BIG AIR ON A G STRING

The world’s largest subterranean skate park – Source in Hastings – normally resounds to an eclectic mix of rock, punk and hip hop, but on Tuesday 14th February, freestyle BMXers and skateboarders will be able to hear some of the world’s most talented young pianists killing it on the keyboard of a grand piano while they shred the vert.

Challenging the received notion that classical music is the preserve of middle-aged and middle class people, thanks to support from the Arts Council, the HIPCC reaching out to a new audience by creating an innovative partnership with a popular skate and BMX park and also live-streaming some of the competition to a local Academy, and of course to the whole world via the internet.

Appropriately, on St Valentines’ Day the organisers of HIPCC hope to create a very special connection between the two, hitherto disparate, young performers. Source will provide a stunning backdrop to a unique and free recital by a leading, up-and-coming concert pianist to visitors at the seafront facility at 6pm and 8pm. Throughout the day the piano will be available for all comers to play (those interested should contact info@hastingsconcertocompetition.co.uk).

“It’s a real random one,” says Rich Moore whom – along with brother, Marc – owns Source Park. “I think when they see the baby grand in situ for the first time, they’ll say ‘what the Hell is that?!’ I’m really intrigued to see how they respond to the music. I’d put money on classical music never having been played before in a venue such as this. It’s totally different and I liked the idea from the outset. It got our attention straight away and it’s a unique way to bring two completely different groups together. In many ways, it is a complete clash of cultures. Our customers would never normally go to a classical music recital and vice versa, so in some ways I’m expecting to see a look of confusion and bafflement on their faces.”   

HIPCC Director Frank Wibaut predicts a large degree of mutual respect: “I once organised a similar event in Australia, where classical musicians came together with young athletes and while both groups came from completely different spheres they were able to understand the dedication and hours of practice that each put into their particular discipline. I think we’ll see a similar understanding in Hastings.”

On Monday 27th February (at 10am, 2pm and 6pm) the piano competition’s second stage will be live-streamed to Silverdale Primary Academy in St Leonards where MSL Digital and the Academy will combine to create a special programme for pupils, parents, teachers and community. They will have a chance to see some of the 24 contestants competing for a place in the semi-finals performing a concerto, learning about the music and what drives the musicians. For many this will be their first exposure to the musical genre and indeed, the piano concerto competition itself. Live streams will run for the academy community at 10am and 2pm and the wider community at 5.30pm for the competition start at 6pm. Look out for invitations from the Academy pupils.

As the competition ramps up, with the Semi Finals taking place on Wednesday 1st March, the narrowed field of twelve musicians will perform solo recitals. Live-streams will run at 11am, 2.40pm and 6pm.

For music lovers unable to attend the White Rock Theatre, where the entire competition takes place, a live-stream of the performances will also be fed through to a screen on Hastings Pier. The magic of modern technology also means that the live-stream can be picked up by people wherever they are.

Margaret Sheehy, whose company MSL Digital is facilitating the live-stream says: “Our aim is to help Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition to consolidate and broaden the audience for classical music. Our concept of putting the grand piano into the extraordinary Source Park means that HIPCC can take serious music out of the concert hall and place it in a completely different setting and context. We’re shaking up pre-conceptions of what and where classical music belongs.”

Now in its 13th year, Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition has established itself as a leading platform upon which young musicians from across the world can pit their skills against one another and perform in front of an international jury. As part of the competition, the semi-finalists are given the opportunity to participate in a free masterclass with top concert pianists, while the finalists can realise a dream by playing alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Live-streaming allows HIPCC to both promote the musicians to a wider audience and inspire would-be competitors to enter next year’s event. In both instances, the results can be truly life-changing,” explains Professor Wibaut.

There is still time to hear young, talented musicians performing in the week leading up to the Final. Tickets priced at just £5 per session are currently available from the White Rock Theatre Box Office in person (White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings, East Sussex, TN34 1JX), by phone (01424 462 288) or online (whiterocktheatre.org.uk).

There is also a terrific reason to buy a competition programme for the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition – as throughout February and March, it will also act as a temporary Hastings Card – the hugely popular discount card for a large amount of shops and restaurants across the town.