Monday, 28 October 2013

#30 Mayda Narvey: Cellist, composer

                                 Nadia Boulanger

                              Mayda Narvey

“Nadia Boulanger was born 1887 and lived to 1979 and was just a unique musical talent. She had a younger sister whom she revered. Nadia and Lili both studied composition and became composers, and they both tried to win the coveted Prix de Rome. Nadia became one of the few female winners of the 2nd Prix de Rome but her sister, at the age of 19, won the Premier Prix de Rome and as a result of that Nadia seemed to decide that she herself was not a composer. So she stopped composing and became primarily a teacher and also a performer of the organ and piano. It seemed almost as if she had a strange psychological block about herself and she just wanted to aid and abet other people's creativity.

Nadia had a way of nurturing. She had more than six hundred students and she had a huge interest in Americans and the situation in America where there hadn't been a traditional musical culture. Most musicians in America at that time had come from other places. She felt that the musical culture that evolved in America during her lifetime, and with her help, evolved from the music of African Americans.

She was not interested in imposing a stamp on the composers who studied with her. What she thought was the necessary thing was to learn how to listen and work out how to be able to recognise and write what a composer was hearing, so they absolutely understood music from the inside out, and then to evolve their own style. All her students have very individual, unique styles – including the really famous ones who include Copland, Barber, Bernstein, Carter – most well known American musicians went to Paris to study with her. She had a studio in the house she'd lived in since her teens and she had her Wednesday class there; it stayed like that for her whole life.

I've known about Nadia Boulanger since I was a little girl because my first teacher, Peggie Sampson, had studied with her (and also with Casals). Peggie was originally from Edinburgh, she died in the '90's. She was quite well known in Canada - where I'm from - because she was at the forefront of the Canadian Baroque movement playing viola da Gamba. In my lessons Peggie offered me a huge repertoire which she'd developed through her association with Boulanger; a lot of short pieces and show pieces of 20th Century music that were quite new then, not so quite well known now, including Hindemith who Boulanger rated highly. I also remember that Peggie was very familiar with Imogen Holst.

I was visiting my sister who runs a large music school in the States and saw on her desk a book that was transcript of “Mademoiselle” – a documentary about Boulanger I'd seen years before. I pounced on it saying “This is mine now!”. I realised it would be amazing to create a concert programme triggered by the transcript and that's exactly what I did. And that's why we have an actress working with us – to read from the book. I sourced various compositions; by Nadia, her sister Lili, her teacher Fauré and three of her students - Copland, Barber and Bernstein and also her good friend, Stravinsky. I am a composer too, so I composed for the project; the poet Paul Valéry was a close friend of Nadia's and I wanted to include him so I wrote a song setting his text.

It was easy to source Nadia's and Lili's works, they are in the general domain. We've been rehearsing at my place and spending hours on this project because we love playing together.

I've been working with the singer Sarah Cluderay for around six years; I love her voice...her ethereal voice. Our pianist is Selah Pérez-Villar from the Canary Islands who is a wonderful, passionate pianist. Our actress is Sally Mortemore; she was in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

We are ending with an amazing tribute of Leonard Bernstein about his meeting with Nadia on her deathbed when she says she's hearing music without beginning and end, followed by a beautiful song by Barber which many people know - Sure on this Shining Night - which you could say is about healing, because even though we know Nadia is gone, she still exists for us in our minds.” (Mayda Narvey)

Hear Mayda's ensemble "Ismena" perform October 30th at 7pm in the Markson Pianos Concert Series
St Mary Magdalene Parish Church, Munster Square, London NW1 3PT
An evening celebrating Nadia Boulanger's Life, Art, and Teaching. Soprano, Cello, and Piano. Ismena Collective are Sara Cluderay - soprano, Mayda Narvey - cello,and Naomi Edemariam - piano. An evening of music composed by the illustrious students of the great 20th century Parisian teacher of composition, including Barber, Berkeley and Bernstein, readings and reflections on Boulanger’s life, art and teaching

