Local musicians contribute to Piano Day record

andrew ward piano
Lyme Regis musician Andrew Ward has been playing piano since the age of nine

LOCAL musicians Andrew Ward and Patrick Ytting have contributed to the world’s largest piece of collaborative systems music as part of the international event Piano Day.

Piano day falls on the 88th day of the year – this year on Saturday, March 28 – as a full-size piano keyboard has 88 keys.

The event was conceived by Nils Frahm, an internationally-renowned neo-classical musician, with the aim of creating a platform for piano-related projects to promote the development of musical dimensions and to continue sharing the centuries-old joy of playing piano.

Events are usually held across the globe but many were cancelled or postponed this year owing to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, 381 musicians from all over the world have still contributed to a record-breaking piece of collaborative music, including Andrew Ward, from Lyme Regis, and Patrick Ytting, from Rousdon.

This was co-ordinated by composer Christian Henson, co-founder of Spitfire Audio, under the auspices of Piano Book, itself an online collaborative community of pianists and other musicians from around the world.

Due to the restrictions in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, Andrew and Patrick were unable to get together as much as hoped to create a professional video entry, but they still manage to submit an entry for the amalgamated work, which was released on Piano Day, setting the world record for the most online contributors to a single piece of systems music.

You can now listen to the collaborative piece via the YouTube video below.

Life-long musician releases first EP

Andrew has also been working on his own music in recent months and, at the age of 56, has released his debut EP online. It has already received some radio airplay and interest from Mary Anne Hobbs of BBC Radio 6 Music and various record labels.

Commenting on his musical career, Andrew said: “I’ve always loved music. My first memories are of listening to the hits of the day in the late 1960s with my mother, who would either have the radio on or be playing some singles.

“After a year or two at primary school I started to learn to read music and play an instrument for myself – the descant recorder. I was pretty good at this and performed well in quite a large competition of schools from across north Nottinghamshire. I then tried acoustic guitar lessons for a year but didn’t really take to it so moved on to the piano, aged nine.

“I was soon doing my grades and continued with lessons through two changes of school. In secondary school, I was a keen member of the choir and at 16 stopped piano lessons in order to move to the church organ instead. I had lessons throughout sixth form at school and reached a reasonable standard on the ‘king of instruments’.

“Playing music – although not listening to it – took a back seat during university but shortly before finishing my degree I bought my first electronic keyboard. Starting my first job near St Paul’s Cathedral, I would visit churches in the city during my lunch hours and play the organ.

“A couple of years later I got myself an interview for a job at the legendary Trident recording studios in London but ended up turning it down because the pay being offered was so low!

“I then bought my first synthesiser and started writing and recording my own music for the first time. I collaborated with a friend for a while before joining my first proper band which was due to play a large festival in Germany a fortnight later. I spent a frantic couple of weeks learning all the songs only for the promoter to pull the plug on the eve of our departure.

“With this band, Red Letter Day, I got my first experience of recording in a West End studio and causing a stir on the streets while out doing a pro-photoshoot. I amassed a huge collection of cassette tapes with bits of my music on but gradually got less and less involved whilst career, then marriage and children took over.

“Fast forward to 2009 and I started to use a computer in my music-making for the first time. We had moved to Cornwall during the previous year and the house had a basement recording studio, which had previously been owned by a member of The Cure. Robert Smith and his bandmates had been an incongruous sight in our tiny village on the edge of Bodmin Moor.

“I was determined to learn a new way of writing and recording my own music and, although it was a steep learning curve, I could hardly devote enough hours to it. This continued when we moved to Uplyme at the start of 2013. It was while living on Lime Kiln Lane that I was able to buy back a synthesiser that I had sold to Paul Godfrey, of the band Morcheeba, in 1999 – I’d always regretted letting it go and was delighted that he let me have it back again.

“In the summer of 2017 we moved to Woodberry Copse in Lyme itself and I was able to set up my new recording space as Woodberry Studio where I have been busy writing and recording ever since. This time last year my 1911 C. Bechstein upright piano was sampled by Patrick Ytting after we met thanks to comments on a YouTube video. It has gone on to become the most downloaded instrument from www.pianobook.co.uk, being No.1 in the download charts throughout and winning me a prize in their New Year’s Honours List.”

Andrew has released his first EP on Bandcamp and you can listen to it online at arpquadra.bandcamp.com/releases

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