a place where I began to felt comfortable with my own playing.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Playing the piano can be solitary so I’ve relished the opportunities I’ve had to make music with others. When I started secondary school I joined a steel band which opened up my eyes to a whole new world of music from the Caribbean. The social element of this band was fantastic and I have built strong friendships form that time with friends I still see today. During my time at the RNCM, my principal study tutor was also head of chamber music, and introduced me to some brilliant musicians at the college. I enjoyed collaborating with them in duo and trio settings and also had the honour of winning the Christopher Rowlands Chamber Music Prize in my final year. Organising rehearsals can be tricky, especially when musicians typically have many other jobs/commitments going on, but sites like can help work out when everyone is free.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

My final recital at the RNCM was worth 50% of my whole degree (due to doing an exchange year in Helsinki). This was a 1-hour public recital from memory including music by Bach-Busoni, Rachmaninoff and Bach. I was really nervous but luckily I managed to pull it off relatively unscathed!

Another musical achievement I am really proud of is organising a Eurovision themed singing competition for the primary school I am working in. Each class had to choose a song that had been performed at Eurovision and learn the words and dance moves for the competition. The children loved it and it was a great way to get the children singing and listening to music in a way which they hadn’t done before.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Rachmaninoff saw me through my teen years and got me really hooked on classical music! I remember hearing his 3rd piano concerto for the first time and becoming immediately obsessed! I also really like Bach’s keyboard works, particularly his two books of preludes and fugues.

Which works do you think you perform best? 

I really like performing Bach. I love sitting down and experimenting with different ways to phrase and articulate his music.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

When I was in a steel band, I loved performing at Notting Hill Carnival’s Panorama steel band competition. There were thousands of people in the audience and the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. My most memorable concert was watching Frankie Valli perform at the O2 a few years ago. The fact that he can still nail all of those high notes and perform with such energy to an enormous venue is incredible!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Go for it, but remember that it’s highly competitive and you really need to put in the hours, dedication and focus to make a career out of it. Make sure you gain as many skills related to music as possible (sight-reading, jazz, improvisation, singing and teaching) so you can have a portfolio career. You’ll likely end up doing something in music that you didn’t intend on doing so don’t be ‘snobby’ about taking on work that you feel is below your level of training (especially when you’re starting out)!

A career in music takes a long time to build; 90% of the work I have been given (performing/teaching) has been through the relationships I have built within the industry over the years.

Finally, don’t neglect the business side of being a musician. You need to know how to market yourself, negotiate contracts, manage your own finances and be able to deal with a whole host of different people and their unique personalities in a professional and likeable manner.

How would you define success as a musician?

I would say that as long as you’re making music, and that makes you happy, then you’re successful. If you want to share that with other people then that’s also great, and if you can make money on top of that then even better! Personally, I have had great pleasure in bringing classical music to young people. I have recently introduced a music curriculum at my school based on the principles of Kodály, which is highly systematic, practical and engaging. Seeing the impact this approach has had on their level of engagement with music has been an absolute joy and something I am keen to expand on across the city of Portsmouth in the future.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Discovering new music! I love it when I’m listening through albums and artists and I come across a song/piece of music that really gets to me. Recent discoveries have been the artist ‘YEBBA’ and the music from the musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’.

Here is a link to a recording of me trying to play some Liszt.

About Jack

Jack Davies is a primary school teacher and music leader at Berewood Primary School in Waterlooville, and has worked as a music specialist working for Portsmouth Music Service. He has a private teaching studio, the Solent Music School, in Portchester. He enjoys going to live concerts and musicals, running and attempting overly ambitious DIY projects.

Profile: Vincent Iyengar, conductor, viola player and pianist

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

I certainly started early – I loved to sing as a baby, and used to tinker about on my grandmother’s piano, starting with lessons at the age of 5 on “the perfect instrument”.

I was told to take up the viola by my secondary school. Its unpredictable gut strings and the consequent difficulty of keeping it in tune, and the aches and pains that it induced made it hard work at the beginning. But playing it on a youth orchestra holiday course with Arthur Davison turned everything about it to a positive.

My father wanted me to be an engineer, but I studied music and maths at Royal Holloway, followed by a PGCE, with an additional Licentiate Diploma from Trinity College, London. There was a big demand for maths teachers at the time, but after 8 years of doing that I decided to throw myself into a musical career and became Director of Music at St Catherine’s (British Embassy) School in Athens. This gave me great scope to arrange ensembles and concerts.

Returning to England six years later, I went on to obtain a Masters’ degree with distinction from Southampton University in philosophy of mind. I subsequently furthered my interest in the Kodály and Dalcroze principles as effective approaches to musical understanding. Dalcroze is a holistic, kinaesthetic and multisensory method which emphasises feeling the music (rhythm, pitch, structure, phrasing, etc.) in both mind and body using movement as well as improvisation and solfege. I took a certificate level qualification, permitting me to teach it. Concurrent with this I deepened my understanding of the Kodály approach to music learning, obtaining Advanced Kodály Musicianship with distinction.

Both of these methods help with playing, performance, sight-singing, how to convey expression and so on. Read more about the principles of these philosophies.

