8 November 2018

It was a hugely anticipated pleasure to welcome the famous virtuoso pianist and improviser, Harry the Piano, to Abingdon School.

This event came about as a result of our Headmaster, Mike Windsor, winning a music quiz at the annual Headmasters’ Conference (HMC) in Belfast, just over a year ago. The prize was offered by Coach House Pianos in Swansea and the idea was that Harry would run a workshop for young improvisers in the afternoon and then perform for pupils and their parents in the evening.

Harry’s frequent appearances in the media and in venues all over the world have become well-known and he’s often to be heard on the radio and on TV, responding to requests to improvise or extemporise on given melodies or to play in the style of different composers, incorporating many different elements.

Several local schools were invited to join us at the afternoon workshop and the Charles Maude Room was full of young musicians and their teachers, mostly from Abingdon and St Helen’s schools.

At the workshop Harry introduced some of the ideas he wanted to explore with willing participants, first of all explaining the structure of the 12 Bar Blues sequence and encouraging pianists, one by one, to come up and improvise progressively on one, two and three notes – and then more. Our pianists included Bentley, Caitlin, Daniel, Cameron and Molly.    

Moving on, Harry explored the ideas of how to improvise over chords II, V and I and introduced the ideas of different modes, exploring the differences between them and how they might be used to improvise melodically over these chords.

In the evening Harry entertained a large audience with his improvisations in many styles, especially those of Gershwin and Cole Porter – and many others. Again, we heard our young pupils performing some Blues – Lawrence, Cameron, Nick and David, together with Head of Piano, Lynette Stulting and Headmaster, Mike Windsor, on bass. We were happily entertained with stories and anecdotes from Harry’s illustrious career as a performer, and finally we witnessed Harry’s phenomenal ability to perform a medley of audience requests of many tunes played in hugely varied styles.

All in all, it was a phenomenally inspiring evening, much enjoyed by all those present. Our thanks to all the performers for a wonderful evening of music making.

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