My guest feature this week is rather different than usual, so much so, I decided to put it out on an alternate day.
Instead of looking at books, Andrew Quartermain talks about his new venture, Piano Sanctuary. Piano Sanctuary holds a very special place in my heart as I have enjoyed many piano retreats in Leiston over the years, and can’t wait to get back there. Anyway, without further ado, let’s go over to Andrew.
Piano Sanctuary was one of those business and artistic ideas which had been drifting around the mind like an unwritten Impromptu for some time. I came up with the idea of a “Sanctuary” in 2018 but the threads which pulled together to produce what Piano Sanctuary ended up being, started way back in 2005 when, together with personal trainer Lesley Hepher, I started what was for many years called “Adult Piano” – weekend piano courses for adult learners at the stunning Leiston Abbey in Suffolk, and within the umbrella of Pro Corda, the national arts education charity I run.
I’m sure so many readers of this can then relate to what came next. Lockdown happened and a catalyst moment came. This was the time to bring a pending idea forward – however rough around the edges the crafting of its planning stages may be – and swing it into action “warts ‘n all”!
Piano Sanctuary was always intentioned as a social forum, a coming together of lovers of piano music, of creatives, of people who just love having music in their lives. Strangely, this sudden entrance into a period of time where by default people were being driven apart seemed the perfect moment for a sanctuary – but not quite as I’d originally planned it!
And so it was that, with a portable “zoom handy-recorder” battery operated microphone in one hand and in the other, a pile of piano music raided from a hasty blitz on my music room at my little farmhouse in mid Suffolk, I marched into the 14th century Guesten Hall at Leiston Abbey one Thursday evening in late March. I chose 3 pieces from the pile, put up the lid of the Yamaha concert grand we have in the beautifully acoustic of the Guesten Hall, and started playing.
Actually to be more precise, I started talking…..Then playing!
What came out was a sort of homemade cross between BBC Radio 3’s “In tune” programme and “Smooth Classics at 7” on Classic FM. I’ve always had a fascination with radio since spending a year in radio studios as a boy during my brief foray into singing as Choirboy of the year. I did a bit of TV that year too, but I found radio so much more fun. Behind that microphone and without vision, stories can be properly told, communications can be properly brought to life, images imagined, and scenes set.
And so Piano Sanctuary evolved as a “radio show” version of what a lot of musicians started to do during lockdown. The concerts from the living rooms.
The live streams.
By Episode 2 I had my first guest plugged in by Skype. The “lifestyle” concept of how I’d imagined Piano Sanctuary taking shape back in 2018 (and inspired from all the incredible personalities who had attended “Adult Piano” weekends over the years, which was also all about lifestyle alongside piano with personal training sessions taking equal bill to the piano sessions) started to become central to Piano Sanctuary – the radio show. By show 4, a celebrity Italian chef had joined the guest line up which included wine experts, opera singers and travel specialists in equal measure to concert pianists.
At the time of writing Piano Sanctuary is about to hit Episode 20. This will be a special episode on a number of fronts as for the big 20 I will be doing a 24 hour Piano Sanctuary Pianothon to raise funds for another area of Pro Corda’s work as a charity which is our extensive music provision for young people with disabilities. Many of these children and young adults are still cut off and having to shield and we’ve had to increase resources vastly to serve them digitally. More information about this crowdfunding campaign can be found on this link.
Thank you Andrew for such an informative post. Personally I can’t wait to get back to Suffolk and enjoy one of the lovely piano retreats. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with listening to ‘Live at the Abbey’ online – Piano Sanctuary at Soundcloud.com