I also improved my choral and orchestral conducting with the help of Sing for Pleasure, the Association of British Choral Directors and Peter Stark, Professor of Conducting at the Royal College of Music and later became music director of the Solent City Chorus from 2014-17.

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

Overcoming performance nerves.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Achieving an integrated sound, being part of a whole, not being in the spotlight, yet being essential to the overall output.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

Building up the orchestras in Greece, enabling children of expatriates to play music to a high standard, giving public performances at the British Council and other cultural venues. Also conducting Solent City Chorus at the Gosport Festival and at the annual Barbershop conventions in Harrogate, Llandudno and Bournemouth. Directing various school musicals, such as an unabridged Oliver, which, though performed by 9-12 year-olds, was considered by audience members to be of a higher standard than the local operatic society.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Brahms has both an intellectual and an emotional appeal. For the same reason I also love Bach. In addition I find Debussy’s music highly original. Rebecca Clarke stands out for me among women composers for her deep romanticism and being a viola player too and Chevalier de St Georges amongst black composers as rivalling Mozart.

Which works do you think you perform best?

I think I can put on a good performance of Brahms’ Intermezzo 118, no. 2 on the piano. On viola, I enjoy playing works by Vaughan-Williams. Like many people I tend to practise works I enjoy.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

As a listener, I cannot forget attending the Banff Festival in Canada, where Mendelssohn’s Piano trio in D minor was being played by two well-known musicians, Menahem Pressler, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and a hitherto unheard of brilliant 20-year-old: every phrase was interesting and the whole audience rose to its feet and cheered for five minutes at its conclusion!

As a performer, one of my more memorable concert experience was being asked to lead the violas at the at the last minute at the Northcott theatre in Exeter in a concert in which John Lill played Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto to a packed audience, followed by a performance of Vaughan Williams 5th Symphony with its lovely viola solo. Other performances that stick in my mind was playing the theme from Love Story on solo viola as part of the Asian Development Bank’s 40th anniversary celebrations in Manila and also conducting my own composition, The St Catherine’s Variations, with my orchestra in Greece.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be eclectic in your tastes, don’t narrow down your interests or skills. And develop your business acumen: you’ll need to be able to make connections and market yourself. All that’s anyway going to be pretty useful if you find you need to alter your career away from music.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane under lockdown?

I’ve been able to make use of lockdown to do some more practising, besides, I’ve been able to develop my online teaching offering. Away from music, I’ve done much more walking and reading than I would have done. So I have not been at all unhappy.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I would like to have rolled out my classes to more lower-income families. I am becoming increasingly interested in effective altruism and am conscious that I am probably in the luckiest 1-2% of humanity. Almost all people can learn and progress musically, yet our musical culture and skills are often passed around between middle-class communities. It would be better to use whatever abilities I have to improve the outlook of those less fortunate than myself. I shall investigate the possibility of setting up a not-for-profit organisation, but I am open to other suggestions.

About Vincent

Vincent plays piano and viola and very much enjoys playing in orchestral gigs. He plays for the Solent Symphony Orchestra, the Havant Symphony Orchestra, the Charity Symphony Orchestra and for choral societies and other orchestras when needed.

He has 12 years’ experience as a general supply teacher in primary and secondary schools, and 17 years’ experience teaching class music in primary age range schools, including 12 years teaching Early Years Foundation Stage music within schools.

Vincent also teaches violin, viola and piano.

Vincent started the ‘Education through Music’ music school in 2016 at the request of a parent who had been searching on the internet for a Kodály trained teacher. He is enjoying working with families to introduce the Kodály and Dalcroze teaching principles to very young children, helping them to develop a lifelong appreciation of music, and supporting their overall development.

When not kept busy with his lifelong passion for music, Vincent enjoys mountain trekking, travel, and learning foreign languages.

To find out more about Vincent, see


Petworth Festival – free online concert to celebrate what should have been the 42nd Petworth Festival

With the 42nd Festival due to have opened on Tuesday 14 July, the Petworth Festival team are proud to announce an online event that will run throughout the festival fortnight, at the end of which a further announcement will be made about the extended 2020 Petworth Festival Special which will take place in October to include the 10th Anniversary Literary Week.

Between 7.30pm on Tuesday 14 July and midnight on Saturday 1 August, at any point you will be able to catch an online mini-concert that is being specially recorded in St Mary’s Church, a three-part celebration that features two remarkable sets of students from the Royal Academy of Music and one of the festival’s all-time favourite performers, the piano genius, Harry the Piano. Each will give sparkling, short performances to remind us all of the wonderful chemistry between live music and the festival’s beautiful ‘home’ venue.

The concert will be made available free of charge, but as Festival Artistic Director Stewart Collins makes clear, ‘there is of course no such thing as a free lunch – or in this case, a completely free concert. It will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that the cancellation of the summer’s festival has come at a very significant cost, and that whilst many of our wonderful supporters and sponsors have ensured that the damage isn’t fatal, we do urgently need to raise funds to minimise the impact both this year and into the future. We sadly had to cancel the biggest planned expansion of events aimed at the wider community this summer, but hopefully a successful appeal alongside July’s online event will ensure that we can resuscitate plans in 2021.’

