Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
I started piano lessons when I was 8. My mother, who had trained as a classical singer but wasn’t able to pursue it professionally, encouraged me – and I even started with the same piano teacher my mother had learnt from as a child!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Probably teachers (Cecilia Merritt for piano and Tricia Meadows at school), and my mother.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The challenge of winning a place at music college. The sheer technical brilliance of my fellow pianists at music college. The very crowded and competitive marketplace for classical musicians today.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I’ve only released one album – The Silver Dial – so the choice is limited!
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
See above! I don’t tend to play anything by other composers these days as I find I get the most fulfilment out of combining the two skills of writing and playing within the same work.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I haven’t played in a great number of well-known venues, and as a result I’ve always taken greatest pleasure from venues where I have a connection – Southport Arts Centre (because I was brought up in Southport and used to work at the venue in my 20s) and, most recently, Shackleford’s in Macclesfield, because it was my first concert for 16 years, it’s the town where I live and all my friends and relatives came!
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I love big piano concertos (and often wish I could play them as well as they’re played on DC and radio!), such as Rachmaninov, Chopin, Brahms, etc. But, since I only ever perform my own work, there are two pieces I’ve written recently for my second album, called Anna Karenina and Photographing Fairies (all the tracks have titles from films) that I’m really looking forward to performing in my Autumn 2016 recitals.
Who are your favourite musicians?
By far the best concert I ever attended was European Chamber Orchestra playing Beethoven 7 in the Usher Hall at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival, conducted by Yannick Nézet–Séguin, so he deserves special mention in this answer, as does the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
My own performances that mean the most were the last one of my ‘youth’ (9 May 1998) and the first one of my ‘middle-age’ (8 Feb 2014). There was nothing in between, so both are very precious to me.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
If I were talking to pop or rock musicians, I’d say ‘For God’s sake, write something! Stop recording other people’s songs!’ For classical musicians, I’d say they’re such a dedicated bunch they don’t need any advice from me, but I suppose the most important idea you need now is a clever combination of originality and familiarity. It’s difficult to pull off, but those who manage it are the people that get to the top!
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House and Shackleford’s in Macclesfield. It would be a very varied lifestyle!
Andrew Gregory’s debut album ‘The Silver Dial – 12 Evocative Pieces for Piano’ is available now. Further information
Andrew Gregory was born in Southport, on the Lancashire coast, in 1963. His father was a carpenter and teacher, and his mother originally trained as a classical singer – an ambition that gave way to raising four children, of which Andrew is the second eldest. He has been passionate about music from an early age, and learnt piano from 8 and flute from 13. He also sang and acted, and appeared in many school and college productions. He went on to gain his Music degree at Manchester University, and also studied piano with Derrick Wyndham and Renna Kellaway at the internationally-renowned Royal Northern College of Music between 1981 and 1984.
Andrew has had a 30-year career in music and the arts, encompassing performing, composing, arranging for the stage, teaching, musical direction, theatre management and theatre production. In recent years, he has concentrated on freelance projects: programming orchestral and recital series for major UK venues, and composing and recording his own new compositions for piano.
Despite this busy, varied and successful working life, Andrew didn’t begin composing for solo piano until the age of 50 – a mere 42 years after his very first piano lesson, on 1st June 1971. He says of this new venture: “I had done a fair amount of composing over the years, but always for stage productions, bands or vocalists. I’d never given my own instrument – the piano – any real creative attention in that way. Then, for a couple of years leading up to my fiftieth birthday, I began to feel that I had some piano compositions in me, and that I had something to say through them, but my administrative commitments just seemed to soak up all my time and attention. Only when I changed from being employed to freelance did I sit down at the keyboard and actually try to create something for solo piano. To my amazement, these 12 pieces, and more, came flowing out – very quickly! Within two months I had written the whole album.”