Archive for : May, 2012

Roger Stedman – Doctor

Roger Stedman

 

“I learnt piano as a child, did some of the grades at school and then I had a very long period of not developing my piano playing at all.  I am a Consultant Anaesthetist with special interest in Intensive Care Medicine; the way we work is a week at a time on the Intensive Care Unit, we organise it that way so there is continuity for the more difficult patients.  So as a consultant I am responsible for a large intensive care unit of around 20 beds and I will be on duty for a week.   We have a ten-hour day and we share on call out of hours.

It’s a very intensive period of work, you get involved with the patients and the work is quite high pressure but believe it or not, it is enjoyable!  I share the rota with eight other colleagues so then I’ll have a period when I’m not on Intensive Care and work in a more routine area of anaesthetics.

Training in medicine is very involved, it’s an immersive activity and one tends to give up a lot of activities and life interests in order to get through the training.  Once you qualify to become a Consultant you have a team of doctors working for you and suddenly you have a bit more time on your hands and life begins again as it were.  And so, you can re-discover certain things, and get that private time on your own away from the job.

I try to practice piano most days, I revisited piano learning soon after I became a consultant.   It was a few years ago and I had decided I wanted to develop my piano playing in my spare time and I started having lessons with Mikael Pettersson to try and undo the bad habits I had acquired in the intervening years.  Even though he teaches us as individuals, he is really good at bringing us together in a group for master classes and concerts.

The piano has the tendency to be a very isolated instrument and it adds a level of challenge when you know you are going to be playing in front of your peers, rather than in your own back room, that has been very good for my development.  We play pieces by the same composer; it’s good to hear how other people are getting on with the same sort of pieces.

The current project is Scriabin, and a while before that we learnt the Debussy Preludes for which I performed the Sunken Cathedral.  It’s been difficult to learn Scriabin but he’s growing on me.  Scriabin is interesting because there’s a very clear transition in his work which I think reflects the transition from Romanticism to Modernism that was going on at the time.  His transition was quite stark and quite overt, and some of his later pieces are quite challenging.  There are a lot of parallels between Scriabin and Debussy as he also underwent a similar transition; his later work is also very different.“ (Roger Stedman)

Roland Perrin – Composer & Pianist

Roland Perrin

“We started off in the States, moved around quite a lot from New York and Mexico and Florida ending up in England via Scotland. I remember as one of seven children playing a game in the living room in Glasgow where we had a grand piano and the game was based on the weather; one person would be playing the piano and the rest would be dancing around. It seemed to involve a lot of sustain pedal. The person at the piano would replicate beautiful calm sunny weather by playing delicately at the top of the piano, and then at some moment would go to the bottom of the piano and bang out the lowest notes like thunder and lightning and rain and we’d all scream and hide under the grand piano. It was simple, but endless fun.

Another early memory was that my mother used to like us to play the piano first thing in the morning to help get her out bed, it was a happy time, and I’d play whatever it was that I was learning at the time. Now I’m a teacher myself, I teach students from all over the world; Finland, England, Iran, Japan, Venezuela, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Austria, France, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Trinidad….I could go on! As they get more advanced, what I’m trying to do is to get them to play jazz with their own twist. For example there’s a very good pianist who’s brilliant at playing traditional Iranian and Azerbaijanian music on the piano, sometimes it’s centuries old, and sometimes it’s pop music from the last thirty years. He’s starting to get a really good feel for jazz, and we’ve been working together on getting him to fuse the two together. He has actually influenced me as a composer. Another example is a Japanese student; she’s working on a collection of Japanese folk songs and that’s really nice because she took a while to understand how jazz works and now she’s really starting to find herself by not trying to sound American but by arranging Japanese folk music. My way of looking at things is to that there’s no point learning the tradition of an art form unless you’re going to bend it your own way. The end game is to create a personal statement, and not to present yourself as someone who is the carrier of a tradition, but as someone who has taken the tradition and made it their own.” (Roland Perrin)

ROLAND PERRIN is a composer, pianist and educator who creates music that combines irresistible world music grooves, jazz improvisation and structures in the European symphonic tradition. His compositions range from solo piano works to full orchestral pieces. The style is wide ranging – the result of being steeped in classical music and jazz and also by having played with many artists from around the world. Roland sees his music as taking some of the best elements from different traditions: it develops and unfolds like a story, it leaves space for spontaneity and it dances. Roland’s “Limited Edition” has five members from five countries. He also works as a solo pianist, in duos with singers Rachel Sutton and V, and with the Cuban bass player Rey Crespo. He is Head of Piano Studies at the London Centre of Contemporary Music and operates a thriving private practice as a jazz piano teacher.

