Wednesday, 26 March 2014

James Rhodes The Pianist of our modern era - Soho Theatre

A dear friend of mine from Berlin alerted me back in January to buy tickets for James that time I have not heard of him at all, but I always fully trust Alexa's taste, thus I bought the tickets for Tuesday 25th March at the Soho Theatre.

Finally Alexa arrived to London and we agreed to meet at the theatre.

Soho Theatre
Soho Theatre front
Soho Theatre
Soho Theatre Bar
Soho Theatre Bar

Soho Theatre Bar
Soho Theatre Bar Soho sign
I was way too early, but after some moment people started queuing up in front of the stairs leading to the basement. Even though one of the organiser announced many times that there was no queue, people just did not move.

James Rhodes Tickets at Soho Theatre
 In the end it was good that I 'queued' in the non-existing queue because I could put dibs on a really good seat in the front next to a round table. My friend arrived, we talked a little and then once everyone sat down Mr Rhodes came on stage. He sat down in front of the piano and started playing.

James Rhodes at Soho Theatre
The first 'foreplay' as he then referred as, was one of Chopin's masterpieces.
What made the whole concert more engaging was that after playing the song, he stood next to his piano and told a short introduction before each piece.

Mr Rhodes illustrated that rockstars back in the days were not like nowadays, sitting in singing contests and being on the cover of Heat magazine. Those days being a rock star was: sex, drugs, rock and roll!
Well many of the names, he played yesterday, lived in squats, in vile circumstances and had some sort of venereal disease. The songs and their background were almost carefully chosen focussing on STDs... Maybe it suited to the location of the venue being in Soho...
After some witty anecdotes about the venue and the night he then started introducing the next piece. Unfortunately I cannot recall the title of the song but it was from Schubert!
Schubert with his 156cm (5 ft 1) having syphilis was not the best party. Though he had students...and he fell for one of them, who probably would not have a 2nd view at poor Schubert. Nevertheless he wrote one of his beautiful plays for this girl.

Schubert: Staendchen (please note I am not sure if this was played by James Rhodes yesterday, if someone remembers the song I'd be happy to amend it here)

The next element of the concert also had another venereal disease story. The virgin Chopin, at the age of 20, left Poland to go to Paris, then on his way somewhere between Wien and Munich...he met a prostitute, Teresa, from whom he received an unforgettable souvenir... gonorrhoea.
He then decided to go to Mallorca for a bit of a climate change with his friend George, but the accommodation they had was so disastrous they ventured further to stay at a monastery which was 20 kilometres away and only approachable by donkey.
Mr Rhodes's point with this little story was to outline, artists those days, got inspiration and worked even amongst the worst nightmares...and such masterpieces like the No. 3 Ballade from Chopin, were composed in those woeful environment.

Chopin: No 3. Ballade

The 4th piece was by Blumenfeld and yet another STD story...Apparently Bluemenfeld was a handsome man courting with many women, thus it was inevitable to catch syphilis in that era, which left him paralysed on the right side of his body and right hand. Nevertheless he had overcome this problem and composed the Study of the left handed, which then when was played by Simone Barere in front of a blind man. The blind man might be that I'm blind but not a fool - insinuating that it was unbelievable to play this piece with only one hand. Then Simone Barere's answer was 'my friend, hold my right hand and I will play it for you again, to be sure that I am only using my left hand'.

Blumenfeld: Stduy of the left handed by James Rhodes

After the 4th piece he left, but he returned to play 2 more songs, from which, one was a transcription...we can say a 'cover' these days in the world of pop music.

Grieg: In the hall of the mountain king

The 6th and last piece was also by Chopin.

James Rhodes Piano at Soho Theatre
The night was very intimate with a concert, which truly was a concert sprinkled with some stand up comedy teaching.
I listen to classical music CDs, however I have almost none musical background and only a little classical music concert experience, so I felt very inexperienced in the rows, thus I cannot comment on how James Rhodes performed that evening. Whether his playing technique, his movements, were great or not, whether he's as good as Chopin, but his approach and attitude made this evening special! 
He seems kind of an ambassador of classical music who wants to spread the word and music amongst even those that usually don't listen to classical music. The plays combined with the factual background is a great way of putting it out there! Raising awareness, engaging the audience with the funny stories about the artists and plays he was about the play to us. His humble self, with a gorgeous, kind of innocent smile makes him even better for this task. He is here, in the real world, trying to help poor students and schools bringing back the importance of musical education to Britain. 
If you have any musical instruments in the attic or just want to donate yours for a good cause please get in touch with him via his Twitter account: @JRhodesPianist !

Furthermore, for me, it was also an exceptional thing to sit so close that I could see all the delicate muscle vibrations in his hands, showing what human beings are capable of. At some point he was playing so eyes lost clear views of his moving hands.

And yes I will...
While I was queueing I had a short chat with the couple standing behind me. The girl asked me whether this was my first time. I told her it was... then she said her first time was 6 months ago when and elderly gentleman sitting next to her had told her that she would come back for a 2nd, 3rd etc time to see James Rhodes' talented persona again and there she was a good start!...And is true...I will go back again to see him in concert when he is in town! :) 

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