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Items of interest from the past

Blog posts and articles from past recitals and performers

25 June, 2013 Emilie Capulet: Concert pianist    

"Water has always inspired composers and artists – it has texture and colour, it’s prismatic and vibrant, it catches the light and yet it can obscure the sun. Mist and fog create a sense of mystery and strangeness. For my recital on the 26th of June in the Markson’s Pianos Bösendorfer Series, I have chosen pieces that are all inspired by water: Tchaikovsky’s Barcarolle, Chopin’s Second Ballade, Ravel’s Jeux d’Eau, Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral and Gardens in the Rain and Ohana’s Quintes. Very often, in my concerts, I like to have a theme or a leading thread which links the pieces. I like to play music which tells a bit of a story. As part of the performance, I usually talk about the music and give the sources of inspiration of the composers. That really makes the music come alive. I don't think that music can be totally detached from its artistic and aesthetic context. It's true that Stravinsky said that music is powerless to express anything and therefore does not have any meaning outside itself, but in my view, I feel that music does have strong connections to the real world, to emotions, to landscapes and to art in general. The repertoire which I will be playing at the concert, from the 19th and early 20th centuries, was composed at a time when the musicians frequented the famous “salons” where artists from different backgrounds used to meet. Composers would constantly be talking with poets, writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, etc. Musicians used to go out a lot, to the opera, to the theatre and ballet. Music was not composed in the abstract, and I like making connections between what we hear and the context in which it was composed – but in an imaginative way. It's all about art being suggestive, it's not about imposing a specific view of the work, it's about making the whole musical experience of the concert even more poetic and expressive, by showing how the music starts from something real but then moves into the realm of the inexpressible. As Debussy once said, music is made for the inexpressible but at the same time, he gives us suggestions for titles, between brackets, at the end of each of his Preludes. The Sunken Cathedral is both the story of this majestic cathedral rising out from the depth of the ocean, and yet it is also about the abstract musical relations, textures and colours which are often far from being painting in sound but are the embodiment of abstract correspondances, to be enjoyed for themselves. How do I create this sense of poetry and music in recitals? Well, the visual is always very strong in our lives. As soon as we are shown a projected image, that image dominates our imagination, often to the exclusion of all else. So, for example, in a multimedia concert with projections of paintings, the projections can, in a way, overwhelm the music. In my concerts, I like to include poetry and story-telling, and even little anecdotes about the composers, and I do make references to famous paintings, like Monet’s Waterlilies, but it is sometimes better if people can conjure them up in their minds, rather than have them in front of their eyes. Of course, if one is performing in an art gallery, with the original works on display, the atmosphere is very different. I think it's very special if the person who is playing the music, who is interpreting it at the piano, is also sharing their creative process in words as well as in music, sharing their sense of communion with the composers and their sources of inspiration. To take an example, Ravel was fascinated by the vision of the fountains of Versailles, captured in poetry by one of his friends, the symbolist poet Henri de Régnier. The poem speaks of statues that seem to come alive and start frolicking in the water gardens of Versailles and Ravel particularly liked the reference to the River God, who“laughs as the water tickles him”. From that one line, Ravel wrote a whole composition full of light, full of colour, full of movement and full of humour. All this just gives you that tiny spark, opening a window into the imagination of the composer, and then the music seems to acquire that many more shades of meaning." (Emilie Capulet June 2013)

22 April, 2013 Emma Hutchinson    

"I was given piano lessons because my brother didn't practice. This led to my life long love with the piano, and a fascination with playing all types of instruments. I was given a full grant to Chethams school until I was 19. I defected from music for a while, by studying dance and theatre at Dartington College of Arts. Music kept following me about including a spell of teaching in Hong Kong. With theatre performance and dancing experience also under my belt, I returned to music study, taking a piano diploma at Trinity College of Music. Alongside piano teaching I became interested in early childhood music, developing my teaching work in nursery groups alongside my private piano teaching work. Having a motorbike was the only way I could get anywhere quickly in London, and to maximise the volume of work that was building up. This inevitably led to my dream of having a music house full of children learning different instruments, with me living at the top! The Music House for Children was founded in 1994 as a not for profit music school to provide children in homes, nursery schools with musical learning, performance and training for teachers. At this point I did not have a real building. In 2001 together with my husband, Charlie Raworth, we purchased an old snooker club. This is now Bush Hall in West London, a beautiful Edwardian concert hall hosting international and national artists concerts, showcases and private events. Our Boston Steinway grand serves as an apt and very lovely piano for visiting artists, although my dream would be to adopt a Bosendorfer, as the acoustics are so resonant in Bush Hall. The Music House for Children’s new home became the next-door building to the hall to give children who could not afford instrumental tuition the same opportunities as those having private home tuition. In addition I was able to provide training to early years and instrumental teachers on site, as well as music workshops, holiday activities and specialist music classes. I have over 60 instrumental tutors, and early childhood music specialists working with me, in homes, schools and in nursery groups. We are unique as a school in that we provide early childhood music for families, newborn babies and toddlers, instrumental learning and performance opportunities each year, all under two roofs. We are in the process of creating a new restaurant called Bush Hall Dining Rooms to provide delicious food for families, artists, audiences and musicians enjoying musical experiences at Bush Hall and The Music House for Children. This will open this May (www.bushhalldining.co.uk) As a baby the multi-sensory embedded musical experiences provides them with an instinctive understanding of music when they later come to learn an instrument. Every child is invited to perform at Bush Hall each year to reflect achievement, parents’ ability to see progress, and build on confidence and social engagement with other young musicians. My interest in the benefits of early musical engagement led me to taking an MA in early childhood music (at Birmingham City University), due to be completed this July. Termly training for all our music teachers provides fresh, updated and inquisitive ways to continue with their work in music teaching. With very young children using their instruments to draw out musical responses and curiosity is compulsory! We also provide training in early childhood music teaching throughout the UK. My enduring love of the piano has continued to provide inspiration for composing music for babies and young children (check out Little Birdsong – www.littlebirdsong.co.uk). The books have just been taken on by an American publishing house, and due for re-launch this summer. Our insistence for high quality music provision is reflected too, in our commissioning an instrument maker. We now provide and sell early childhood instruments reflecting a range of tactile shapes, sounds, and are of high quality, and extremely durable (www.littlebirdsong/resources/treasurebasket) I am still very much in tune with my piano playing, having recently performed at Robert Lockhart (late composer and pianist)’s memorial service, playing one of his early pieces. I also performed at Sark island to a private party. In my spare time I play the trumpet (my other favourite instrument) at celebrations and weddings. I play a range of instruments including French Horn, Guitar, fife, whistles, violin, melodica, ukulele. These all emerge during my teaching work with babies and young children since live music is an integral and inextricable glue to a child and parent’s musical experiences. My other message in this habit of multiple instrumental playing, is to encourage others to pick up their instrument and to enjoy playing whenever they can. The Music House for Children is currently going through major refurbishment. We are still waiting on hopeful funding and/or sponsorship to enable extension of the former ground floor studio into a more modern, ground floor space to enable more group music provision, with a particular emphasis on children with special needs. As our twentieth anniversary approaches next January, we look forward to celebrating continuing diversity and opportunity for children and families in musical learning, not least, supporting music teachers and our musicians of the future." (Emma Hutchinson)

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