Casio Workshop for Piano Teachers, September 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 10.23.24We gathered on a gloriously sunny day at The Warehouse in South London for the second annual Casio Workshop for Piano Teachers. The Warehouse is home to the London Festival Orchestra and is conveniently located a few minutes walk from Waterloo station. The event is organised by Lorraine Liyanage, Head Teacher at the SE22 Piano School and Director of the Dulwich Classical Keyboard Festival. Casio have sponsored the piano classes of the Dulwich Classical Keyboard Festival since 2013 and the SE22 Piano School have two of their instruments in their studio as well as numerous students using their excellent digital pianos.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 10.57.50For this year’s workshop, we were delighted to have use of the newly released Celviano
Grand Hybrid Piano
. Casio 
has collaborated with German piano maker C. Bechstein to develop the Celviano Grand Hybrid, a digital grand piano that takes up no more room than the average keyboard. The idea is to combine all the benefits of electric and acoustic pianos, while delivering the experience of playing a grand piano. There is a choice of three grand piano sounds: The Berlin, Hamburg or Vienna grand. The scene feature provides 15 different preset modes for different composers including Debussy, Chopin and Liszt. They provide the optimal tones and reverberation for each piece that is being played. A hall simulator also recreates the experience of performing in a real concert venue. See the end of this article to watch Benjamin Grosvenor play a Casio Celviano Grand Hybrid at the Casio/C. Bechstein press conference at Stilwerk in Berlin.

In addition to the sound, the keys go one step further towards replicating the feel of a grand piano by the use of C. Bechstein’s traditional wooden keys and a natural grand hammer action to enhance response and feedback. This makes the keys feel sufficiently weighted under the fingers.

Our workshop participants thoroughly enjoyed playing the Grand Hybrid piano and wide range of Casio pianos on the day. We had informative workshops from physiotherapist Drusilla Redman including an excellent Posture Clinic that assesses the optimal position for pianists to sit at the piano. We will all be using this information when next teaching to ensure our students are sat in a way that will enhance effortless playing and minimise injury. Two composers, Rosa Conrad and Heather Hammond, led workshops on creative ensemble playing and incorporating jazz into music lessons. Verity Gallagher from CLIC Sargent also came to talk to use about Practice-a-thon and how the money raised from CLIC Sargent’s fundraising supports young people with cancer and their families. Finally, the session concluded with a demonstration of the Yohondo app from John Holcroft. The app is made to help students learn their ABRSM exam pieces in bite-size pieces. The app is for iPad and is a brilliant addition to the weekly lesson as it helps the student break down their practice into manageable chunks that will lead to greater progress than trying to play the same thing over and over again without any sense of the bigger picture. Exhibitors Manu-Mat and Solemate displayed their products on the day. Do contact John  at Yohondo for your code to download your free app.

[Drusilla’s Posture Clinic Presentation]

If you have any feedback about the Casio Grand Hybrid piano or ideas for future workshops, do please get in touch. We would love to hear your feedback. 

Rosa Conrad:


Heather Hammond:

Benjamin Grosvenor plays a Casio Celviano Grand Hybrid at the Casio/C. Bechstein press conference at Stilwerk in Berlin:

Some thoughts on the Dulwich Piano Festival duet class from Rosa Conrad

Some thoughts on the Dulwich Piano Festival duet class from Rosa Conrad, composer and adjudicator:

Set piece for the 2014 duet class: Andante con Moto, IV from Rosamund Conrad’s Delightfully Easy Piano Duets: book 1

dulwich winnerI’ve realised you can’t create something and expect people to care about it without getting out into the big wide world and showing your face. Or put another way: creating something and putting it out there brings new, interesting and challenging  things your way.

When I emailed the unstoppable Lorraine Liyanage, founder and director of theDulwich Piano Festival from my cozy kitchen suggesting that my book might be good for a duet class, I didn’t foresee I would be asked to go and adjudicate the class myself.

I have some experience of Piano Festivals – as a kid freezing mid tune, cheeks burning and being politely advised to start again, and later winning the cup for under 15s Beethoven when I was around 14.9 (recurring). A passionate believer that music should not be a competition, I kept that cup pride of place on top of the piano (square in the centre) for everyone to see all year until I had to sadly return it.

dulwich ponderingNow I was going to be the one behind that desk with that pen! “With great power comes great responsibility”. There we fifteen youngsters lined up. For each one I had to write a short comment, decide if their performance merited one of the tags, ‘commended’ or ‘highly commended’, (‘outstanding’ if it was flawless), and decide who should come first, second and third.

There was a shiny black baby grand in the centre of a plush hall, the audience seated in rows, filling it to the back . I imagine some children might have found it daunting, and some might have been excited at the thought of playing the grand piano. Or a bit of both. But there were lots of smiles on the way there and back as the children came up and gave their performances, which were always received with a hearty round of applause.

The duet class seemed a good way to start performing. The children were making thedulwich duet tinymusic alongside their teachers, and the teacher’s part provided a handy continuity if they became shaky or got lost. One boy got lost for quite a while, but returned triumphant at the last moment with a nice big fat D minor chord and smile.

I was listening for sensitivity of playing – using dynamics and tone to convey the mood of the piece, but it really pleased me to hear the different interpretations of my duet which I wasn’t expecting. A girl improvised her own extended ending; a small boy who wasn’t ready to put hands together played different sections with each hand in turn. What a great idea! I must try this with my students.

Luckily for me, the three best performances were easily apparent. They were the ones that communicated the feel of the piece, who told a story with the notes. One of these winners did become shaky and lose her way before rallying round for the end. However she was the one who really created a feel of ‘mysterioso’ (the direction written on the piece), playing the hairpins (a sudden swelling and decreasing of volume) beautifully. She was awarded 3rd place, I hope that convinced her she’d done well.

dulwich Orla

Giving the children their medals was such a special moment. I hope that doesn’t sound to cheesy, but those are the only words I can find to accurately describe it! There is a friendly atmosphere and focus on the positive about the festival, even with the swift speed needed to get all the contenders heard, as each class was subscribed to full capacity, and here and there some extras squeezed in. Quite a feat of organisation!

So here I am all grown up: an experienced adjudicator. Now I have seen both sides of the table. I hope I will get the chance to do it again.