5 Reasons why you should go to Royal Albert Hall’s Classical Coffee Mornings

Royal Albert Hall’s Classical Coffee Mornings in the Elgar Room, a Sunday music event I’ve been following for a while now, began the year 2017 on a fabulous high note with a performance by Pierre Frapier and Jennifer Hughes from the Royal College of Music.

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I always enjoy this series and come out of it invigorated but this last experience was so good, I had to write up this piece and spread the word about it. So here goes… 5 Reasons why you should go to Classical Coffee Mornings:

  1. Classical can be casual

Yes, it’s great to go to fancy piano recitals at Wigmore Hall and dress up every now and then. And the musicians there of course deserve that respect of not showing up in torn up jeans. But classical music can also be leisurely enjoyed in sneakers with a cup of coffee and a pastry. Personally, I also occasionally feel like aside from the actual music, there’s some “see and be seen” going on at larger concerts, which takes away the focus from the music. That’s definitely not the case at Classical Coffee Mornings, where you just grab the best table available and sometimes share one with others who are all there to enjoy an hour of music on a Sunday morning.

  1. Get a glimpse of the future of classical music

We all know who the living greats are. Even if we may not necessarily be able to pick them out ourselves, the fact that they are at the Barbican, the Royal Albert Hall or other great venues with critics and a lifetime of success that confirms their greatness, we know what we’re getting. Some of them can be very young too and some performers at this series have also played in those halls. But at this concert series, you’re always presented with young musicians from the Royal College of Music. No beginners of their craft with impressive resumes for sure but certainly still at the beginning of what is hopefully a very long career. You can become one of their earliest fans and look forward to follow their growth. Isn’t that fantastic?

  1. It’s just an hour (and £12.50)!

Going to an evening concert always makes it the foimg_0813cal point of the day. You don’t just pop by, this is what you’re going for. While I do enjoy a full concert that goes on until half past nine, it does also require from the audience a whole lot of energy and focus. After twelve hour days at work that start at 7am, I’m not always in the mood for that and can’t handle it too often. An hour on a Sunday morning though? Easy enough. Also, if you have a loved one or friend who might not be too familiar with or finds classical music too boring or stiff (I’m not one of them! But let’s be honest, enough people feel that way), they might be put off by the idea of a concert. Why not gently introduce them to this beautiful world with a shorter performance? You can even tell them about Elton John’s Big Red and lure them in with that pop connection!

  1. Challenge and inspire yourself with diverse repertoire

I must confess that I’m not the most educated classical musician, so one of my New Year’s resolutions was that I wanted to expose myself to more diverse music and push myself to listen to more and new music I don’t know. At the Classical Coffee Morning series, there’s so much diveimg_0749rsity. One day I heard Natsumi Ikenaga perform well-known pieces such as Bach’s Partita No. 2 and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. But on my favourite Sunday so far, I had the pleasure to experience an American themed piano and violin performance with compositions by Dvorak, Ravel, Provost and Frolov. If I had to summarise this repertoire, it’s the stuff dreams are made of. So much beauty I didn’t know! So, whether you’re a musician yourself or not, go and find fresh creative inspiration here and take home some of that youthful energy from these wonderful performers.

  1. Make it a day out in South Kensington

The Classical Coffee Morning could be your energising creative start to a day out in South Kensington. My last one was followed by a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970” (until Feb 26) which was fittingly an exhibition driven by music. There are so many other choices within walking distance such as the Science Museum’s new mathematics wing, the Winton Gallery or the Natural History Museum’s “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” (which I check out every year), there’s bound to be something for you. I completed my day with a lunch at Bumpkin. There are plenty of other delicious options to pick from to complement your day, where you can sit down, discuss and digest your morning experience alongside good food. And while in the winter months, this might not be recommendable, you can always walk it all off with a stroll through Hyde Park. There you go! Your full Sunday planned!

So, here are my 5 reasons to check out this music series! Three more events scheduled until April. I hope to see you there and perhaps even share a table with you soon!

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My Piano Repertoire Roadmap Fall 2016

After a few weeks of having a proper break from the piano (travelling, working on/drowning in my novel draft and very unlike me, just switching off 😮), I’m back with my love and have to say sometimes stepping away really does help to refocus 🎹.

I’ve spent some time today on setting out my repertoire roadmap ahead. I don’t know how other people go about these things but I like to have variation in my pieces and always try to mix it up with different targets in mind. Since an increasing number of people around me ask me what I’m playing at the moment (out of genuine interest rather than because they ran out of conversation I hope… 🤔), here’s what I’m working on right now:

The Challenge Piece: Ravel ‘Sonatine 1st Movement Modéré’

The first of the three Sonatines was completed in 1903 followed by the two others two years later. Personally, I only really like 1 and 3 and my attention span is way too short to enjoy these three in one go but… All three together are part of the DipABRSM repertoire list and the first pieces I’m preparing for that exam (and possibly the ARSM before that), so those are going to be my constant companion ahead. Hence, this is my challenge piece at the moment; something to step up to and to push my boundaries.

The Diversity Piece: Brahms ‘Hungarian Dance No. 5’ for four hands

The diversity piece is my space to try something different, be it a genre or style I haven’t tried before, which can still be technically demanding but perhaps not a piece that fits the bill of say an DipABRSM repertoire piece. This piece right now is a pet project I’m working on with my mum. Within the memories of total agony and tears learning the piano under a hugely talented and completely ruthless unforgiving very Asian mother (fortunately she despaired quickly enough), playing Diabelli’s Jugendfreuden together was a rare ray of light in the darkness. Attempting this four hands is rather exciting since we haven’t done anything like it in over twenty years and I only play solo.

The Easy Fun One: Arlen ‘Over the Rainbow’

Everyone knows ‘Over the Rainbow’. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s version is not only the closing song to one of my fav romcoms (generally not a fan of them and especially not of Adam Sandler) but also holds a special place in my heart from an unforgettable holiday in Hawaii. This is an ABRSM grade 6 piece and an absolutely beautiful modern option to play. Perfect for some easy fun that still adds lots of joy and is pleasing to everyone around.

The Technical Piece: Chopin ‘Etude Op. 25 No. 2’

I rather enjoy doing an etude on the side and keep that in mind whenever I plan out my repertoire (although admittedly it’s the first component that drops off from my agenda when I don’t have enough time…) but so far had shunned Chopin preferring less popular selections like Moszkowski. This is my first attempt at a Chopin Etude… I know people can have mixed feelings about etudes but I have plenty on my list that I look forward to tackling alongside my other pieces.

Now that’s the roadmap… Let’s see how long it lasts 😝

So, that’s me: challenge, diversity, easy fun and technique pieces.

How do you choose your repertoire of simultaneous pieces? How much planning do you do ahead? Do you plan your repertoire around long-term goals? I’d love to hear how other pianists go about this!