Byo welcomes home-boy pianist


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Bulawayo had its first classical concert of the year on Valentine’s Day, a specially designed programme called “Love Songs” played by young Zimbabwean pianist, Michael Brownlee Walker.

He had chosen about an hour’s music mingling well-loved pieces such as Liszt’s Liebestraume No.3 and Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen with others not so well known, ranging from romances by Schumann and Sibelius to transcriptions of Gershwin songs – The Man I Love and Love Walked In.

But the concert nearly didn’t happen. Michael contracted chickenpox from one of his pupils in London two weeks before he was due to fly and became sufficiently ill to need to spend a week in hospital, most of the time on a drip – into his hands!

In the event there was a very good turn-out, about three-quarters of the Academy’s Sibson Hall. Michael didn’t touch a piano for 12 days whilst ill and then practised for no more than 15 minutes on his first two days out of hospital. There followed the flight to Johannesburg, a 24 hour stop-over with his sister in Johannesburg and two days of hard practice in Bulawayo – and a concert that brought great pleasure!

Although Michael was born in Kariba, he is basically a Matabele who attended R.E.P.S. and Plumtree. It was only there in 1990 that he began to study the piano in earnest under the guidance of Felix Westwood, a much later start than most pianists, and it makes his subsequent achievement all the more praiseworthy. He subsequently started lessons in composition, and later piano, with Derek Hudson at the Zimbabwe Academy of Music in Bulawayo and in 1996 he was introduced to the British pianist Leslie Howard who recognised his promise and encouraged him to move to London to continue his musical studies.-n Michael Bullivant is Principal of Zimbabwe Academy of Music e.mail [email protected]

Post published in: Arts

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