The exam that gave me all the cofidence!

Dann schon eher werde ich Pianoplayer....

No reference to France Gall. I learned to play piano at first when I was 15.5 from the ex head of music's wife Jenni Lawford. I wasn't very good at first and she was of the opinion that I was a no hoper that had started far too late,  and who didn't practice, but most people thought of me as a pure singer at first. I got into the L6 and Jenni was succeded by the lovely Judith Inge a gradaute of RNCM and I got my grade two and scraped through with 109 pts. She thought I had charisma as a performer and she said and somehow this charisma and it was nothing charisma won me the junior piano competition even though I made a mistake in the performance and it was only a little Minuet by Krieger I won by default becuase the only other guy in it attempted to play Bohemian Rhapsody and totalled it. So, I won it a day after the senior singing trophy for making lesser amount of mistakes and having the boldest charisma as a performer.

After the sixth form there was a fairly long gap until I had the best music teacher I ever had in my life Jan Ehnes for piano at HfM Köln Standort Wuppertal. Differentiating themselves from the london colleges where it is possible to study singing as a first study without piano, in Wuppertal playing is compulsory to second study degree level that is why I can actually play. I had two years lessons with Jan who again thought I was a no hoper, I didn't pass my countertenor exam was offered a resit and refused. However, I did pass my piano second study with a 3.5 I limped over the line, with just 3.5 years lessons in adulthood.

My Piano Exam Progamme. 15 minutes.

 

Menuet from Booklet for Anna Magdalena Bach (Video above)

Character Pieces by Ferenc Farkas and Dimitri Kabalevsky from the Hungarian Piano School (see below)

Accompanying Soprano Eva Trummer singing Der Mond ist Aufgegangen

Prelude in C from Little Preludes and Fugues by Bach (see below)

Prelude in G from Little Preludes and Fugues by Bach (first half see below)

 

The neighbours can't stand that one. I need to play both halves of it together I can play them immacualtely individually, and they threatened to call the police, I was working so hard at it. Maybe next year sometime. Jealousy! Never mind! The rest I taught myself firstly as a member of the Classical Music Society of Essex University where I did my masters in linguistics and played every day to calm my final project nerves and at home during a period of unemployment.

 

I played seven pieces at Essex Uni for a house concert for my family; they were:

 

Clementi Sonatina in C in full (link to video)

Erste Verlust by Robert Schumann

A Waltz by Gurlitt

Für Elise by Beethoven

Rondo By Mozart

Prelude in C from The Well Tempered Clavier book 1 by Bach (see below)

Bach Invention Number 4

 

I learned them all myself, then I had a couple of consultation lessons with the pianist Steven Evans, nothing more. He taught me how to play a 4 octave scale and that was about it. Then I just attempted to play Beethoven Opus 79 1st movement for an entire year driving the neighbours bats and it was dire and I asked my friend from college Victoria Valerstein to listen to me and she said 'that's diabolically bad', 'Spielst du gerner mit dem Metronom zusammen ein Bisschen!". She was excellent pianist who is a Clara Schumann fanatic and used to teach at the old Music College in Bonn. She liked me playing and wanted to help and gave me tips, despite being engaged to someone else. I loved her to bits for it and wished I'd known her beforehand because she was brilliant she worked her cotton socks off and got it with age. She was always technically accomplished but is now a fantastic concert pianist and friend.

When she married we lost touch and I continued on my own. I battled away with various things until purchasing Frey's Sonatinabuch and playing the German Folk tunes to record accompaniments of myself out of Klingende Heimat and I worked with recordings I'd made of myself on the computer with Audacity at first, worked otu what was wrong and worked out how to correct myself using the recording and everythign Jan had taught me about fingering until finally I got to this stage where I can learn a folk tune and record it on my Sony Z1 mobile phone on Mp3 perfectly and convert the file to M4a in stereo perfectly in 15-20 minutes from first seeing it. I can learn a short movement of 2 sides and record it perfectly in 1-2 days work.

So, I've decided to record the whole of Frey's sonatina book. I'm on number 6b right now. The first 11 recordings are available here and also on the On Vocals section there are recordings of my accompanying myself most of them without singing at the same time but the Brüder Reicht die Hand zum Bunde first first is played and sung on one take simultaneously singing and playing like Elton John. The Bergisches Heimatlied accompaniment is of around grade 8 standard that was a real challenge at first and I thought I'd never master it it took me a year or so just leaving it and coming back to it on different occasions until eventually I mastered it. Mr Wieck, Clara Schumann's dad was a brilliant teacher for her and he always maintained not to over play things so I didn't and I won a perfect take of it. That is me playing and singing on two takes but it's not bad.

It's now my ambition to teach myself all the upper grades to grade 8 and beyond, maybe even for an ATCL or LTCL. I can play part of the ATCL repertoire namely the Menuet from the Bach Suite in Eb already just a short piece, but it's a start and I've had a go at the Allemende as well. It's been a while I must dig that out again and have another go. I've also recorded some of my own compositions and tracked some spontaneous vocal and piano improvisations using a 4 track recording programme.