Connect with Mayda Narvey

Mayda Narvey was born in Canada where she was taught by Peggie Sampson, a student of both Pablo Casals and Nadia Boulanger. Narvey went on to study with Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and Janos Starker, and was teaching assistant to Bernard Greenhouse of the Beaux Arts Trio at the University of New York where she received a Master of Music degree. Having played for some years with the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada, performing often in a solo and chamber capacity for the CBC (national radio) she moved to London where she teaches cello, string quartets and some music history classes at the City Lit and in the City. She writes/arranges for and plays with the Ismena Collective who perform 'Sunday Cabaret' in the West End and performs solo and chamber music recitals both in venues across London and beyond. She also runs a recital series at St Philip's in Earl's Court. Her piece 'Traue' for small ensemble and vocalists was recently performed by the Sweelinck Ensemble in the City of London and her chamber opera, Antigone is to be workshopped in the spring. Narvey is the cellist on Coloured Clutter by the young British band, the Savage Nomads, who have been called the “saviours of contemporary music.”

Thursday, 5 September 2013

#29 John Kenneth Adams: Concert Pianist and Teacher

“I’ve taught a huge number of private students from aged 7 up to college age from lower level up to concert level. As they approach college age I always told them there were two routes. First, they could try for the biggest names, i.e. Julliard, Curtis, Eastman, and spend a huge amount of money along the way. Or, they could come here to USC, save a huge amount of money and then on graduation apply to a top graduate degree program like those named above. USC has been hugely successful with this approach to recruiting big talents.

When students go directly from your studio to a top flight school, the minute they hit that level the name of the teacher who got them there in the first place seems to disappear in favour of a bigger name. So for example, when they have a concert and name their teachers – they will only put the bigger name and never recognise the teacher who worked with them in their formative years. So I have a bone about that and I’ve sometimes made a pertinent comment! I’ve found it has improved in recent years, in some students, in their maturity have looked back. I’ve heard from students now in their 50’s and 60’s and they’ve started to pour our these very emotional stories about what I meant to them and how I made them realise all these things about themselves and how I opened up a whole world of music for them – all this family stuff, “my father was very opposed to me doing this, and “I was suffering from all this emotionally”…etc. Of course I’ve found this enormously gratifying!

I grew up in the South, in Birmingham Alabama, in the 1930’s and ‘40’s - it was like South Africa, we had complete segregation. I played by ear until I was 11, it was perfectly usual just to be able to play. My first teacher was Elizabeth Allen. She pulled me up to quite a high level in just two years. She had been trained by the same teacher (a composer herself) who had developed the composer William Gillock. I was already in the line of some high level, serious pedagogy.

We moved home and my second teacher was responsible for bringing one of Clara Schumann’s last students, Carl Friedberg, all the way from Julliard to Kansas City. His comments to me when I was seventeen were just riveting. No one had told me I had a special gift and could go far. He asked me to go to New York to work with him but my father had a fit and said no way. Over the next years I had lessons with him when he visited Kansas – he was the first great influence on my life.” (John Kenneth Adams, July 2013)

About John: American pianist John Kenneth Adams has travelled the globe presenting recitals, “Piano Portraits”, master classes and lecture-recitals to audiences in 22 countries. He has successfully blended a wide choice of repertoire with his unique ability to speak about music in terms that bring audiences closer to the music. Long known for his powerful performances of French repertoire, including the complete piano music of Claude Debussy, he has also made a strong reputation as an exponent of major works of Schubert, Schumann and Brahms.

Read more at John's blog

Hear John Kenneth Adams perform during Markson Pianos Concert Series September 2014

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

#28 David Nelson; Pianist and Artistic Director of Hebden Bridge Piano Festival

                                                          Tony Cornwall on the terrace

Our first festival took place this year in April and it was fantastic. Financially we did far better than we thought we would and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We were trying out a brand new venue in the town which was taking a pretty major risk, but it came off well in the end. We hired in three pianos including an upright on a frame that we could move around. When it was outside some incredible pianists performed on it ad hoc; it was so loud that it could be heard across the valley, across the town and up the hill. The tickets sales went through the roof after that!

