Behind the scenes…

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Musicians’ biographies are a quirky type of prose, written deliberately as they are to present us performers in the very best possible light. How often do we read that the person on stage is one of the finest artists of their generation and yet by the end of the paragraph we have absolutely no sense of who they are or what they stand for in musical terms? Well, Louisa and I want to be more open than that and we have decided that our website should say more about who we are than just list our very modest professional achievements; so we are going to start blogging regularly, letting you know exactly what we do day to day, giving you some insight into how we really feel about this wonderful vocational career we have chosen and the challenges we constantly face in pursuing it. We hope our playing says enough about our musical abilities to free ourselves from any worries about perception, and instead, we want to open up our professional lives and give you, our supporters a much closer insight into this roller-coaster of an adventure that we are on!

I write this in the midst of a particularly crazy period where we both are struggling to balance the huge demands placed on our time by our various activities. The fact is, the most valuable asset for us is time, specifically time to rehearse, research, think and discuss music. Inevitably that time comes at a price, and in order to buy ourselves the time we need to practise, we both have to periodically go through incredibly busy periods working with different hats on, earning enough to cover our daily existence while frantically preparing for the next concert. For Louisa that often means she is on stage as soloist or in recital one night, only to be relegated to the rank and file of an orchestral string section the following day. For me, I spend my most weekday evenings teaching the piano, or, during exam time, I travel around the UK examining the ABRSM graded exams for all instruments. It struck me that very few performing musicians earn 100% of their income from performing alone and yet all of us are so reluctant to go public about extra-curricular activities for fear of being seen as inferior or unsuccessful. So here goes!

Last week I spent 6 days examining in Belfast and thankfully the wonderful hosts who were looking after me gave me access to the exam room after hours. This was absolutely crucial as I had to frantically prepare Brahms and Schumann Sonatas for a concert the following Sunday and so, after checking my mark forms for the day, I knuckled down to get in my crucial practice hours. I arrived home at midnight on Saturday night, spent Sunday rehearsing and performing in our studio concert and then jumped in the car to travel to Brighton before three more days examining. Yesterday I arrived home at lunchtime, managed to cram in a few hours rehearsing with Louisa before my teaching started and today we were up and out to travel to Manchester for an audition for a wonderful concert series. As I write, we are hurtling back to London so I can fit my teaching in this evening, on Sunday we have our biannual concert for our school-age pupils and so the next few days will be busy preparing the kids for that, while trying to keep enough hours free to prepare Schumann for our mini-recital we give at in the second half. Next week we have a lunchtime concert on Wednesday and then there’s more examining & teaching. And so it goes on…

It can be a dizzying existence at times, waking up, cramming in 6 or 7 hours of practice, finding a few moments at the computer generating invoices or soliciting new concert opportunities, before rushing down to the studio to teach for a few hours in the evening. Honestly though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The time pressure if anything just makes those hours spent at the piano such an absolute pleasure. Music is so wonderfully rewarding in that way, I have to stay hungry, work hard and then enjoy playing to the very best of my ability to make all the effort more than worth it. In a funny sort of way practice is the simplest part of my life, it is me versus the limits of my ability without interference from anything or anyone. Every time I sit down to play I try and extend those abilities a little bit further, rethinking a phrase, noticing a quirk in the harmonic progression that hadn’t struck me before or hearing an interval that little bit more expressively. Even with such craziness in the diary I find myself energised by rehearsal and excited about the progress we might make tomorrow…

 

 

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