Projects

Kenya | Messiaen 2015 | Bach and Pärt 2018 

 Kenya

Cordelia recently spent six months living, performing and teaching in Nairobi, Kenya. A documentary about some of the young aspiring pianists she met there, produced with support from the Royal Philharmonic Society Enterprise Fund, was released on Cordelia’s YouTube channel in August 2021.


The absolute determination to learn — despite significant obstacles in the path of these pianists — is evident everywhere: this is the generation who are on track to break the ‘glass ceiling’ of classical music in Kenya, to move beyond ‘good’ to ‘great’ performance. However, in order to do this, resources and opportunities are still needed. If you are in a position to offer assistance, here are five areas you may wish to consider:

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Summer school or piano course scholarships

By common consent among those interviewed, the most valuable opportunity for a young Kenyan musician would be the chance to travel abroad and take part in focused and concentrated music-making and learning. You can hear more about this in the film above.

If you run a summer school or course, or would be willing to sponsor scholarships, please contact Cordelia.

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Music library

There is nowhere in Kenya selling sheet music. The options are to wait for someone to travel abroad and bring scores back, or to print music from IMSLP (in itself a costly process). New and second-hand music is now being collected for a Nairobi piano library, in association with Ghetto Classics; this will give piano students opportunities to discover a larger repertoire.

If you know of any music in fair condition looking for a home, please contact Cordelia.

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Instruments

It is hard enough to train as a pianist, even with your own instrument. Battling with limited access to pianos (often in community centres at some distance from home), and therefore very restricted practice time, makes it nearly impossible. In discussion with many musicians and organisers, it is clear that, for the moment, weighted keyboards (such as the Yamaha CLP models) are more practical than upright pianos for space reasons and because of the costs of transport and tuning.

If you can help in any way with this urgent need, or can donate to Ghetto Classics a piano in good condition, please get in touch.

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Volunteer teachers – and financial support

A lack of advanced tuition is holding back pianistic development – as one self-taught pianist, Teddy Otieno, pointed out, ‘maybe if I get a lesson this year, I will have to wait two or three years to get another one, and I find during those years I have been making small mistakes’.

If you or your company would sponsor the flights to enable Cordelia or another advanced-level teacher to volunteer their time teaching in Nairobi, please get in touch.

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Scholarships for undergraduate study

The long-term goal is to offer scholarships for undergraduate study abroad to the most promising pianists in Kenya. The possibility of continued focus on music, technique and performance is what will allow pianists to break that ‘glass ceiling’ and in turn pass that knowledge to the next generation of musicians.

If you are involved with a conservatoire or university music department, please get in touch.

If you are in a position to discuss corporate sponsorship for this life-changing opportunity, please contact Cordelia.

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 Messiaen 2015

Olivier Messiaen wrote his piano masterpiece Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (Twenty Contemplations of the Infant Jesus) in 1944, surrounded by war in occupied Paris, yet the music is suffused with themes of love, colour, passion, silence and faith. ‘Between Heaven and the Clouds: Messiaen 2015’ was a year-long series of events setting Vingt Regards alongside words and images, including specially commissioned poetry and paintings, in order to explore these universal themes and Messiaen’s rich variety of inspiration.

– Commission of twenty poems by award-winning British poet Michael Symmons Roberts responding to the twenty movements of Vingt Regards.
– Commission of a Suite of paintings by British artist Sophie Hacker in response to the ideas and theology of Vingt Regards.
– Commission of one poem by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Rowan Williams, inspired by Messiaen the man, his music and his faith.

A variety of events took place around the UK, including concerts, exhibitions, readings, a study day at King’s College London and a theological discussion at Westminster Abbey. For more information please visit www.messiaen2015.com.

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Bach and Pärt 2018

In concerts and a recording, this porject explored the ways in which two musical lines interweave and interact, responding to and changing one another. The foundation of the project was music by J.S. Bach (his Two-Part Inventions, where the hands echo and answer one another) and Arvo Pärt (his tintinnabuli music, where the focus is on the intervallic relationship between two lines). The CD booklet featured a collaboration with artist Andy Bannister. His image reflects both composers’ roots in mathematical structure and unity, celebrating principles of geometry, musical harmony and the natural world. The CD is available to buy here

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Projects