I come from both a “posh” and “community” music background so I wanted to do things in this festival for everyone. We organised events for kids, for young families, had jazz, blues, world music, boogie-woogie in the bar and fantastic classical concerts in the two halls- pretty much wall-to-wall music from Friday night to Sunday night. Next year, in addition to the kind of events we programmed for the 2013 festival, we'll be having masterclasses given by some of our principal artists. 

I was the Musical Director of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival for sixteen years, and ran a Piano Weekend as part of that – a festival within a festival. When the Arts Festival truncated from a fortnight to a week it would have been impossible to carry on the Piano Weekend within it. So, we found the venue and sponsorship to branch out on our own.

We live in an amazing town where, including all the people on the hills, there's only around 8,000 of us living here. We have a blues festival, an acoustic music festival, a burlesque festival, the main arts festival – and there's many venues as well. This town is full of artists – just this weekend we had a studio show featuring 80 studios of working artists in town – that's an extraordinary number of studios! So there's a lot of active artists who are willing to come to our festival but also there's a can-do, we-can-make-this-happen attitude around this town, because we all know each other. There's a really good sense of community here.

The 2014 Hebden Bridge Piano Festival will take place between Friday 11th and Sunday 13th April and will feature such internationally renowned pianists as Kathryn Stott, Charles Owen, Paul Roberts, Noriko Ogawa and Zoe Rahman.

More information at
To contact the festival:
To contact Dave:

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

#27 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)

Hear Emilie Capulet Wednesday June 26th at 7pm at Markson Music & Wine Evening
St Mary Magdalene Parish Church, Munster Square, London NW1
Tickets £6.00 on the door or pre-booked ; £3.00 Concessions

Monday, 22 April 2013

#26 Emma Hutchinson, Composer, Musician, Music School and Music Venue Founder & Director

"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 (

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 – 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)

Connect with Emma 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

#25 Jan Pulsford, Composer, Musician, Songwriter, Keyboardist

my grandmother had a beautiful ornate walnut piano
with ivory keys she cleaned with milk
saucers of milk and rags

I remember the smell and slight stickiness
when i sat
as a child
wide eyes glued to the music 
on a very high up velvet piano stool
making up stories and tunes
about the puppy dog i found on the pages

years later I learned it was the sign for the pedal
but in my mind it will always be a puppy curled up! 

THoMPSoN TWiNS, CYNDi LauPeR, DaRLeNe LoVe, STePS, MeLaNie, 
CHiCo FReeMaN,EuRoViSioN, aTHeNa BLue, DaViD SCHNauFeR, 
aNTHoNY HeaD, DJ JuLiaN MaRSH, 3KSTaTiC, etc

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

#24 Kate Shortt, Cellist, Pianist, Composer, Singer-Songwriter

"My mother was a piano teacher. We had a beautiful black grand Bluthner in our house when we grew up. We all played on it but I was obsessed with it from the age of around four. I was teaching myself and basically it was my recluse and my best friend. I started lessons when I was around six years old, I was already playing and then when I got to Grade V Piano I had an entirely different relationship with it, apart from exams and classical music.

I was already composing on it. It didn't seem like a piano to me, it seemed like this other being that I was discovering that had all these teeth, and the teeth made sounds, and I couldn't believe that one fitted with another one to make all these chords. So it was my life. I started the cello at seven and although I primarily am a cellist, the piano helped the cello and visa versa. The piano became like an orchestra because I could play so many of the parts at the same time.

I discovered jazz chords and started playing very much by ear which is why I stopped classical piano after Grade V, I found that the reading just slowed me down. I knew I wasn't going to be a professional classical pianist but I would always use the piano. So I started memorising every single Beatles song I knew, and Elton John, Kate Bush – anything with the piano. I spent my teens at school entertaining people with it in the lunch hour. It got me friends, it didn't necessarily get me boyfriends. It certainly brought musical attention to me. I wanted to share it. I was writing many piano pieces and then I began to write songs. When I was 14 I won Birmingham BBC radio young composers competition with a piano piece called ‘Day Time Blues and Early Morning Rag’.

