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’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