Yesterday I played the piano for a birthday party in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. It was dark by the time I arrived in Ashbourne and I hadn’t had the best of journeys. It had been quite slow and a section of the M1 had been closed. This meant that I’d had to navigate my way through some of the smaller roads for part of the journey. This all added time to my trip, but I was still in good time.
I usually use a digital piano on most of the jobs I do, but on this occasion the people who booked me (Iain and Helen) had their own beautiful grand piano. It was a Yamaha C3 and it was a joy to play. Also, not having to set up any equipment makes things easier for me. I am usually happy to play my digital as it has a fantastic sound and most real pianos I have to play are dreadful and barely good enough for a pub singalong.
The bulk of my work consists of weddings which requires me to play many genres of music, but for this birthday party I was asked to play a mixture of jazz and swing. This made a refreshing change after all the Cockney singalong gigs I’ve done over the Christmas period (see my other blog HERE). I did stray away from jazz and swing at one point when I played some Beatles and a few Billy Joel songs.
Most of the people there were into music in a big way, and some of them played the piano as well as other instruments. It is so nice for me when I have an appreciative audience to play for. The evening went well and Helen enjoyed her birthday party as so did all the guests.
Yesterday I played the piano for a 70th birthday party which was being held at the wonderful Stoke House. I have played at this fine historic venue quite a few times and I’m always taken aback by the splendour of the place. Also, I must mention how friendly and helpful the staff are at this venue. While I was trying to get my equipment into the building they were always at hand to open doors and clear the way for me.
The event had a 1940s theme and the guests dressed accordingly. The evening was great fun and gave me a chance to play some jazz and swing on the piano. As I’ve mentioned before many times – this is the music I really love and I always relish every chance I get to play this genre of music. Another feature of the party was that I was performing alongside the Scarlet Starlets who were absolutely fabulous. They perform in the style of the Andrews Sisters and they really give an event a vintage feel.
The evening went smoothly and the birthday boy had a really great time. As I drove into the darkness on my weary way home I couldn’t help feeling content having had such a wonderful evening.
Contact details for Stoke Park:
Address: Stoke Park, Park Road, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire SL2 4PG
Tel: 01753 717171
Also please check out the website of the Scarlet Starlets
My journey to Leicestershire hadn’t been the best and I was really pleased to get to the village of Barkby. I hadn’t really been in any traffic jams, but it was really slow going all the way. Luckily I had set off ridiculously early and I arrived with 2 hours to spare. It was now 5:30pm and I was due to start playing the piano at 7:30pm. Barkby is quite a nice place, but it isn’t very big and I’d been there a couple of times in the past. With this in mind I decided to go the nearby Queniborough and kill some time there.
At 7:10pm I arrived at Barkby Hall having had a walk around Queniborough. I was greeted with a welcoming smile by John Pochin – the owner of this magnificent residence. On my last visit I had been hired to play the piano for John Pochin’s son’s 18th birthday celebration. On this, my third visit, I had been asked to provide piano music for his 21st birthday. I didn’t need my digital piano or any other equipment as they have a lovely Steinway piano which they had just had tuned.
My first visit to Barkby was in 2011 when Simon the birthday boy was only 15. He was responsible for searching the internet and finding my website. Having listened to quite a number of the tracks, he then recommended me to his father who took his advice and booked me. On this first visit I was amazed when I found that Simon didn’t seem to like modern music very much and that he was an avid collector of 78 records. Even at the tender age of 15 he had quite a remarkable knowledge of music from the 20s, 30, and 40s. It was so nice to be playing here again and to share Simon’s love of the old jazz standards. It was also nice to be given a free rein over the music I was playing and to be able to wallow in the music I really love.
The guests started arriving at around 7:30pm and I started playing some gentle music before the room filled up. Quite a few of them recognised me from previous visits and some of them came over to the piano to speak to me. The room filled up quickly and I started to play to play music of a much livelier nature which seemed to fit the mood. The evening went well and I just engrossed myself in the music I was playing. Time seemed to fly and it didn’t seem long before guests were slowly starting to leave. It was 11:30pm already and Jayne Pochin (Simon’s) mother said that I could finish as the 20 or so people remaining were actually staying the night.
Simon seemed to have a great birthday and I do hope that they book me again on another occasion. After I’d finished I drove into the night in the direction of Oxfordshire ready for the next day’s wedding.
I arrived at Cuddington Club at around 5pm and was really looking forward to the evening of piano playing that lay ahead of me. The event was a 70th birthday party and I knew that John (the birthday) boy and his wife Kasumi were keen singers and were going to be showcasing their talents. Also, quite a number of the guests were members of the local choral society in Cheam. All this meant that their was a good chance that quite a number of the guests would be performing throughout the evening. With this in mind I set up a mixing desk and a few microphones as well as my digital piano.
By 6pm I had set everything up and at this point Kasumi and John arrived for little rehearsal. The guests were due to arrive from 7pm onwards so we had a little bit of time to run through the songs that they were planning to do with the piano. I had also been given a list of song that the other guests might do, but they wouldn’t have the chance to rehearse theirs.
At 7pm guests started arriving and I started to play some background jazz during this period. This was quite an unusual event for me in that I actually knew a few of the guests. I play the piano for many events throughout the country and I usually perform for complete strangers.
At around 7:30pm Kasumi and John sang a few songs individually before everyone sat down to eat. and the rest of the evening consisted of a mixture of me playing solo jazz piano and periods of singing. Lot’s of people got up and performed a wide array of music from Mozart arias and Handel to You Make Me Feel So Young and The Hippopotamus Song.
At 11pm most of the guests had gone home and I started to pack everything up. There was quite a lot of equipment to take down and put in the car so it took me quite a long time. It had been a fun evening and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.