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Piano Festival 2016 — inspiration and learning

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ABOVE: ELAINE CHIN PERFORMING IN THE STAFF RECITAL.

Once every two years the James Forbes Academy, always a euphonious place, quite literally hums with the sound of the piano.

The Scotch College Piano Festival was inaugurated in 2007. It highlights the piano for a week in July, giving our talented students opportunities to perform and to attend professional concerts. Each piano festival seems to have its own flavour, and the festival for 2016 was all about inspiration and learning.

It opened with a concerto concert. Former Scotch pupil and Juilliard (New York ) graduate Max Foster (’09) gave a stunning performance of Mozart’s D Minor Piano Concerto K466, playing with all the vigour and compelling virtuosity that Mozart himself reportedly displayed in his youth.

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INSET: FRONT ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: RICHARD LIU (YEAR 7), HANNAH SHIN, BRANDON CHEW. BACK ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: CLEMENS LESKE, REGINA THOMAE, WILMA SMITH AND TERESA LAVERS.

Music School colleague Lachlan Redd and I were soloists in the Concerto in E Major for two pianos by Felix Mendelssohn, a work of sparkling classical elegance. Pro Musica Orchestra gave splendid support under the flashing baton of John Ferguson, and both concertos were greeted with enthusiasm by a rapt audience.

There were many opportunities for education in the 2016 festival, with advice on how to approach a classical sonata expertly presented by Lily Shtoltsenberg, and ploys to engage younger students, suggested by Chiah Quah. Robert Chamberlain gave an inspirational master class, guest artist Clemens Leske gave a scintillating solo recital, and Gary Beadell, piano technician, explained the inner workings of the piano to a large audience of Junior School and Senior School boys.

There was one particularly memorable moment when Gary casually took the action out of the piano. As the complex mass of hammers and levers emerged from the huge black frame, the delighted exclamations that escaped from the boys might have heralded the landing of a spaceship.

There were numerous individual triumphs for Scotch pianists over the week. In the Student Spectacular, Austin Nguyen (Year 10) overcame his fear of playing from memory, giving a stunning performance of a Chopin sonata without a single lapse. Tristan Hocking-Brown (Year 10) took on the monumental challenge of a Chopin Ballade, while Tian Tian Lan (Year 11) gave a complete recital of works by Bach, Debussy and Chopin, demonstrating the consummate mastery of a professional pianist.

The Scotch College Piano Competition was another success. Hannah Shin from Melbourne Girls’ Grammar was the winner. With her flawless technique and unique style she is a star in the making. But there was still triumph for Scotch, with Richard Liu, only in Year 7 and another prodigious talent, tying with Brandon Chew (Caulfield Grammar School) for second place.

This festival also highlighted the Music department’s teamwork, with teachers cheerfully giving up their time to perform and run all the events. The staff recital was testimony to the talent in the piano department, with five contrasting performances that were all equally dazzling.

But perhaps most satisfying of all were the reactions from the uninitiated. Many Year 7 and 8 boys attended a lunchtime concert, as they were given a review assignment for classroom music.

One of them ended his review with these words: ‘I’m so glad I was made to go this to concert, as I actually enjoyed it. I had no idea there were so many boys who were good at piano at Scotch. There was a lot of talent, and it showed that playing a musical instrument can be very worthwhile. Stories, feelings and emotions can be expressed through the language of music.’

TERESA LAVERS – HEAD OF KEYBOARD STUDIES

Updated: 3 October 2016