“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)