This my solo piano version of ‘Pure Imagination’ which is one of my favourite. The slide show consists of various images of venues where I’ve performed as a jazz pianist. ‘Pure Imagination’ is from ‘Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory’ and I first heard it on a TV advert. The original recording is sung by Gene Wilder. The music to ‘Pure Imagination’ was composed by Leslie Bricusse with lyrics by Anthony Newley.
It was quite cold as I waited for the 5:55am London train. I had my digital piano strapped to a foldaway sack trolley and I had a small amplifier and leads in a small backpack. I was on my way to a wedding at Asia House, Cavendish Street and the ceremony started at 10:30am. I didn’t want to drive up and have all the worry about parking so I opted for the train. I set off at this ridiculous time because getting on to a busy train during the rush hour with a piano on a sack trolley and a back pack is no joke. Setting off at this time meant that The train wouldn’t be too busy.
I arrived in London Victoria at 6:45am which meant that I had a lot of time to kill, so I bought a cooked breakfast at a nearby cafe. After that I set off on my long walk to Cavendish Street which was more like an obstacle course as I weaved my sack trolley around oncoming pedestrians. It was quite a walk, but I found that Asia House was open when I got there. This meant that I could leave my equipment there while I went for another walk to kill even more time.
Eventualy I arrived back at Asia House around 9:45am and I set up my digital piano in the ceremony room. On this occasion I was going to be accompanied by Louis Thomas who is an exceptional bass player and a great guy too. He arrived in plenty of time and we had a ball playing for the ceremony and the drinks reception. Biljana (the bride) was really a really nice person and she had heard me perform with a bass player at an event a few years ago. She had remembered me from that occasion and booked me with a bass player for her own wedding. The groom was a also really nice and they both looked so happy on their special day. If everyone is happy then I’m happy. I’ve got to admit that I had a great time playing all the great jazz standards with Louis. Thanks very much Louis and to everyone at the wedding for making my day special too.
Yesterday I played the piano for a wedding at the Tythe Barn at Priston Mill. This was my second visit to this wonderful venue and I was really looking forward to it. I was only required to play for the ceremony and the reception drinks. This meant that I had an early finish (4:30pm) and I could have a look around nearby Bath. I often take my own grand piano shell to weddings, but on this occasion the brides uncle let me use his grand piano shell which can be seen in the photograph below. This saved me quite a lot of setting up time and made the whole day a lot easier for me.
For the ceremony the bride chose the following music:
Gathering of the Congregation – “Nuvole Bianche” by Ludovico Einaud and “I See Fire” (The Hobbit) by Ed Sheeran
Processional – “Comptine D’un Autre Été” by Yann Tiersen
Signing of the Register – “I Giorni” Ludovico Einaudi
Recession – “Paradise” by Coldplay
The ceremony went really well and I really enjoyed playing quite a lot of music that was new to me. I am always willing to learn any requests which this is how my repertoire has expanded over thee years. After the ceremony I played a mixture of music for the drinks reception, but wedding guests seemed to like jazz and swing.
The happy couple couple seemed to really enjoy themselves and I do hope that they had a wonderful day.
Contact Details of the Tythe Barn
The Tythe Barn
I can’t remember how many times I’ve played the piano at Orchardleigh court, but it’s been quite a few. The venue is just outside the small town of Frome which is a lovely little place and I often stay the night there if I am performing in the area.
On this occasion I was playing the piano for the wedding of Angus and Sarah and I was required to provide music for the ceremony, the drinks reception and the wedding breakfast. They have their own grand piano at Orchardleigh which is perfect for the ceremony. However, if music is needed for other parts of the day, a digital piano is needed. So I played their piano for the ceremony and Sarah’s music choices were as follows:
Gathering of the congregation: “Almost Like Being in Love” and “Summertime”
Processional or Entrance of the Bride: “The Way You Look Tonight”
Signing of the Register: “Canon in D” by Pachelbel
Recessional or Exit: “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
After the ceremony I had a free reign to play exactly what I wanted, but as always, I had quite a few requests from the guests. Everyone was really friendly which made my day really pleasant. I really enjoyed my day at Orchardleigh House and I that I am booked to play the piano there again sometime in the future.