When I went to music college I stopped writing as I wanted to focus on the cello but I went back to it after. In my second year at music college I formally started jazz piano lessons and then I realised that the chords I'd created when I was thirteen actually had a name to them, and that other things could happen to them; you could invert them and extend them – that was quite awesome. After college I started to teach and use a lot of piano for that; I still do. In 2006 I brought out an album. ‘Something To Tell You’ It's a collection of songs that I had written over the years; I did all the arrangements for these songs for the accompanying instruments (string quartet etc) on the piano. I slightly take the piano for granted now; it's become part of my body now so I don't feel quite as obsessed as I used to feel. It's been a background and a backdrop to the rest of my musical life. I started jazz piano lessons again last year, it's been a lot of fun to rediscover this, it's more than a hobby but not particularly in my professional life as a performer – it is integrated I would say. I will try to write more songs again soon.

In 1990 I began my solo show where I perform my own songs. I started out using piano and later on the cello came in. Now I use both piano and cello in this show. I integrate singing and comedy. The piano songs are a mixture of comedy and ballads. ‘That was spectacular, totally hilarious and genius!’ (audience member) ‘Wide ranging vocals and very funny’ (The Stage) ‘Emotionally rich songs, thoughtful harmonies, heartfelt reflections on life’ (Musicians Union magazine).

Connect with Kate:

Next gigs:
Komedia - Brighton Festival 12th May
Latest Music bar – Brighton festival 31st May

Moors Bar – 17th May
Moors Bar –Crouch End Festival – 14th June

Friday, 12 April 2013

#23 Nimrod Borenstein, Composer

"I have always loved the piano and just recently wrote a new cycle for solo piano which will be premiered  by the pianist Konstantin Lifschitz in London in March 2014. The three pieces,  'Lucilla's Beehive' , 'Uchti-Tuchti' and  'The Melancholic Mobile'  are part of a cycle called 'Reminiscences of Childhood' opus 54. These pieces are a look at childhood from an adult perspective. I was first commissioned to write 'Lucilla's Beehive' as a single piece and only later decided that It would be interesting to add a couple of pieces to make a cycle. 'Reminiscences of Childhood'  being in three "movements"  is both like other short pieces cycles ( for example  Schumann's Kinderszenen) and a sonata.
I started composing when I was six years old. One of my first compositions, a piece for solo flute and orchestra, written when I was eight was inspired by a twelve year old girl who played the flute and with whom I was in love! The piece was a success but my love was not reciprocated!
I was born in Israel, raised in France and then moved to London  when I was 18  to complete postgraduate courses first at the Royal College of Music and then at the Royal Academy of Music.
Composing for the piano is a real challenge that I enjoy revisiting often. I have written solo pieces, pieces for 2 pianos four hands, 2 pianos eight hands as well as a myriad of chamber music compositions including a piano trio, pieces for piano & violin, piano & cello, piano & flute. Many cellists, violinists and flautists perform theses works worldwide.  

It is very difficult to describe a compositional style. I agree with Mendelssohn who when asked to describe his music said that if he could describe it by words he would not write music!  Performers of my music and audience have said that it was “full of passion and tragedy” , “absolutely beautiful and touched the heart”. I would say that my music is complex and multi-layered  but speaks directly as it has beautiful melodies that can be grasped immediately when you hear it.
When I am composing, what I go through changes – it depends on the day. I am looking for an absolute and if the music is not coming it can be depressing.  However even if I always enjoy the absolute concentration and sense of purity of the work but for me what is essential is the result and not the process.

One of my latest pieces,  'If you will it, it is no dream' opus 58, was written for Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Maestro Ashkenazy has been a strong supporter of my music for some time and I was extremely excited to write for him and such an amazing orchestra which  would be able to perform my music with passion.  I wanted to compose something very intense and diverse, all in ten minutes, like an odyssey. A piece that makes you feel like it was a thirty minute long, that in ten minutes gives you the illusion of having listened to an  an entire symphony. 
My music can be found with several publishers, including Boosey & Hawkes, as well as some pieces being self-published." (Nimrod Borenstein)

Connect with Nimord 

Next UK performance:
'If you will it, it is no dream' opus 58 for Orchestra  (World premiere)
The Philharmonia Orchestra
Vladimir Ashkenazy, Conductor
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London, UK
Date: 13th of June 2013
Tickets and details can be found on the Southbank Centre website