More than 50 talented local pianists of all ages seized the chance last weekend to play a beautiful concert-standard grand piano in the middle of the Priory Meadow Shopping Centre.
The youngest to play was a little girl who was just three, the oldest was well into his seventies. They all delighted the audience who seemed to relish whatever type of music was being played, from show tunes to a Haydn sonata.
Some had travelled quite a distance to take their place at the elegant piano, which was generously provided by Sussex Pianos. 12-year-old Sam Mileberg, for instance, came all the way from Shoreham with his family to play for the third year in a row.
One of the highlights of this ever-popular event on Sunday was a six-hander session played by Arran Keith, Molly Townson and Andrea Wilkie.
The event was a curtain raiser for the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition and the Hastings Music Festival, which both started at the White Rock Theatre on Thursday.
Brilliant young pianists from all over the world had been arriving in Hastings since Tuesday to compete in the concerto competition. In Stage One, which continues until the evening of Saturday February 27, they play excerpts from the concerto they have chosen from the competition’s list.
Up to 24 contestants, twice as many as last year, will then go forward to Stage Two on Monday February 29 and Tuesday March 1, when they will play a movement from both a Beethoven and a Mozart concerto. Tickets for both stages are £5 per session or £12 for the whole day.
Once again this year children under 16 accompanied by a paying adult will be able to attend any of the Stage One and Two sessions for free. Schools are also being invited to send groups to the first two stages free of charge. To book, schools should apply to Hannah Deeble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A maximum of 12 contestants will go through to the semi-final on Wednesday March 2. They will all play music of their own choice except that this year, for the first time, they will also play a short piece specially composed for the competition by distinguished British composer Paul Patterson
Patterson has a strong connection with Hastings. After he graduated from the Royal Academy of Music he taught in the town for ten years. He has called his piece, which is just under four minutes long, The Hastings Toccata. The semi final will take place over two sessions, one in the afternoon at 1pm and one in the evening at 5pm. Tickets are £7.50 for each session.
Six semi-finalists, twice as many as in previous years, will go through to the final. The other semi-finalists will be given the chance to attend a special Masterclass given by distinguished members of the international jury on Thursday March 3 in the Recital Room at Fairlight Hall. Tickets are £20 including wine and canapés.
The grand final itself will then take place over two evenings on Friday March 4 and Saturday March 5, when the six finalists – three each evening – will play the whole of their chosen concerto from Stage One with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.
The winner will receive a cheque for £10,000 and the opportunity to perform as a soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
All stages of the competition apart from the Masterclass are open to the public and will take place at the White Rock Theatre. Tickets are available on 01424 462288 or from www.whiterocktheatre.org.uk.
Tickets for the Masterclass can be obtained from www.hastingsconcertocompetition.co.uk or from Hastings Tourist Information Centre on 01424 451111.
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