I wish Angus and Sarah all the very best for the future and I hope that they had a wonderful day.
Contact details for Orchardleigh House
Somerset BA11 2PB
Come and see me play the piano at Smeetham Hall’s wedding open day on 8th October from 2pm – 6pm. I am going to be demonstrating my baby grand piano shell which really does look the part at any wedding.
You can enjoy a free glass of Prosecco on arrival and experience this beautiful venue set up for a wedding. You will also have the chance to meet Bridget to chat about your wedding thoughts and plans.
There will also be an opportunity to meet and chat to quite a few of the other venue’s recommended suppliers.
Yesterdays job was quite a lot different from the norm in that I could go by train, rather than drive. If I am playing the piano in London, as on this occasion, I usually opt for going by train if at all possible. I had tried to phone the groom previously to try and find out if the venue had a piano that I could use. I’d also left a message, but he hadn’t got back to me. So this meant that I had to take a digital piano with me on the train just in case it was needed. I do this by using a foldable sack trolley and placing the digital piano in a padded case and strapping it, together with a foldable keyboard stand, to the trolley. I have a small amplifier which is quite powerful (150 watt) which fits easily into a small rucksack. This rucksack easily holds this together with essential power supply units, cables, pedals and a small extension lead.
I managed to catch the 9:45am train from Lingfield and I eventually arrived at Lauderdale House in Waterlow Park, Highgate at 11:45am. On arrival the staff were surprised to see me arrive with a digital piano. There was a lovely Steinway grand piano In the room that I was going to be playing in and it was there for my use. I wasn’t going to be playing until 2:30pm, so I asked them if they could put my digital piano somewhere while I went into Highgate for something to eat. While I was in Highgate I just happened to have a chat with a lady who knew someone who had got married at Lauderdale House and she was telling me how expensive it is to hire as a venue. She also told me that they charge by the hour for the venue hire and then charge extra for nearly everything that you need including £5 for each chair that you use. If I had paid £5 for the use of a chair, I would want to take it home afterwards.
I returned at around 2:20pm and there were already a few people gathering in the ceremony room, so I started playing a few tunes. I played for around forty minutes and then the registrar announced the entrance of the bride. This was my cue to start playing “Little Dancer” by Elton John which had been requested by the groom. For the signing I played Elton John’s “Your Song” and “At Last” which were both my choice of music. Then for the recession I played “The Love Cats” by The Cure which is a piece that I have never been asked to play before, apparently it was a particular favourite of the bride’s. Everyone then left the ceremony and stood outside in the sunshine for the drinks reception. They kept the ceremony room doors open so that I could carry on playing and the music could be easily heard outside. I then played throughout the drinks reception until Holly (the bride), James (the groom) and all the guests went into the room where they were going to have their wedding breakfast .
It was a really lovely wedding and I really enjoyed playing the lovely Steinway grand piano.
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
I woke up at 5:30am and it took a while for me to come to my senses. I very slowly realised that I had work to do and I had to drive around 190 miles to Devon. There was no time for dosing, so I quickly got ready and I was on the road just after 6am. The journey down to Devon via the A303 can be tedious if you set off too late, as experience has taught me. The journey down there was really good, but the M25 was surprisingly busy to say that it was so early.
I eventually arrive in Kenton and their was a car park only a few yards away from All Saints Church. This magnificent church was where I was going to be playing the piano. I walked into the church and saw the piano the I was going to be playing. It looked very old and it had a candle stick holders, which looked as though they had been used recently. The wax had dripped and stuck to the wood on the inside of the piano lid (see photograph above). I did have two digital pianos in the car, so if the piano was terrible I could easily provide an alternative. The piano didn’t look good, but when I tried it I was pleasantly surprised. It was a really nice instrument, and all of a sudden I was feeling a lot more optimistic about playing for this wedding. With an inner feeling of peace and contentment I went back to the car and had a sleep.