You can log on to watch the summer special through the festival’s website,

Further info on the performers:
Further information:
Harry the Piano
Harry Rylance
Voreios Trio

Profile: Steve Venn, piano tuner

Steve (or Stephen – he doesn’t mind which!) doesn’t come from a traditional music background. Quite by contrast, he went to art college where he specialised in pottery, and he subsequently ran a hand-made pottery business for over 15 years. But he has played the guitar from the age of ten, sometimes in folk bands, so has always been involved in some way with musical performance.

He loves making and mending things, including guitars, having taught himself how to work in wood. So it was opportune that once he closed his pottery business in the 1990s he obtained an apprenticeship to become a piano tuner with Marcus Roberts and Gerry Salway of Roberts Pianos fame. This involved spending as much time as possible at his shop in Southsea, tuning a wide variety of the pianos that passed through the business. After 3 years or so in addition to many domestic clients, he was tuning pianos on board the cross-channel ferries, and for some of the concerts at Portsmouth Guildhall.

A lot of reading also helped Steve gain an understanding of the theory of tuning and the techniques needed for repair and adjustment of pianos. Essentially, tuning is a matter of listening for the beats caused by the conflicting harmonics of different notes when played together, then making the necessary adjustments to the pitch.

There’s a skill in bringing out the best from each piano, taking into account its inherent limitations. Indeed, one of the great challenges is to be able to deal with each instrument’s idiosyncrasies and imperfections! And there’s the art of dealing with a concert piano, sometimes played very forcefully but which needs its tuning to be as stable as possible.

Piano tuners need to be craftspeople as well as have a musical bent. They need to be capable of repairing the instrument while away from the workshop. A whole range of specialist tools are needed, including the tuning lever, wedges/mutes to silence the strings you don’t want to hear, and a variety of adjustment and voicing tools.

These days a smartphone with an app like Verituner can also be very helpful to calculate the tuning to perfectly match each piano’s unique scaling. This sort of device, Steve believes, is not a replacement for traditional, aural tuning but can be a valuable extra tool for getting the best possible results.

He’s had the benefit of having joined the Pianoforte Tuners Association. He has sat its admission test, which is pretty exacting, and covers both tuning and repairs.

He has wide tastes in music, from folk through to Classical and Baroque (especially Bach) and a fair bit of jazz. He says that Bach is so inventive, and much of his music suits his preference for more intimate, smaller-scale performances.

There are some great college courses on offer for those who would like to come into this profession. There’s a three-year course at Lincoln College and a one-year course at Northampton.

He says that the industry is welcoming, and a good way in is to (as he himself did) obtain an apprenticeship to build up your knowledge. However with fewer piano shops and workshops around these days, this could be a little more difficult than it once was.

To check out Steve Venn’s piano tuning service, visit his website

A full member of the Pianoforte Tuners Association, Stephen Venn is an experienced Concert Tuner/Technician. He has carried out the piano tuning and maintenance for the main concert venue in Portsmouth for over 26 years, as well as contract tunings for the major London piano companies when hiring pianos to this area. Other clients include Brittany Ferries, a number of schools and colleges, and The Royal Marines School of Music.

Profile: David Russell, composer, singer and pianist

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to spend so much time in musical activity?

I come from a musical family: both my parents played the piano (though my father learnt to play by ear in the “knees up Mother Brown” style!); I have a twin brother who played violin and a sister who played recorder and then clarinet – I chose the piano since it was in the one room which had heating. I was fortunate to be the only student studying music at A-level so obtained 1:1 tuition.

When I moved to Chichester, I quickly joined the Chichester Singers, where I met my wife Judith. We both are still proudly singing with the choir. She also persuaded me to join CAOS – the Chichester Amateur Operatic Society, where I enjoyed lead roles, initially in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and then later in classic musicals, such as Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun.

I had started writing songs with my original landlord, Norman Barrett, who was a singer at the Selsey holiday camps in his spare time. We continued to spend many years composing songs, sometimes of a religious nature, sometimes pop ballads – and after he died, and I retired, I’ve concentrated on 4-part choral pieces, including entering Christmas Carols in the BBC Radio 3 annual competition.

About 14 years ago I was lucky enough to join Chichester Voices (CV), a 20 strong chamber choir. Their MD Andrew Naylor has been incredibly supportive in encouraging performances of my compositions, and I still sing bass with them. As my twin conducts a choir in Keyworth, Nottingham, I also have an outlet in the Midlands for my pieces!

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

My biggest musical challenge was probably as MD of CAOS in the 1980s directing The Mikado in the Minerva Theatre. It came as bit of a shock trying to conduct an orchestra when the performer on stage decides to sing at their own tempo, or pauses suddenly in the middle of a patter song!

Many years later the Corpus Christi Amateur Dramatic Society (CCADS) put on the first production of Aspects of Love outside London at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, and I was MD. Although this was to great acclaim, it was jolly hard work to accommodate one of the quite edgy 7/4-time Lloyd Webber choruses, and then play one of the 2-piano parts for the week of the show.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Collaboration for me started at an early age, where I’d play piano and violin sonatas with my brother Colin. It gives great pleasure to appreciate the nuances of accompanying or playing a duet, and piano duets with friends remain a great delight. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more and more the supporting role of the accompanist, whether for a singer or instrumentalist, and particularly treasure the time in rehearsal preparing for a recital. It’s great to share the innate musicality of performing with musicians of high calibre.