Connect with Roland at www.rolandperrin.com

Craig Stallwood – Keyboard Player

mashmallow

 

“I was playing on a cruise ship in Alaska and we were getting towards the end of the set.  The ocean was completely beautiful and very, very calm; the water was like marshmallow.  We were playing some nice quiet jazz ballads and all of the sudden, without any sort of warning the whole cruise ship tilted over by 10 to 15 degrees.   I was playing a pink baby grand piano and the whole stage, including the piano, started rolling down towards the end of the window and I thought I was going to fall out of it!  Basically the whole cruise ship was a complete wreck because everything started falling over.  It was quite bizarre.  There were no waves at all, completely tranquil ocean, you couldn’t imagine a flatter sea and then all of the sudden the piano started sliding over while I was playing it.

I thought, shock horror!  What’s going on?  We’re all going to die!  We’d all had a few cocktails by then as well, it was really late.  Most of the audience had already gone to bed, but there were a couple of people left and they started screaming.  It was tilting like this for fifteen minutes.  We didn’t find out til the next day what had happened.  As it turned out an engineer had had too much to drink and had pressed the wrong button.  He’d turned the stabilisers off. They’re meant to keep the ship horizontal, it was so ironic because it’s one of those moments you just couldn’t believe, we’d actually been commenting on how calm the sea was and then that happened!” (Craig Stallwood)

An Interview with Mikael Pettersson – Concert Pianist

Mikael Pettersson

 

“I chose to record my CD in this particular hall because I’ve played many piano concerts there, I’m familiar with the piano and I’m very fond of it.

It’s in a big hall with big acoustics, it makes a lovely sound in that particular hall, the sound is rich and clear.  The venue is isolated, there are no disturbances around, it’s in a beautiful green setting.

I experimented on where to place the microphone, I put it chest height if you are standing, so it was level with the height of the instrument, it was just my own experimentation but it seemed to work.  I recorded over a period of two years; there were four sessions to each produce fifteen minutes of recorded music, so around one day’s recording to produce fifteen minutes of music.  In the end I made a one hour CD.  It was slightly frustrating getting to the end of a piece sometimes and perhaps making one mistake at that point. But overall I loved spending the whole day in the hall by myself, I think pianists in particular love to be by themselves. In some ways you have to love to be alone as a pre-requisite of becoming a pianist.

Unlike other instruments that rehearse with an accompanist, concert pianists rehearse completely alone, you achieve a particular focus and state of mind from being alone and just focussing on the music; in the world it’s just you, the composer, the instrument and the music, there are no distractions.  I think it’s a lovely state of mind to be I liked to see the result, to know that so much work over two years was such a good feeling.  The project was to learn and record a great deal of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words.  I fell in love with him a few years ago.

I did the recording without an assistant so I had these practical considerations; I had to switch the equipment on then run to the piano, then switch it off again after playing, organise all of that, plus sorting out the pages so there wouldn’t be any page turns.  I had to make notes, so I was writing a lot during the sessions to keep track of what I’d recorded, keeping a note of all the pieces as I recorded them, and then there was a lot of switching on and off of buttons, these were practical difficulties.  I did the whole thing alone, I chose the final recordings myself, I made all the decisions myself and I’m very happy with how it turned out.” (Mikael Pettersson)

Natsumi Ikenaga – Pianist

Natsumi

 

“My family all live in Tokyo so fortunately none of them were affected by the tsunami, but it was a huge shock.  Many concert halls were totally destroyed and it’s been very difficult.  The Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra, the big orchestra in that region, has been working so hard.  They went to many of the shelters in small groups; I heard they performed more than five hundred charity concerts. 

Many musicians lost their jobs and it’s still not good for them there. Here in London my friends and I organised a big concert at the College and it raised a lot of money. 

I’m in my fourth year at the Royal College of Music.  I’m not sure I want to limit myself by aiming to be a Concert Pianist; I also want to play in ensembles.  For example I’m working in a horn trio at the moment. It’s a new project and we’re about to have our first concert.  We’re all Asian but from different countries, the other players are from Hong Kong and Korea.  We became close friends so we decided to work together. 

Unfortunately, there’s not much repertoire for Horn Trio so our violinist Joo Yeon Sir decided to compose a piece.  I’m really looking forward to that.  We’re also doing the Brahms Horn Trio No.1, probably the most famous piece for horn trio, plus a little known piece by Duvernoy, an eighteenth century composer.  It’s a very short piece.  We’ll also play a duo piece, the Ravel violin sonata.

As a soloist I have been learning Beethoven, Chopin and Scriabin recently, soon I’m moving over to Russian composers including Rachmaninov and Prokofiev; I’m currently choosing the other composers.  My plan is to expand myself as a soloist and enter competitions.  While I’m still a student I plan to make the most of any opportunities to play with other performers and get as much experience as I can.” (Natsumi Ikenaga)

Natsumi plays in The Schwartz Horn Trio with Jade Wing-Yi Cheung on horn and Joo Yeon Sir on violin.  Their debut concert is for Markson Pianos May 16 at 7.30pm at Saint Mary Magdalene Church, NW1.  Click here for more details