After having a sleep and a walk round Kenton I came back to the church and met Mark the parish priest who was really friendly and amiable. I checked everything through with him so that we both knew that we were on the same page with all the arrangements. I was only required to play for the gathering of the congregation and the entrance of the bride. The resident organist was going to play the hymns and the music for the recession, while the music for the signing of the register was going to be provided by a flautist. The signing of the register can sometimes last quite a while. With this in mind, Faye had asked me to play Debussy’s “Clair De Lune” If there was time after the flute solo. Faye chose the following music for me to play:
Gathering of the Congregation
– Elgar ‘Salut D’Amour
– Strauss ‘Voices of Spring’
– Chopin ‘Waltz in Ab major Opus 69 No 1’
– Bach ‘Air on a G String’
– Brahms ‘Waltz in Ab major’
– Debussy ‘Arabesque No. 1’
Signing of the Register – depending on time
– Debussy ‘Clair de Lune’
I played all Faye’s music choices for the Gathering of the Congregation, but there was still more time to be fill so I played “Evening Primrose” and “Autumn Crocus” by Billy Mayerl. The rest of the ceremony went really well and the flautist was a fantastic musician. After the organist had played the last notes of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” and all the congregation had gone, I went up to the organist and had a chat. Stanley was his name and he was a really nice bloke who was an absolute music fanatic.
I really enjoyed playing the piano for this wedding, and being able to play some classical music made the experience especially enjoyable for me. All that there was to do now was to set off home. Do you remember how I managed to avoid all the traffic on my way down? Well the journey home was terrible, especially on the A303 where there was a really long traffic jam. There were times when I just didn’t move at all, and drivers were getting out of there cars to try and see what the problem was. During this time I had a score of a Chopin Waltz next to me, which I studied to pass the time. I eventually arrived home, but it had been a boring journey home.
I was on the road at 7am and was on my way to Calf Heath, which is a tiny village not far from Wolverhampton. I was playing the piano for a wedding and I was due to start playing at 4:00pm. So I was ridiculously early, even by my standards. On Saturdays I like to do most of my driving before 9am so that I avoid all the heavy traffic. I would much rather arrive early than add an extra hour to my jouney time because of congestion.
I arrived at the village hall at around 10am and there were people already there decorating the tables. I spoke to the person in charge and she guided me to suitable place for me to set up. I had quite a lot of setting up to do, as they wanted a cockney singalong after the wedding breakfast. So I needed a PA system, mixer, microphones, microphone stands and my digital piano of course. I also needed all sorts of other extras such as song sheets and my Cockney outfit comprising of a Bowler hat, waistcoat, grandad shirt, pocket watch, neckerchief and boots. After setting up I drove to nearby Brewood and whiled away a few hours there.
On my return to the hall the staff were ready and waiting for the guests to arrive. I quickly changed into my Cockney outfit and after a short wait the guests started to arrive. This was my cue to start playing some background music for the drinks reception. The plan was for me to play for this part of the day, followed by the wedding breakfast and then rounding everything off with a good old Cockney singalong.
The afternoon seemed to fly by and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. Laura and Ashley (the bride and groom) looked to be having a wonderful time as were all their guests. The time had come for the singalong and the song sheets had already been handed out by the best man and the ushers. I gave some instructions to the guests about introductions and song order and sat down to play. I started a rousing introduction to “Lambeth Walk” and ‘hey presto’, everyone joined in. They all sang with confidence, and to say that most of them came from the midlands, they sang with a lot of Cockney spirit. By the time I had finished the last song on the song sheet, the DJ for the evening was already starting to set up behind me. That was me done. I packed up as quickly as I could and I set off on my long journey home.
It had been a lovely wedding and everyone had been really friendly which certainly makes things more enjoyable for me. It was also a bonus that the Cockney singalong went so well, although I couldn’t persuade any of the guests to come forward and sing with one of my microphones.
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 http://www.loungejazz.co.uk/.