Over the past 40 years, the Summer School for Pianists has established a unique place amongst an ever-growing number of summer schools being held each year throughout the British Isles.
It combines an atmosphere of friendliness with musical expertise, creating a most positive and rewarding week. Within the state-of-the art setting of the Performance Hub in Walsall, people of a very wide range of pianistic levels can meet and enjoy all that’s good about music-making, without any unhealthy competitiveness or feeling of inadequacy.
Participants return year after year to this keenly anticipated annual event. A warm welcome, studies with leading experts, plenty of practice pianos at this All Steinway School, good food and accommodation, recitals by tutors and students, and a final gala dinner and barn dance make the week very special indeed. I count myself privileged to have been on the tutoring staff since 2012, and always enjoy the week enormously.
There are five of us tutors – James Lisney, Christine Stevenson, Karl Lutchmayer, Lauretta Bloomer and myself. After the day’s classes there is an evening recital given by each of the tutors in turn. The tutor recitals this year will be particularly varied,with repertoire drawn from Couperin, Beethoven,Schubert, Brahms, Liszt, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Medtner, Sorabji, Godowsky, Debussy and Busoni. After the recitals we tend to gather in the bar for drinks and conversation – those who play jazz and light music often find their way to the grand piano in the corner there to entertain all of us further.
If you are worried about the classes being full of whizz-kids, let me allay your fears immediately! The classes are of mixed ability. All you have to do is to bring along three well-prepared pieces of repertoire. We tutors will aim to cover both technical problems and interpretative points which will be of interest to the entire class. There will be 18 hours of class teaching, comprising three half-hour slots per class member. You are free to wander from class to class and observe other tutors in action.
Last year, the tutor presentations ‘Piano Matters’ were especially praised for making the course even more attractive for performing participants and for observers as well. ‘Piano Matters’ topics for 2015 are:
- A Passion for Liszt
- Perspectives on Piano Now
- A User’s Guide to Ornamentation
- The Metronome – Friend or Foe?
In addition, the 2015 timetable has some new elements:
Aperitif – brief pre-concert talks that will provide ‘tasting’ notes for the tutor recitals.
Words and Music – a late evening performance of Tennyson’s tear jerking melodrama Enoch Arden, with music by Richard Strauss
Piano Now !– an entertainment based upon twenty-first century piano music for two to eight hands.
We are having a theme of Dance in 2015. There will be a guest lecturer to give a presentation on the subject of Baroque Dance. Ruth Waterman is the niece of Fanny Waterman and has travelled around the globe as an acclaimed violinist, author and after dinner speaker. She has made a special study of baroque dance and she will thus educate us as to the character and dance steps of the various dance types that we are accustomed to meeting in Bach’s suites.
As a non-obligatory option, participants are invited to choose a piece inspired by Dance as part of their repertoire – pavanes and galliards, or the Baroque suite dance movements, or a Classical minuet or ländler, a mazurka, waltz, polonaise, tango, Bulgarian dance, csardas – the sky’s the limit!
There will be classes for Piano Accompaniment with Lauretta Bloomer and baritone Brian White, and for Piano Duet. The latter was particularly popular this year and we encourage participants to plan early and attempt to meet for rehearsals in advance of the course.
If you are free from August 16 – 22 this year, there are only 6 places remaining, so why not come along and give it a try? If you don’t want to play, you can come as an observer.