On November 16th 2018, Millfield School welcomed a musician who can only be described as a master of his craft to perform in the glorious surroundings of the Johnson Hall. Harry the Piano, a true virtuoso and sublimely-relaxed improviser, treated our students to a crash-course workshop in improvisation before wowing a sold-out Johnson Hall audience with performances that will live long in the memories of all who attended.
During the afternoon workshop, several of our piano students from nearly every age-group were given the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of Harry’s immense skill in sophisticated improvisation in every musical style imaginable – only to then be offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform alongside Harry in the evening’s concert!
The concert began with a medley of well-known tunes, described by Harry as ‘…whatever comes into my head…’. Everything from Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor– as made immortally famous by Morecambe & Wise, to America from Leonard Bernstein’s West-Side Story. The climax of the first half left us with an inspiring improvisation on one of Harry’s all-time favourites, Somewhere over the Rainbow, performed in a beautifully sensitive manner that only he could do.
The second half commenced after a short interval during which the crowd was abuzz with anticipation for what delights would come next, and it did not disappoint. It was now the turn of Millfield’s own Robert Mulchrone, Yukha Machino, Theo Hirt-Madden, Harvey Morland and Lily Della Valle to perform various, excellently crafted blues-style solos over the top of Harry’s striding bassline and crunchy chords – learnt only that very afternoon! After this inspiring collaboration between teacher and students, Harry provided insight into how his mind works when improvising, explaining to the audience several of the techniques he employed to disguise the tunes and create new and exciting takes on existing works. As if this show of creative excellence was not enough, Harry brought the performance to a close by improvising tunes randomly suggested by audience members in as many different styles as the audience could imagine – it truly was another dimension of creative thought; he even played a Mozart Sonata backwards!
All who attended this event would agree, Harry the Piano is not to be missed, should you ever have the opportunity to watch him perform.