I’ve enjoyed singing with Cavatina, an a cappella 4-part group, based in Barnham. We singers are wonderfully exposed, but there’s a spine-tingling impact when it all comes together.

I’ve partnered up with David Bathurst to tell the story of Flanders and Swan, impersonating Donald Swann at the piano, which has engendered so many laughs, and some vivid memories for audience members who saw them live! At the other end of the spectrum, performing a piece like Verdi’s Requiem with a large choir and orchestra is all-encompassing and emotionally rewarding.

How would you describe your musical language?

I describe them as melody-driven ballads, many of which have had orchestral arrangements added by Tony Pegler, a close friend and superb musician. My religious music compositions are in a modern style, not too far removed from John Rutter.

How do you work?

I sit at the piano with a laptop nearby with composing software on it. I’ve just completed a setting of The Silver Swan (originally by Orlando Gibbons) and an Ubi Caritas in 4-part SATB for CV.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I wrote a 4-part anthem for my daughter Lizzie’s wedding entitled My True Love Hath my Heart which was a joy and privilege.

I’ve arranged songs such as Céline Dion’s All By Myself and Jerome Kern’s The Way You Look Tonight for my a cappella group.

With CAOS I’ve most enjoyed acting as Eisenstein, in Die Fledermaus, and as Jud Fry in Oklahoma, both in the Minerva Theatre.

I’ve been the bass soloist in Fauré’s Requiem with the Chichester Singers at a singing day, and performed the role of the Captain of the Pinafore in a staged concert of HMS Pinafore in Chichester Cathedral, under the legendary Kenneth Alwyn.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have a particular love for (late) Romantic composers such as Brahms, Mahler and Elgar (particularly his The Dream of Gerontius), but also love contemporary choral music by composers such as Whitacre and Lauridsen.

Which works do you think you perform best?

The comic songs with David Bathurst telling the story of Flanders and Swan: I seem to excel when good comic timing is needed, and I can just about manage the tongue-twisters of Tom Lehrer, such as Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Singing A Great and Glorious Victory by Jonathan Willcocks in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day concert with a selection of singers from the Chichester Singers and in Carnegie Hall, New York in 2013. It was amazing to stand on the same stage where the Beatles performed and where Tchaikovsky had conducted the inaugural concert.

Singing The Dream of Gerontius with the Chichester Singers and Dame Janet Baker in Chichester Cathedral.

Watching La Traviata in Sydney Opera House during a trip to New Zealand and Australia.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

It’s not a career that is well rewarded financially, unless you are extremely talented (or lucky), but it is one that’s well rewarded emotionally. And music engenders close friendships: you drop your guard, wear your heart on your sleeve, and openly acknowledge to the others in your group what the whole experience is doing to you. If you choose a separate, enjoyable career, then non-professional music-making can be nearly as fulfilling, in my experience, and probably less stressful!

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

It’s important for there to be mutual respect among peers. It’s also vital to be able to communicate with the audience – happiness is contagious. Finally, live events cannot be replicated by virtual performances, so do support the former when it becomes possible again.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane during lockdown?

I’ve been busier than ever: I’ve written 4 pieces since the middle of March. But I am missing the special pleasure of group choral singing….

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Still writing, playing and singing. In Chichester!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sharing the music that I love, either as a performer or listener. It gives me great personal pleasure to know that, for example, my brother might be performing a Verdi Requiem in Nottingham on the same evening as my sister in York and myself in Chichester! Similarly, I have a happy memory of seeing my daughter and her husband performing Elijah in the Barbican – 30 years after my wife Judith and I performed it as a young married couple. Family music-making, as family itself, is so important to me.

What is your most treasured possession?

My refurbished Rogers upright piano from 1929 which was a wedding present to Judith and myself from Judith’s mother.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Composing and singing, playing golf and croquet, spending time with our grandchildren, and enjoying wine – including on monthly Monday afternoons with the U3A Wine Appreciation Group, now I’ve stepped into the unseen world of retirement!

What is your present state of mind?

Happy, and in a good position to remind myself how lucky I am. I feel that I’m still able to make the most of the opportunities I am presented with and I’m looking forward to again enjoying the camaraderie of choral singing – and hugging the grandchildren.

Things I would like to recommend

Concerts for the Singers and Voices are in abeyance at present but please check out recent lockdown performances on YouTube, such as by The Chichester Singers.

Theatre companies have been dreadfully affected by the current crisis, so I would urge you to help support local groups, if possible, again by checking websites of CCADS and the Chichester Festival Theatre, amongst others. These groups have released videos of popular productions for free to air viewing.

David Russell lives in Fishbourne and is a retired Chartered Surveyor who has spent as much of his spare time as possible in non-professional music-making. He is a composer and pianist and is a Life Member of CAOS Musical Productions; he has sung with Chichester Singers for over 40 years and with Chichester Voices for nearly 15; is a member of Cavatina, and is currently Musical Director of Just Us – a concert party performing treasured memories from shows and musical comedy for Care Homes and Charities.

