Extract from Keynotes -

the newsletter of the Adult Music Student Forum, Inc

Washington DC

Volume 18, number 4 - June 2006

 

An Afternoon with The Alberti Group of Pianists
by Anne Williams

I'd say it's a pretty close call as to which city has the most rain—
Seattle, WA, or Manchester, England! I've never been to Seattle
but spent a lot of time in Manchester—I worked there for many
years. I can remember leaving my home town of Leigh, the sun
would be shining first thing in the morning, beautiful, pleasant
day—even made driving to work enjoyable! However, stop-
starting my way down the A-580 (aka the East Lancashire Road),
the sun would slowly disappear and as I approached Manchester I
saw an all too familiar sight; a bank of cloud rather resembling the
oncoming doom depicted in "Independence Day". Well, that's an
exaggeration, of course, but it gives an idea of the scene.
By the time I parked my car I'd more often than not need my
umbrella. Such is the character of Manchester—its reputation
goes before it, even see the first city boundary sign.
But, on March 22 this year it was a completely different story!
It was a lovely day in Manchester, and not just thanks to the
sunshine!
I made a 9-day visit home to England to see some old friends and
to revisit my roots, as it were. On the Wednesday I drove into
Manchester (no clouds!') nor was this an ordinary Wednesday. I'd
arranged to meet Joan Pearson and her daughter, Jill, in a cafe in
the Royal Exchange, somewhere I hadn't visited for a very long
time. Joan and her husband, Jim and I met a couple of years
earlier on a previous visit to England, and although we vaguely
remember what each other looked like, Joan knew that if she saw
someone roughly matching my description carrying a Marks &
Spencer's bag she couldn't lose! She was quite correct!
I was treated to a very enjoyable lunch. Then followed the
highlight of my visit; an opportunity to hear the members of
the Albert! Group of Pianists perform at one of their fortnightly
meetings (every two weeks, for anyone in doubt about that
term...!).
The events are held in the Unitarian Chapel in Cross Street,
Manchester, every second Wednesday afternoon. No prior
sign-up is required; Joan told me that they never know how
many members will attend—sometimes a few, sometimes many.
Happily for me this was a high attendance day. There were 13
members plus one extra, i.e. yours truly. Joan had invited me to
play with their group, so I took music with me. I hadn't touched
a piano in several days, so I was definitely 'dry' and playing a 'new'
piano in a new venue, before new people.
As this group is in essence not unlike AMSF, I've copied and
pasted the program below for interest:
March 22nd 2006
1. Etude Melodiuse..................................................................... Czerny
Anthony Hughes
2. Fantasy in C minor .............................................................Mozart
Keith Mallion

3. Improvisation on "and I love her..." ....................... Lennon & Mcartney
Pete Lingwood
4. For Johnny Legehan ..................................................Bernstein
Diane Paul
5. Jeune Filles auxjardin ............................................ ....Mompou
Gary Kaye
6. Dance Duet..............................................................Proctor
Four Dances.............................................................Matyas Seiber
Eric Proctor & Ralph Robinson
7. Noah Suite................................................................Preger
On top of the world
The Raven
The Dove
The Rainbow
Norma Preger
8. Prelude No. 1
Delphic Dances ................................................................... Debussy
Brian Wilby
9. Album for the Young..........................................................Schumann
Norse song
Wintertime
Eddie Miles
10. Tango .............................................................................. Stravinsky
Elegy ....................................................................................Rachmaninov
Chris Williams
11. Sonata Op. 2, No. 1, 1st movement ...................................Beethoven
Anne Williams
12. Sinister Solos (L. H.) .......................................................... Pearson
Jim Pearson
13. Midsummersnight Dream ........................................... .....Mendelssohn
Nocturne
Scherzo
Joan Pearson &Wendy Gonsalkorale
14. Cadiz.................................................................................Albeniz
Laurence Marshall
The standard of playing is very high—it was a pleasure to hear
the Albert! members play. Joan's husband, Jim, is not only a
pianist, he's also a composer and builds violins in the basement
of their house. He played one of his own compositions and I was
delighted to receive my own copy of the score.
One of Albert! s members, Eric Proctor, wrote a letter about the
Albert! Group to Music Teacher Magazine and made a reference to
'a group in Washington DC'—I don't think I need say more!
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 Halle, Chethams, or the
RNCM, [Royal Northern College of Music} but the city is also
home to a less well-known body of musicians—The Albert!
group of Pianists.
Teachers associate Albert! 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 master class 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 kinds 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 ProctorWorsley
Naturally, being British, the traditional tea and biscuits (cookies!)
were enjoyed by everyone afterwards. Then Joan and Jim once
again extended their North of England hospitality and I was
invited to dinner at their home. I have to say that their music
and CDs are SO well organized I feel ashamed when I look at my
own....
Thank you so much, Jim and Joan, for making me so welcome
during my visit with the Albert! Group—I hope I'll have the
opportunity to do a repeat next year! You can learn more about
the Albert! Group of Pianists at their website:
www.alberti.harlowhill.com.