Letter to " Music Teacher " February 2006

Point of Interest

I have come across a group that I think may interest Music Teacher
readers.

Manchester may bring to mind the Hallé, Chethams, or the RNCM, but
the city is also home to a less wellknown body of musicians - The
Alberti group of Pianists. Teachers associate Alberti with a broken
chord accompaniment pattern, but this group originated when an adult
piano class ended and members continued to meet together to enjoy
playing, but without a tutor. Their room overlooked Manchester's
Albert Square and their name just grew.
They have developed what is probably a unique answer to pianistic
isolation. However much practice is done alone, there is nothing like
the reality of performing for an audience. This enterprising group,
including private teachers, former teachers, professionals and others
simply interested in playing, has opened a window of opportunity for
individuals to set their own challenges, whatever their standard of
performance. For almost 20 years they have become the equivalent
of a writers circle - a discussion showcase - for pianists. Joining
one of their fortnightly afternoon sessions is a joy; no masterclass
situation, but the opportunity for members to play their own choice
of music in welcoming surroundings.
The dozen or more items played at each session give rise to relaxed
discussion, and the spin-offs are considerable. A huge boost comes
from hearing new items to add to teaching or playing repertoire. Choices
cover the full range of keyboard music, from earliest baroque to recent
jazz, and a look at their website will show all kins of styles specialist
interests have developed especially duet playing while Joan Pearson
( group secretary and a founder member ) and Wendy Gonsalkorale
now have several public recitals on their CV.
Others have made swing and jazz improvisation their aim. Arranging
and composing have been promoted, some by teachers for use with their
pupils. Guided by Jim Pearson , use of technology for recording and
printing of music is important and several of the group have made
CDs.
Their present location in Manchester's Cross St Chapel provides an
ideal venue, easily accessible and members come from far and wide
for the opportunity to improve confidence on a good grand piano in
an informal situation.
Another founder member, Margaret Pollitt, organises venue booking,
and an excellent annual booklet includes all items performed during
the year - an enticing introduction to those thinking of joining the
group. Most come through personal contact, but notices are placed
in libraries and so on.
My visit left me with one intriguing question, are there any other
groups like it in the UK ? So far Pearson's research has found one
other group with a similar framework - in Washington DC.
For full details, including a suggested music list for teaching youngsters,
see their very informative website at
www.alberti.harlowhill.com
Eric Proctor
Worsley