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Birmingham Piano All-Nighter

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
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Do You Have The Stamina For A 12 Hour Musical Extravaganza
If you love piano then you will definitely love this. But be warned - you will certainly need plenty of stamina to get through the incredible treat that is in store in Birmingham for fans of this particular musical instrument. A piano all-nighter is to take place at Birmingham Town Hall from 7.30pm on Friday 3 March all the way through to 7.30am the following morning, Saturday 4 March. The 12-hour, through-the-night musicfest has been inspired by the all-night jazz sessions that used to take place at the Town Hall during the 1950s and 1960s.

Alistair McGowan
Alistair McGowan is one of the guest stars at the Piano All-Nighter

And to ensure there will be no shortage of fans willing to give up their beauty sleep on the night, the amazing concert is to feature more than 20 pianists as well as guest artists including impressionist Alistair McGowan, celebrated actor Simon Callow, and 'The Olympianist' Anthony Hewitt, who famously cycled from Lands End to John O'Groats in 2012 giving piano recitals along the way. On top of that line-up we are also promised a mystery guest of 'international stature'. And if that is not enough to whet the musical appetite then ticket prices start from just £1.

The evening will begin with the award-winning Hungarian pianist Gergely Bogányi playing the complete Chopin Nocturnes. Other highlights are certain to include Beethoven's three final piano sonatas to be performed by the 'mystery guest', Messiaen's The Garden Warbler from Peter Donohoe, and music by John Ireland from Mark Bebbington. Dr Anna Scott will also take a look at 'Brahms as he might have heard it', while there will be a chance to hear a historic musical instrument. In addition, prize-winning pianists and tutors from Birmingham Conservatoire's own ranks will be showcased throughout the night.

Anthony Hewitt
The Olympianist Anthony Hewitt will be cycling through the night to get to Birmingham

The Piano All-Nighter has been put together for one night only by Birmingham Conservatoire. Alistair McGowan, who is an amateur pianist as well as a top impressionist, will play music by Satie, Grieg and John Field. He says: "Satie has been a passion of mine since I found out about his crazy lifestyle. His spare piano music is generally quite attainable for keen amateurs like me. It has been incredibly influential on modern composers. He really was a man ahead of his time. Grieg was one of the first composers I knew about as a child. My father loved his Peer Gynt Suite. My mother played the Nocturne that I shall attempt. As with Satie, I have written a Radio 4 play about John Field who was the most famous and respected pianist of his day and his Nocturnes paved the way for Chopin. His second Nocturne, which I shall attempt to play in Birmingham, is my favourite of the 17 or so that he wrote. It is, however, full of technical challenges for someone of my level! It could be an interesting morning for us all!"

Peter Donohoe
Peter Donohoe is among more than 20 pianists performing during the concert

The Olympianist, Anthony Hewitt, will arrive at Birmingham Town Hall in style, having cycled through the night from his London home to arrive at dawn. His progress will be screened live to the Town Hall's foyer. As he says: "Playing Ravel's wonderfully descriptive Gaspard de la nuit poses pianistic challenges at the best of times, let alone at 7am after having cycled 125 miles through the winter night!! But I think I can do it, with the right 'cyclogical' approach!" In the early hours, stage and screen star Simon Callow will perform Tennyson's epic narrative poem Enoch Arden, in a setting for narrator and piano by Richard Strauss, with pianist John Thwaites. Callow's lifelong passion for classical music has included producing opera and performing with orchestras around the world and makes him the perfect casting in a rare performance of this monumental work.

Simon Callow
Actor Simon Callow will be appearing in the early hours

Mr Thwaites, who is Head of Keyboard Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire, says: "The inspiration for an All-Nighter comes from the Swinging Sixties, when Birmingham Town Hall regularly hosted All-Night Jazz Festival gigs, pictures of which still adorn the lower bar. These sessions were filled with young people and students and, to encourage them, tickets for our All-Nighter start at just £1. "I wanted to put together something that was shocking in its audacity, youthful in its exuberance and, in its totality, offering the finest night of piano playing anywhere on the planet this year!"

The Piano All-Nighter is at Town Hall Birmingham on Friday 3 March, 7.30pm until Saturday 4 March, 7.30am. For further information and details of how to book, visit online.
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Why? So Many Pianists In One Place
When: 3-4 March 2017
Phone: 0121 331 5909
Where: Birmingham Town Hall, Victoria Square, Birmingham B3 3DQ
Cost: Tickets from £1
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