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.
As I drove to wards Amersham the distinctive sight of “Ambers of Amersham” came into view and I’ve got to say that this was an event I was looking forward to. The last occasion that I played the piano here was a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed the event. To call Ambers a clothes shop would be the understatement of the decade. Ambers is a centre of fashion and beauty with three large rooms of fashion, a hair studio, a beauty salon, a resident tailor, a childrens clothing department and a restaurant.
It is usually the first event of the year where I get the chance to play all the old Christmas songs and Alistair (the owner) encourages me to play jazz and swing. To play the piano at Ambers is a job made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. Not only do I get the chance to play the music I love, but I always get treated incredibly well by the owner, Mark the manager and all the rest of the staff.
The evening went very quickly and it wasn’t long before I was packing up my baby grand piano shell and all my other equipment. It took me around forty minutes to pack everything up and pack it into the car. As I drove home into the darkness couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad that it was all over. Looking on the bright side they may book me for next year.
Here are the contact details of Ambers:
Ambers of Amersham
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.
Yesterday’s event was a late one so I made the fatal mistake of setting off a bit later than usual. I had been booked as a pianist in Oxfordshire for a wedding reception. If you have read previous entries on my blog you will know that on Saturdays I like to set off early, so that I’ve got the bulk of the journey done by 9am. This usually ensures that I avoid most of the heavy traffic. Due to the fact that I was due at the venue at 6pm to set up, I decided to set off at around 11:45am. According to my Satnav I was due to be at the venue by 1:15pm, this would allow me plenty of time to have a good look around nearby Thame. The first ten miles was fine, but then I reached the motorway. From then on I spent most of my time in first and second gear or in neutral with the handbrake on. The arrival time on my Satnav got later and later. This traffic jam lasted all the way round the M25 until I left for the M40. By now my Satnav gave me an arrival time of 2:25 which was the exact time that I arrived at the venue.
I was still three and a half hours early so I drove down the road to Thame to kill a few hours there. I’ve played the piano at venues around Thame on many an occasion, but I’ve never actually had a look around the town. It is a lovely place, which is what you come to expect in Oxfordshire, and it has more than it’s fair share of historic buildings. It is an old fashioned market town and has managed to survive the modern age without being spoilt by too much modern development.
Having whiled away my afternoon, I decided to go back to the hotel. The venue is named Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, which is a bit of a mouth full if you come from Barnsley like me. It is a wonderful venue and is owned by the same company that owns the Orient Express. I’ve been to this venue once before and I do hope that I get the chance to perform here again. It is situated just a short walk from Great Milton, which is a really picturesque village.
It had come time for me to set up all my equipment, so I went into the reception to find out exactly where I was supposed to go. I was greeted by an extremely friendly and helpful receptionist who took me over to the room where I was going to be setting up. She also introduced me to a very friendly co-ordinator who was in charge of the event that I was playing for. To be honest every single member of staff I met at this venue was extremely friendly and helpful, especially the barman who gave me a nice cold beer later in the evening.
I was due to start playing at 8pm and it was now around 6:10pm, so I should be all set up by around 7pm. I was going to set up the grand piano shell and it does take a while to put together, but it does look the part and there is a big demand for something that looks more like a piano than the normal digital keyboard. I got to work and I was tightening up the last bolt at around 7pm. I still had an hour to kill before I was due to start playing the piano, so I took a stroll into the village.
I came back an was ready to start, but the guests hadn’t yet come into the room where I was playing. I had been hired to play solo piano for the evening reception, so I was there instead of the usual disco or band. This sort of thing happens a lot these days, as a lot of people have realised that the most important thing at a wedding is that people are able to talk freely. A loud disco or band can often kill conversation.
It was a further half an hour before they came in and I started playing the piano as soon as the first person entered the room. The bride and groom had made a preference for jazz and swing, so I was in my element playing all the jazz standards from the 30s and 40s. It’s really nice to play for an event where I can the style of music I love, and just let my imagination take me where it wants to. There was a guy sat to my left and I couldn’t help notice that he would stop talking and his foot would start to tap every time I played a swing number, so I knew that I had got this guy on my side at least. The evening progressed and I had a ball, especially when quite a few of the guests started dancing. This developed and I started playing more modern numbers (but not too modern!) by the likes of Billy Joel, Elton John and The Beatles.
The evening went well and Sarah (the Bride) and Alex (the groom) definitely had a great time. It took me about 50 minutes to pack everthing up when I after I had finished at around 11:30pm. My drive home was a lot more pleasant than my journey to the venue and took me a lot lesss time.
Contact details of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
After my long drive from Nottingham to Chislehurst, Kent I was pleased to see the beautiful building of Cambden Place in front of me. This is the home of Chislehurst Golf Club and there were loads of people milling around. I found that the staff were very helpful, and having showed me where to set up, they carried on with their work. It didn’t take long before I had completely finished setting up all my equipment and I then took a short walk around Chislehurst Common. It was a lovely afternoon it was so nice to take in some air having spent so much time in the car over the last two days.
The purpose of my visit to this great venue was to play the piano for another wedding, but this time I was going to be joined by vocalist David Edwards. He sings all the old jazz standards as sung by the likes of Tony Bennet, Nat King Cole, as well as songs made famous by The Rat Pack. After returning from my walk David arrived and he was pleased to see that I had set everything up. He often uses his own equipment, but on this occasion we had arranged that he should use mine.
After a short wait everyone started to enter the room where the wedding breakfast was going to take place, and we immediately started performing. We had been hired to entertain the guests through the meal and both Sarah and Paul (bride and groom) were fans of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin’s music. At first we kept the volume fairy low, but our audience seemed to like the music and started to join in singing some of the songs. Everyone seemed very appreciative and the afternoon went by very quickly.
I always enjoy working with David and this was no exception. Playing the piano for this particular wedding was a really great way to spend an afternoon. Please make sure that you visit David’s website at https://www.loungejazz.co.uk/.
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.
It was around 10am when I drove slowly into the car park at Mill Ride Golf and Country Club. I was really early, but I’d much rather have time on my hands than be late. The event that I was playing the piano for was a meeting of Ascot Round Table and they wanted music through lunch followed by a Cockney singalong. Richard Audsley met me on arrival and he was pleased to see me so early. He was organising the event and my arrival was one less worry for him.
I played loads of jazz standards, as well as some more modern songs and I even played some classical piano pieces. I then changed my clothes and dressed in fully cockney attire (Bowler hat, waistcoat, Grandad shirt, pocket watch etc.) I then handed out the song sheets and played all the old London favourites including Lambeth walk, Daisy, Knees Up Mother Brown, Don’t Dilly Dally on the Way and quite a number of others. Everyone sang with great gusto and I really felt that everyone was enjoying themselves. Let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy a good old sing song to a pianist playing that old honky-tonk piano.
At the end of the session I packed up my gear and song sheets as quickly as I could as I had to get to Eltham for a 90th birthday party. Please see my other blog HERE
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.
Last night’s gig was really local to me and was with David Edwards, who I always enjoy working with. David sings all the well known jazz standards as well as songs made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet and Nat King Cole.
The event was a new members evening at Charthm Park Golf and Country Club. I’ve played the piano for quite a few of these events in the past, but this one was exceptionally quiet. The small audience were very appreciative and applauded every song. David was in good voice and we had a good time immersing ourselves in the music that we both enjoy.
Here are the contact details of Chrtham Park:
Adrdress: Chartham Park, Felcourt Road, Felcourt, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19 2JT
Telephone: 01342 870 340