Profile – Ben Lathbury, choral conductor, concert pianist and lecturer

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

Right from a young age I was good at the piano, though at one stage I did fancy becoming a paramedic or a doctor. My uncle Tony was (and still is) a paramedic and I think I wanted to be one ever since I could say it! I read for an Undergraduate and subsequently a Master’s degree in Music Performance at the University of Chichester, followed by a PGCE and four years teaching Performing Arts at the Chichester Free School.

Whilst I was studying at Chichester, I was most fortunate in having mentors for piano in Duncan Honeybourne and Jonathan Plowright. Why were they so good? Going to university, I think I’d suffered something of a setback after initially being rejected from Music College. Duncan did a tremendous job building my confidence back up, and then when I started with Jonathan in my 3rd year and Masters year, he balanced me back in the other direction, myself having possibly become a little too over-confident and cocky! They’re also both superb pianists who were very generous with their time. I’d also like to mention the excellent input from my academic advisor Arthur Robson who has helped me to make inspiring choices of repertoire and who has guided me on conducting skills.

So how did it all develop from here?

In 2015 I was appointed Director of Music at Holy Trinity Church, Bosham. One thing led to another, and I have steadily built up my portfolio of musical activities, as described in my bio below. It’s all very varied and enjoyable.

How would you describe your musical language?

Stephen Hough once said, “the notes are the language, but as a performer, you must speak your own words.” I am always looking to bring something new to the table, and to take risks, especially if the work is well-known.

I’ve adopted this approach recently when I conducted Messiah with Portsmouth Festival Choir in March. I listened to many recordings of it, which made me make innovative choices over things like grace notes, tempi, dynamics and general musical colourings.

And what about your latest repertoire?

I’ve enjoyed making my daily music videos, as described below. Listen to #31 Hello (The Book of Mormon) which bears out my love of musical theatre, all 10 voices! Or listen to #42 Kiss the Bairns, which I have been rehearsing with two of my choirs recently. I’m thrilled that Eric Whitacre loved my rendering of his piece This Marriage (#22).

Pulling this all together every day has been a challenge technically and vocally – there’s only so long one can sing falsetto! But on occasion I have enlisted the support from friends, such as music student Kiera in #29 and #45.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Rachmaninov has been a huge influence on me since the age of 15. I was thrilled to have performed his Piano Concerto No.2 in Bosham church to a packed audience last year.

I also regularly perform in the Chichester Chamber Ensemble with Natalia Corolscaia (violin) and Laura Ritchie (cello), which is a great pleasure. As a pianist, I didn’t have a huge amount of opportunities when I was growing up to play in an ensemble setting, so being able to work with other really high calibre musicians in my professional life is a real pleasure. One of our biggest challenges has probably been Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio, which we have performed three times together and is always a joy.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Don’t be afraid to take on other work to subsidise what you love to do, especially when you are starting out. You’ve got to try many different things and put yourself out there widely, so perseverance is a virtue. There are so many different things one can do as a musician, be it performing, teaching, conducting, composing; the list goes on. One of the things I love about my particular work pattern is that it’s very rare for two days to be the same in any given week. As somebody who occasionally has a short attention span, this works well for me!

I used to think that doing gigs for free was something that should never ever be done under any circumstances. The reality is it’s far more complicated than that. The key thing to keep in mind, though, is not to undersell yourself, and to value your time accordingly. I might agree to do a gig for free if it is going to be “professionally valuable” – an opportunity to play an exceptional piano, for example, or to ingratiate myself with a colleague or employer.

But I would warn people against falling into the trap of a generic “working for exposure”; I haven’t tried it myself, but I have it on good authority that exposure won’t pay your mortgage. Professional musicians should be paid, and regularly accepting work that doesn’t pay undermines our industry – one that is generally quite poorly paid anyway.

How would you define success as a musician?

I’m a strong advocate of the philosophy that success is categorically not defined by how much money one earns. If I did think that, I wouldn’t have become a musician. There’s an almost moronically simplistic notion that so much of our capitalist society seems to live by that is “whoever gets out with the most money at the end is the winner”.

For me, success is being able to pick and choose what one does and still be comfortable. I probably spend 20-30 hours a week (depending on the time of year) actively “working” as a musician in some capacity or other, and manage quite comfortably. This gives me time to pursue other interests I have, such as magic, computer programming and writing (some of which doubles up as work from time to time insofar as they generate income), as well as giving me the time to give clear focus and dedication to my personal relationships, especially with my wife and stepson.

Music for Lockdown

During the lockdown, I have pledged to produce one music video on YouTube each day.
Or see

They comprise solo piano works, choral classics and even some musical theatre favourites.

These are mainly as a way of maintaining some semblance of normality and also to give me something to do. As the lockdown has gone on, the videos have gradually become more complex, starting out with solo piano pieces, moving onto solo singing pieces and now even 4-part choral harmony and one-man polyphony.

The choral videos, in particular, have proven to be very popular, and it’s really pleasing to see them bringing joy to so many people at this very challenging time, especially given that so many people are cut off from making music in whatever capacity they are used to.

Since my performing and conducting work has taken a substantial hit since the lockdown, I have set up a Patreon page in the hope that some people may be willing and able to help support me through this challenging time.


Ben Lathbury is an award-winning musician, originally from the Midlands. Following early success in numerous competitions, Ben moved to Sussex in 2006 to study at the University of Chichester, where he established himself as a pianist of considerable talent.

