playing keyboards and singing
I studied piano from aged 8 to 15, with a year of violin, and a year of church organ. I was lead soprano in the school choir until my voice broke, and sang the Pie Jesu in a school performance of Faure’s “Requiem“.
I took up the piano again in February 1989, after a ten year gap, teaching myself to play again by daily practice, on an old joanna belonging to Issi von Trap kept in the Assembly Rooms, Glastonbury. With the Abbey Players, in May 1989, I accompanied the action live, upon the piano, throughout, save for a cameo role as an Alchemist, in Rollo Maughling’s “Bluebeard“, which was produced by Gothic Relief, and performed at the Assembly Rooms.
By June, with the second Gothic Relief show, I was writing songs to lyrics in the 1820s scripts which we were performing, and had taken on the musical direction of the company, in 1990 publishing a cassette-album of songs from the shows.
During that Summer I began to write love songs, too. In Autumn 1990 I formed a band with Charlie Miller and Tim Hall called “The Diggers“, playing Tim’s classic old Electric Piano. Oshia Drury and Claire Jones joined us on doo-wop and we began to play gigs in November 1990, and continued playing together for over a year.
Avalonian Free State Choir
During my years in Glastonbury, I also frequently sang in the Avalonian Free State Choir, providing Bass and (almost) Basso Profundo for a range of traditional English songs (with new lyrics) and for some Georgian and Bulgarian songs which we taught by a visiting Georgian choir.
In January 1991, I took on the Musical Direction of Glastonbury Town Players’ pantomime “Alice” providing songs and incidental music composed and performed by myself with a small pit-band.
Music from the Fruitbowl
At Dartington College of Arts, I joined, some weeks after it’s formation, “Music from the Fruitbowl“, an exciting musical experiment including Chris Dangerfield on vocals, Jim Davison on bass guitar, Matt Jones on lead guitar, Tim Morgan on clarinet, Luke Spencer on drums, and Paul Mumford on second lead guitar. The seven-piece played an eclectic mix vaguely dubbed ‘psychedelic funk’, all tracks co-composed by the band. We were very successful on the local gig-circuit, and toured the South West with RDF, the dub band, as their support. We cut a demo tape of three tracks at Redrug Studios, Exeter Arts Centre, produced by Dean Frederick, and, like so many college bands, foundered in the final year. I bought and played a Roland D5, programming sounds on it that made it almost unrecognisable as a Roland D5.
After Music from the Fruitbowl, I again let my keyboard playing lapse. I did, however, acquire a Hammond Organ in early 2001 – during the Maha Kumba Mela – and shortly thereafter a baby grand piano arrived in the house I was renting. I soon remembered the songs I used to play in the early 90s, and gladly started playing them again. On moving to a new house, there was nothing for it but to buy a small upright, a John Broadwood, which is now the pride of my living room. I hope to learn a few blues-jazz standards when I get the chance…
Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus
Years later, after moving to Manchester in 1998, I joined, in October 2003, the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus. I quickly became Bass Rep on the committee, and helped to lead the Choir from the 8 members it had when I joined it to one of the best examples of community action in Manchester, over a 100 strong. Perhaps inevitably, I was its first webmaster, running the website until 2007, and went to Montreal with the Choir in the summer of 2006 where we gained a Bronze in the global gay choir competition. My membership lapsed in 2008 due to work commitments, though I rejoined again briefly in 2011 to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the choir’s founding. I still attend the odd performance, too!