Tuesday recitals at St Mary’s Perivale – progress report

In a previous blog, written in June, I explained the rationale for establishing a new weekly series of piano recitals for outstanding pianists at St Mary’s Perivale.  In brief, there are so many superb artists seeking concerts around London, yet there are very few venues which have a good piano, an interested audience, a suitable small hall and the ability (or desire) to pay their musicians.    To provide more performing opportunities, we started the Tuesday afternoon recital series in July, and since then we have had 18 recitals, with 17 more planned before the end of April 2017.  Including other concerts on Sundays and Wednesdays, a total of 46 pianists have given, or will give, recitals at St Mary’s Perivale between July 2016 and April 2017.  The full list is included at the end of this blog, and all the recital programmes are published on our website,either in our archive section or in our forthcoming concerts.

The series has been a resounding success.  We were unsure whether we would attract an audience to St Mary’s Perivale at 2 pm on Tuesday afternoons, but the average attendance has been over 40, and has held up well in recent weeks despite the adverse weather.   We have attracted an impressive roster of pianists, and all the recitals have been excellent.   It is still impossible to provide a platform for all the pianists who wish to perform, and I currently have a ‘waiting list’ of about 25 more pianists.   We initially planned to pay our Tuesday pianists a fixed sum of £100, but we were able to increase this to £200 following a generous anonymous donation, in sharp contrast to those central London churches and well-known private recital venues which give no payment whatsoever.  The concerts are ‘free with retiring collection’, and the latter have kept pace with the fees paid to the pianists, so we are in surplus from these concerts.

A few general points are worthy of mention.  Firstly, the format of a short recital, lasting a maximum of 60 minutes including an encore, with no interval, works very well.    I think many concerts, with about 90 minutes music in the traditional two-half format, are too long.   The shorter length corresponds with most people’s attention span, and enables them to return home after 3 pm, before the rush hour. Secondly, holding concerts on a weekday afternoon has also proved very successful. Retired people like a specific focus to give structure to their day, and afternoon concerts, travelling in daylight, with relatively little traffic, are inherently more attractive than evening concerts, driving in the dark with rush-hour congestion.   This obviously excludes attendance by people in work, but that also applies to most other concerts as well.  People with busy jobs and families can rarely afford the time for concerts – but that will be the subject of a further blog.   Thirdly, the sustained audience size, over a series of 17 weekly concerts, shows that they have not become bored with repeated piano recitals.   This reflects the high calibre of our pianists, but we are also careful to ensure that the repertoire is sufficiently accessible to a general audience – ie not exclusively 20th century – and that musicians introduce their pieces.  It is important to remember that even mainstream works such as the Liszt sonata or the Schumann Fantasy, are a tough ‘listen’ for a general audience, and a brief explanation by the pianist can be enormously helpful.

All our concerts are recorded in high-quality video and sound, using our in-built recording system.   This was upgraded from Standard to High Definition cameras in August 2016, and the quality of our recordings since then has been stunning.   There must be few other venues which provide a free broadcast-quality recording for their musicians.  We are very fortunate in having the help and expertise of several former BBC employees who have developed this video recording system. This will also be the subject of a further blog.

Our publicity has been transformed in recent months by the liberal use of Facebook, with excellent photographs taken of most concerts by Roger Nellist and uploaded to our page, and to a lesser extent by the use of Twitter.   St Mary’s Perivale is one of the most visually attractive venues in London, and the many concert photographs are helping to spread that message.  This has certainly helped to raise our profile among musicians, although it remains to be seen whether it will increase our audience size, since few of our audience use social media.

So we seem to have developed a successful formula of short piano recitals, on a weekday afternoon, providing valuable performing opportunities to outstanding pianists, with a reasonable payment and a free high-quality recording, on a good piano in an idyllic setting, and giving much enjoyment to a keen loyal audience.  We hope to continue them indefinitely, and thus help to support all the wonderful pianists living in and around London.

Appendix :
Here is the list of the 35 pianists who have played, or will play in the Tuesday recitals between July 2016 and April 2017.Dinara Klinton, Tamila Salimdjanova, Ashley Fripp, Mark Viner, Kausikan Rajeshkumar, Mei Yi Foo, Ben Schoeman, John Granger Fisher, Mihai Ritivoiu, Florian Mitra, Mengyang Pan, Alexander Ullman, Konstantin Lapshin, Ilya Kondratiev, Artur Haftman, Luka Okros, Pablo Rossi, Richard Uttley, Jianing Kong, Daniel Lebhardt, Marcos Madrigal, Emmanuel Despax, Costanza  Principe, Lara Melda, Yuanfan Yang, Masa Tayama, Iyad Sughayer, Aristo Sham, Alim Beisembayev, Victor Maslov, Vitaly Pisarenko, Julian Trevelyan, Caterina Grewe, Tomasso Carlini.
And here are 11 further pianists who have given or will give recitals at our Sunday or Wednesday concerts in the same time period : Alexander Soares, Charles Economou, Andrew Brownell, Martin Cousin, Viv McLean, Jayson Gillham, Mishka Rushdie Momen, Dario Llanos Javierre, Michal Szymanowksi, Andrew Yiangou, Anna Tsybuleva,
An older list of 318 pianists who have played in my Ealing concerts over the past decade is available here .




Author: hmather@btopenworld.com

Organizer of classical concerts at St Mary’s Perivale and St Barnabas Ealing. Pianist, organist and retired physician

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