As a pianist and teacher I have specialised in accompanying for most of my professianal life and I can offer accompaniment up to Diploma level. Naturally the bulk of my accompanying is for instrumental and singing exams, whether ABRSM, Trinity College, GSCE and A Levels. I work with King David HIgh School, Music Department, as their official accompanist for public exams and concerts. Over the last years I have built a good relationship with a number of local instrumental teachers, who regularly ask me to accompany their pupils in examinations from Grade 1 to Grade 8. And for the last 10 years or more I have been on the accompanists list for the University of Liverpool, Music Department and help Undergraduates with the performance element of their music studies. For me this is a most enjoyable part of my year, working with older students and playing more challenging music than often ecncountered in ABRSM exams.
The piano and the art of the accompanist
The pianist is, in many ways, so privileged among musicians. The piano is a complete instrument, so the pianist can play and enjoy music that is complete within itself, whether it is melody and accompaniment, or complex counterpoint or, as more often, a combination of different textures. It is only other keyboard instruments and the guitar can play music in a such a complete form. The other main privilege, is access to the most extensive repertoire of any instrument, apart from the voice. If you include music written for earlier keyboards such as the Harpsichord, Clavichord and Virginal, then the piano literature stretches from the 16th century to the present day. But for many, it is essentially a solo instrument; and as any other musician will tell you, one of the great joys of music is making music with others. Playing in an orchestra, singing in a choir, or playing in a chamber group can have a visceral excitement as well as being an emotional, intellectual and social experience. A solo pianist lacks this aspect of music making, which is one of the reasons for my interest in accompanying others. In my formative years as a music student, the famous accompanist Gerald Moore was a major figure in the musical world, he single handedly raised the profile of the accompanist from a background figure, to that as an equal contributor to music performance as the soloist. At this time a frequent contributor as an accompanist on Radio 3 was Keith Swallow, who I was lucky enough to study with during my years at Hudeersfiel School of Music.
For years now, I have been accompanying string players, wind players both wood and brass, of all ages for their music exams and school concerts, student performences and occasionally, recitals. As an accompanist, you always put the soloist first, no matter what their ability and each player, whether a young child taking their first exam or an experienced student giving a performance of challenging music, each is given just as much respect and attention as the others. There is an art to accompanying, for instance in adjusting according what the soloist is playing (not always as easy as it sounds!), and making sure your skills and musicianship complement the soloist and add to the effectiveness of the performance.