In 2009, Ben received a scholarship to fund his Master’s degree in Music Performance, studying with international pianist Jonathan Plowright. Since its completion, Ben has won a number of competitions, given dozens of solo recitals and has appeared as a special guest soloist with orchestras across the UK. He has been recognized as a champion of 20th century American repertoire; his interpretation of Leroy Anderson’s Concerto in C garnered critical acclaim and his performances of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue earned him a nomination for “Best Classical Act” in the 2017 Guide Awards and have been hailed as “magnificent”.

In addition to his talent as a pianist, Ben is widely respected as a choral conductor, organist, and singer. Recent engagements have included performances of Handel’s Messiah, Vierne’s Messe Solennelle, Fauré’s & Rutter’s Requiems, Stainer’s Crucifixion and Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise. He is Director of Music at Holy Trinity Church in Bosham and Musical Director for a number of local choral groups. In 2016, Ben founded the Music in Bosham recital series and in May 2018 he was appointed to the post of Musical Director for Portsmouth Festival Choir. In 2019 he became an Associate Lecturer in Piano at the University of Chichester.

Today, Ben lives in Rose Green with his wife Megan, stepson Dylan, their dog Hermione and their two cats, Persephone & Ozymandias. In his spare time, Ben enjoys theatre, chess, writing and computer programming. He has a particular passion for choral and piano music featured in video games and often incorporates such works into his programmes.

Profile: Ann Pinhey, conductor

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I won a scholarship to Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith, London, and was introduced to music by a very enthusiastic teacher, so I began piano lessons at 13. Whilst at school, I was introduced to the music of Benjamin Britten, as the English Opera Group used to come to the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. I vividly remember hearing The Rape of Lucretia with Kathleen Ferrier. Let’s make an opera was also great fun. I can still remember some of the audience participation songs! I used to go to the Proms frequently and stand in the Arena for 2 shillings!

I studied piano and organ at the Guildhall School of Music for a year, before I abandoned the graduate course. While I was there, I was asked by a fellow student, Buxton Orr, if I would copy out a piece of music for his composition class the following day with Benjamin Frankel, who was a prolific film composer. The latter looked at the music and said,” Did you do this? It’s beautiful. Do you want a job?” Thus began my career as a professional music copyist when everything was done by hand. Computers did not exist in those days!

Most of my work was copying the orchestral parts for film scores such as The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. It was all great fun. I remember being taken out to lunch by Malcolm Arnold. He was smoking a huge Churchillian cigar. I told him I loved the smell of cigars. He clicked his fingers at the waiter and said,” Get the young lady a cigar!” A huge one appeared. Two puffs and I was as green as grass, but I took the cigar home!

I also worked for Novello and Boosey and Hawkes. For the latter I worked on tracing paper with a special pen, as the work had to look exactly like printed music. I also worked for Donald Swann, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir John Eliot Gardner. I sang under the latter when he was conductor of the Portsmouth Festival Choir in the 1970s, a memorable experience!

Later I became orchestral manager for the Leppard Ensemble. Raymond Leppard had just come down from Cambridge and formed his small chamber orchestra, which eventually merged with the Goldsburgh Orchestra to become the English Chamber Orchestra in 1960. I vividly remember a concert that Raymond gave at the Wigmore Hall where he was the pianist – and conductor – in a Mozart piano concerto. I turned the pages for him…nerve racking!

So how did it all develop from here?

After getting married, I moved to Compton, near Petersfield. I became a teacher at Lavant House, a girls’ independent school, where I remained for many years. I was head of the Junior Department and taught all subjects. Eventually I became Director of Music.

In the 1980s I became music critic of the Petersfield Herald and until quite recently, was the music critic of the Petersfield Post, a paper which no longer appears to print reviews of concerts! It is difficult being a music critic for a local paper, as you often have to review the performances of people you know. I do have high standards and people are at liberty to disagree with me!

What about your choral work?

Although I’ve never studied conducting, I was persuaded to take over the Harting Choral Society in the late 1970s. I went on to conduct the Meon Consort and the Thursday Singers. In 1984 I formed the small choral group, Musica Sacra. We performed within a 20-mile radius of Petersfield, giving free concerts for over 15 years and raising over £20,000 for charity. We performed more than 300 works by more than 100 composers, often singing the music of Charpentier, whose music I had transcribed from the composer’s original manuscripts.

After Musica Sacra was disbanded in 1999, I set up the Petersfield Chamber Choir in 2000, which ran for 13 years.

In 2014 I formed the Gemini Consort. It is a group of 12 experienced musicians, who all sing and some of whom play instruments. The aim is to use all their talents. The music performed ranges from the Baroque to the present day and includes music by Handel, Mozart, Poulenc and Britten. We love works written by Arvo Pärt, James MacMillan and Cecilia McDowall. The solo instruments are recorder, flute and trumpet.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

The highlight for me was a performance of the Bach St Matthew Passion which I conducted in 2010 with the Petersfield Chamber Choir and Orchestra. It was a massive undertaking, but was a great success, so much so that I decided to do the St John Passion the following year! All soloists came from the choir and the orchestra was made up of local musicians.

