Our annual piano day returned!

In the morning we welcomed renowned pianist Anna Markland, who delivered a Masterclass.  Anna listened to and encourage five of our most talented players, whilst our other players will had the chance to watch and learn from one of the country’s leading musicians.

At 1.20pm, a selection of all-age players performed in an informal concert in the Library.

Then at 6.00pm, pianists from Years 10-13 performed in a Teatime Concert featuring duet and ensemble items, as well as many special solo performances.

Here are some other highlights from our piano team.

Mr Lovell's view from the piano stool

In this blog, Mr Lovell discusses the art of performance.

The view from the piano stool can be very comfy, especially in the familiar surroundings of your own home! I grew up with a piano in the house and one day I was given the option of having lessons, or the piano would have to go. I used to sit and splash around at the keys a bit, pretending that I knew what I was doing, but I knew enough to know that I didn’t want to lose this awesome instrument. I took up the offer of lessons and never looked back. Simple stuff at first of course, I was never going to be Young Musician Of The Year and I used to get frustrated when I couldn’t get the hang of things quicker. The piano stool was a place where I felt happy. I enjoyed myself and had the satisfaction of feeling that this was something that I was improving at, even if it wasn’t always at as fast a pace as I wanted. And I loved that whilst my teacher introduced me to the wondrous music of Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy, it was also a pathway into playing the music that I was already listening to at home, like Elton John, Genesis and Kate Bush.

The view from the stool can get a bit less cosy once the stool is elsewhere other than home: the school hall or especially the exam room! Nerves can be off-putting and make you feel like all the enjoyment has been sucked out of you. But without them, you can never focus to the point of showing yourself at your absolute best. And whilst there’s not much to beat the immersion into the joy of music to escape all the pressures of life, the one thing that’s even better is the buzz you get when you play something well and someone else is there to tell you how good it is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a standing ovation for a prestigious recital, or whether it’s just your Mum saying, “well done, it’s getting better”, you get a glow that makes you feel good and it spurs you on to want to achieve more. I’ve been playing for over 40 years now and, I assure you, that buzz is as strong now as it’s ever been!

So if you, like me, play the piano, why do you do it? Why did you start and what is it about this incredible instrument that keeps you going? Here are some of the responses we’ve had from our students here at Simon Balle:

I enjoy making people happy when I play

Playing piano puts me in a wonderland of music

I enjoy playing the piano because it makes me forget about stressful things happening in my life

I really enjoy playing keyboard at Simon Balle as I learn so much and have fun

I really enjoy playing the piano, we are always having some sort of fun event or activity!!

The opportunity to perform, to share your skills and revel in the praise that comes your way, is vital to keep us all pushing on and improving ourselves. So, let’s keep up the practice, strive to be the best we can be, but, most of all, enjoy making music and enjoy what it looks, feels and sounds like from your piano stool!

Mr Lovell

From Gabriel, Year 12

The piano masterclass with Anna Markland was a huge success. This is for a plentiful number of reasons. It was very beneficial for developing our performance skills and confidence (an important aspect of musicianship) as we were given some useful tips for performing by Anna and we were playing in front of all the other pianists – a big crowd! Also, for many, it was very informative on practice methods: Anna zoomed in on specific areas of struggle and emphasised the significance of ‘slow’ practice. For me, we focused more on style and musical awareness. Anna suggested an alternative approach for using the sustaining pedal to make the texture of the music less heavy. Finally, I would like to say an immense thank you to Anna Markland for imparting her expertise and additionally to Mr Lovell for diligently organising the whole event.

From Toby, Year 13

I found Anna Markland’s advice and support very insightful throughout the masterclass. What was particularly useful was how it felt as though Anna was giving tips and ways to improve playing to everybody in the room, not just the player sitting at the piano. In addition, what was particularly helpful was that the advice was relevant for all of the students of varying ages and experience with the piano. Personally for me I thought that Anna was not only extremely supportive of what I was playing, but also offered some really good, constructive feedback such as how to improve my sitting position when playing, how to practice the piece more effectively at home and how to position my arms in order to play the more challenging sections of the piece with greater ease.