How long have you been a member of the BPO?
I’ve been an official member for the last ten years or so, but a frequent visitor before then as an extra.
What inspired you to take up your instrument?
My Dad was a (self-taught) violinist in a dance band. We were used to hearing him play (and sing) around the house. He asked me if I’d like to take piano lessons when I was eight, and I loved it and took to it very quickly.
How did you come to join the orchestra?
I first played with the BPO in about 1972 when I was a student at the Birmingham Conservatoire. The conductor Ken Page asked my teacher Tom Bromley if he could recommend someone as the orchestra needed a pianist for Stravinsky’s Firebird, and he suggested me. After about ten years I was lured back by percussionist Anne Elliott, who I worked with at Birmingham Music Library. I played as fourth or fifth member of the percussion team when needed. For the last twenty years I’ve mainly played orchestral keyboards.
Most treasured occasion with the BPO?
Playing an enormous thunder sheet (with big green gloves to protect my hands) in Coventry Cathedral in Strauss’s Alpine Symphony.
Any moments you’d rather forget?
Yes, a disastrous (for me) performance of Shostakovich’s 4th symphony. I was in a particularly dimly lit part of Tewkesbury Abbey. The piece closes with a very quiet but desolate celeste solo over held strings. I looked up at the conductor in the distance to confirm that I’d counted my hundreds of bars rest correctly, and then looked back at my music and couldn’t find the right place in my part to actually play it. I fumbled my way very shamefacedly to the end, with fistfuls of wrong notes.
It changes all the time, but this week it’s probably Brahms.
Least favourite composer?
I can’t think of one at the moment. There’s almost no music that you can’t get some enjoyment from.
Work(s) you’d like to play before you die?
There are lots of pieces I’d like to hear, but many of them wouldn’t involve me as a player. One work with a big piano part I’d love to do is Tippett’s Concerto for Orchestra.
The Orchestra <<<