Of the St Matthew Passion, Jonathan Willcocks wrote, “The line of music-lovers waiting on Saturday night outside St Peter’s Church in the hope that “return” tickets might become available suggested that something rather special was happening…the true laurel leaves must rest with Ann Pinhey, whose concept and planning in every detail this memorable evening was”.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

While at school I was introduced to the music of Benjamin Britten when my music teacher played his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. I find his music deeply moving, exciting and gripping. I’ve performed all his choral works. While conducting with Musica Sacra, I developed a love of Charpentier, in particular. I love the operas of Janáček. Handel wrote some great music for voice, such as the duets in Julius Caesar.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My most memorable performance was seeing Raymond Leppard conduct his realisation of Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea at Glyndebourne in the 1960s. It was the first time I had heard anything by the composer. I was transfixed! I love it and have performed a great deal of his music ever since!

And what about your love of painting?

In 1989 I took up a new hobby, painting. I am totally self-taught and began with watercolours. I moved on to collages and am now immersed in working with alcohol ink on plastic paper and acrylic pouring work.

Tell me about your fund-raising activities.

All my concerts have enjoyed free admission (apart from the 2 Passions, as I had to pay the orchestra and so charge a small amount for tickets, although £1,000 was still collected for The Rosemary Foundation as the audience left!). The retiring collection has always been given to local charities, for whom I have raised over £55,000. We now donate solely to The Rosemary Foundation. So far we have given it £20,000 – a most worthy cause.

Follow Ann on Instagram.

Profile: Geoff Porter, conductor, singer, pianist and organist

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I was fortunate to be at The Kings’ School, Ely, which was strong in music. I also attended The Mackenzie School of Music and Drama in Cambridge for singing lessons. Subsequently, I secured key roles as a tenor in The Magic Flute by the Ely Opera Group and in A Country Girl by the St. Ives Operatic Society.

Who have been the most important influences on your musical life?

Dr Arthur Wills, Organist of Ely Cathedral and Director of Music at The Kings’ School, taught me piano. At The Teacher Training College at Milton, Portsmouth, Margaret Jewell (Head of Music Department) persuaded me to switch from maths to music and Hugh Davis (Assistant Organist at Portsmouth Cathedral and conductor of the Portsmouth Choral Union), my tutor, arranged for me to have singing lessons in London, under the tutelage of the tenor, Gerald English.

Hugh also encouraged me to join The Cathedral Choir and I was appointed to Portsmouth Grammar School as Director of Music for The Lower School. Later, I became Director of Music at St Albans, Havant, where pupils – and I – became accustomed to brass band practice at 8 o’clock in the morning!

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

I have been engaged as a tenor soloist for many local choirs. This has led to several memorable and challenging performances, including The Messiah with the Drayton Choral Society (later the Portsmouth Baroque Choir) at Portsmouth Guildhall. Whilst Director of Music at St James’ Church, Emsworth, I arranged broadcasts for TV and radio, including Songs of Praise. On two occasions, I sang Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with The South Downs Music Society at the King’s Theatre, Southsea.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Singing with others in a group or choir is always rewarding. As a director, it is so satisfying to see how far people can be encouraged to come on a journey of musical improvement.

How would you describe your musical language?

As a soloist, I liked to bring out the emotion and drama of a piece. As a conductor, I try to work on contrasts of dynamics, rhythm and melody.

How do you work?

I like to choose and conduct pieces that will demonstrate the performers’ strengths, with suitable, but challenging material, which I hope the audience will enjoy.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I’ve already mentioned Die Fledermaus. I deputised for Raymond Calcraft as director of music with the Highbury Singers which became the Renaissance Choir. In 1986, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, I conducted the choir in the pre-performance rehearsal of hitherto unperformed works by Guerrero and Rodrigo, who himself was present.

To raise money for Stansted House, I have arranged forty Musical Evenings there in The Music Room. In 2013, I set up Los Ladrones, a vocal quintet. This group specializes in the revival of gems of Victorian and Edwardian British Musical Theatre and especially the lesser-known works of Arthur Sullivan.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I enjoy the music of Handel and have performed as a soloist in The Messiah 13 times. I was a founder member of Havant Light Opera in 1978 with whom I have directed works by Arthur Sullivan, an under-rated composer who wrote many fine pieces, both with and without Gilbert. I have been MD for The Mikado with both Littlehampton and Chichester Operatic Societies.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

13 choirs (over 600 voices) were involved in The 2016 London Welsh Festival of Male Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall. In preparation for this, I navigated The Solent Male Voice Choir through rehearsals, when seven songs had to be sung in Welsh, by heart.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

As an amateur, try out lots of different sizes of groups and types of music-making, taking any opportunity to perform solos.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

Simply seeing both performers and the audience enjoying a concert.

What are your immediate plans?

After several happy years with The Solent Male Voice Choir, I’m excited about the prospect of conducting The Hampshire Police Male Voice Choir and directing them in the Cornwall International Male Voice Choir Festival in 2021.

Profile: Angela Zanders, pianist and lecturer

Angela Zanders was born in London and started piano lessons with her father, New Zealand pianist, Douglas Zanders. She went on to study at The Purcell School, Trinity College of Music and Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. She also won an Austrian Government Scholarship for study at the Hochschule für Musik, Vienna. At Trinity College, where she studied with Joseph Weingarten, Angela won many competitions and awards. She later studied chamber music with Murray Perahia, William Pleeth and Raphael Wallfisch.

Angela has performed all over the UK, including venues such as London’s Wigmore Hall, South Bank, St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields and at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff. She has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and has given performances throughout Europe and in Australia and New Zealand, both as soloist and accompanist and as pianist in the Solarek Piano Trio, which she formed in 1992. For ten years Angela was accompanist at the Centre for Young Musicians in London. She does a great deal of freelance accompanying and has worked with many internationally acclaimed singers and instrumentalists.

Angela has a special interest in promoting the accessibility of classical music and has been giving lecture recitals for many years. She has lectured in Music Appreciation for Birkbeck College, University of London and for the WEA and U3A in Hampshire and currently runs her own classes in Music Appreciation in Hampshire and West Sussex.

Angela has been a lecturer at the University of Chichester since 2010 and is an adjudicator for The British and International Federation of Festivals.

Simon O’Hea is in conversation with Angela.

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I grew up in a house where my father taught up to 100 piano pupils each week. He was a wonderful musician and a great teacher and my mother, although an artist, was also very musical, so growing up with music happened naturally and there was never a point when I made the decision as such. A turning point was being sent to study piano with Vera Yelverton when I was 13 and two years later attending The Purcell School.

Who or what are the most important influences on your musical life?

Without doubt, my father, Douglas Zanders; my wonderful teacher, the Hungarian pianist Joseph Weingarten whom I studied with at Trinity College of Music, and the international concert pianist Murray Perahia. I was completely bowled over by his playing when he won first prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition – shortly afterwards I met him and was struck by his genuine humility, total lack of self-regard, kindness and willingness to offer help and support where needed. I was privileged to get to know him and to be given lessons and mentoring and it is true to say that the example of his playing and his approach to life and to music has been a major influence on my life.

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

Remembering to believe in myself is definitely one. The music profession is incredibly high-powered and competitive, and it is easy to feel that one is battling against the tide. But, over the years, I have learnt to cultivate my particular strengths based on what I am passionate about, which is studying and researching every aspect of a piece of music and sharing this with others through performing, lecturing and teaching. The pleasure and fulfilment I get from this is immeasurable, and if just one person enjoys listening to music more as a result, I know it has been worthwhile!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

One of my great pleasures is in playing chamber music. Being a pianist means working largely on one’s own, but if I am rehearsing or performing a chamber work I love with others I have a personal and musical rapport with, I am in my element. Listening to and trying out other musicians’ ideas on interpretation helps broaden one’s thinking and gives insights one might not have otherwise discovered. One of the main challenges is finding rehearsal times to suit all!

How would you describe your musical language?

I would describe my musical language as always trying to tell a story with the music. I like to draw people into the music I perform and I am always eager to share some background to the music with my audiences.

How do you work? 

In studying a new work I want to find out everything I can about the music, the composer and when he or she composed it, the influences behind it and, as far as possible, to ‘get inside the composer’s head’. Every piece of music tells some sort of a story and I love the process of discovering what that story is about – through the composer’s directions, the harmonies, the tonality etc. and in trying to find out how and why the composer wrote the piece in the first place.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

Ever since I was a child, I have adored Mozart’s final piano concerto in B flat major K595. I finally performed it a few years ago and it was a dream fulfilled. I was also proud to be able to give a lecture recital on Schubert’s Trout Quintet ending with a complete performance of the work with some wonderful musicians for the Petersfield Musical Festival a few years ago.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have always adored Beethoven. I studied music at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna and living for a year in the city where Beethoven (and Haydn, Mozart and Schubert) lived and worked was overwhelming – an experience which has shaped my whole approach to their music.

Which works do you think you perform best?

This is difficult to judge but I would say probably Beethoven and Schubert.

What is your most memorable concert experience – either as a performer/composer or listener?

Hearing the Lindsay String Quartet perform all the Beethoven quartets at the Wigmore Hall was an unforgettable experience, as was hearing Murray Perahia play all Chopin’s Preludes many years ago. Everyone was electrified. I also heard Horowitz play live – the most astonishing moment was when he played the National Anthem. I have never heard anyone play like that before or since. Such extraordinary power and authority coming from such a slight figure.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Only take up music as a career if you can’t live without it. If you’ve got something to say in music, believe in this and never allow yourself to be put down by people who say you can’t do it or that you’re not as good as the next person.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

Being true to yourself, working hard and communicating through music.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Being with my son, being with my friends and colleagues and the process of communicating my passion for music to others in my recitals, lectures and classes.

Angela is holding a series of three lecture recitals entitled “Beethoven Enlightened” to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, exploring the significance of Beethoven in Western music. With complete performances of some of Beethoven’s most significant piano and chamber music including ‘Moonlight’ Piano Sonata, ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata for violin and piano, Trio in B Flat Op. 11 for clarinet, piano and cello.

Angela Zanders (piano) with Rob Blanken (clarinet), Catherine Lett (violin) and Mikhail Lezdkan (cello).

12 September, 3 October and 7 November 2020 at 3pm. See Beethoven Enlightened.

Also see Music appreciation course with Angela Zanders: “Classical Masterpieces Composed in Troubled Times”.

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