Meet the Artist – Alena Walentin Lugovkina, flautist

Who or what inspired you to take up flute and pursue a career in music?

Thinking back to how I’ve started flute and came to the UK, I think of the phrase “it was meant to be”.

According to my parents, every time I heard music, I would start singing, so I’ve been singing since I was a few months old. Because of my singing and love of music, my parents thought that this is something that I wanted to do or would wish to do when I grew up. So it is my parents who really made it happen, for which I will be forever grateful .

One day my mom was on the tube and heard a young girl quietly singing (she was just sitting preparing solfeggio homework). She was singing so beautifully that my mom approached mother of that girl asking where she was studying. They gave us an address of that school and few days later my mom and I went to that school and apparently as soon as I’ve entered the door to the school I said “I will be studying here”. That turned out to be one of three finest music schools in whole Russia – called Gnessin Special Music School.

Even though I was only six years old and it was a 3 hour commute to that school every day, I was so determined to study there. First I started on piano, but as the school was a special music school (similar to The Purcell School or Chetham’s School of Music in UK), my piano teacher demanded that we bought piano so that I could practice at home. As we didn’t have money for piano, I was transferred to a recorder, which was the cheapest instrument at the time. The system in the school was that you played recorder first and then when you were 10 or 12 years old, you transferred to other woodwind instrument. When the time came for me to choose which instrument I wanted to play, I couldn’t make up my mind.

One day I got a CD from a friend. The person who gave it to me didn’t know who was playing or what they were playing, as they’d got a copy of it from someone else who also didn’t know who was playing on CD. I put that mysterious CD into the CD player and almost stopped breathing when I heard it. It was the first time that I’d heard such a deep, mesmerising and enchanting sound of the flute. It was just a simple charming French suite, but the musicianship and this amazing sound had a great impact on me. I remember saying then “if a flute can sound like this – I would like to play the flute”.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

So here my story continues. A couple of years later, I went to a competition in Romania, where I became friends with two flute players – one from Israel, other from South Korea. One day I received a letter from my Korean friend with a list of summer schools that she recommended for me to attend. My English wasn’t that great then, so looking at the websites of the summer schools, trying to choose, I am not sure how I’ve made my choice – probably again that magical “meant to be”.

The summer school took place in Surrey with flautist William Bennett. It changed my life and opened my eyes to a whole new world of flute playing. The level playing was so high and William Bennett’s teaching so musical and inspiring, that the whole experience of summer school made me suddenly want to practice rather than having to practice. I realised straight away that William Bennett (also known as “Wibb”) was THE teacher I wanted to study with and I was very happy to hear that he liked my playing and suggested I audition for the Royal Academy of Music. I was very lucky to get a full scholarship from the Royal Academy of Music and so I was able to come London and study.

One day (I think that was my 2nd year at RAM), I brought the Godard Suite to Wibb for a lesson. He said: “before we start the lesson, listen to this recording”. He put the recording on his Gramophone. It was that very recording that I’ve heard when I was 11 and that made me take up the flute. I asked: “WHO is playing?!” And Wibb replied: “Me. Why?”

I feel that was meant to be….. Wibb continues to be my endless inspiration.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

About 4-5 years ago I did recital in New York. It was in the summer and I’d bought dress half a year before that, but hadn’t tried it on until 20 min before recital. That is when I discovered that I’d lost a lot of weight in those months! Having discovered that, I was really worried, as the dress was basically falling down! Running up and down the concert venue, I manically tried to find a sewing kit somewhere to try to fix it and I managed to do it! But I walked on stage after 20 minutes of sewing and running. And with jet lag. Nevertheless, the concert seemed to be a success, as it has led to some fantastic engagements, including an invitation to play at the Gala concert of the British Flute Society, sharing the recital with the famous flute player Emmanuel Pahud.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I would leave this for the audience to decide. This is not the easiest question for me to answer, as I do love performing different styles of music and our profession tends to make us often perform what we are told to perform. And we try to do our best with every piece we play. I enjoy romantic and impressionistic music the most.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I keep discovering many different interesting pieces. I do have favourite pieces that I play often, but I am always open to new repertoire. I am also trying to broaden the standard flute repertoire, arranging for flute some of the best pieces there are that can work on flute as well.

I also like performing new music from the 20th century and contemporary composers, including music of those composers who write for and dedicate their pieces to me.

I also choose repertoire depending on what the audience in a particular place or venue might like as well as the acoustics of the venue.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

For me it is definitely the Wigmore Hall. It is an absolute perfect space for solo and small chamber music. Perfect size, perfect acoustics, wonderful atmosphere. Every time I play there, I just want to go back there immediately!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Impossible to name. There are so many musicians that I so deeply respect for their amazing musicianship and I am lucky to be working with some of them!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I was around 14, I played my first concerto with orchestra. It was in a fantastic hall and with amazing Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. But I have got very ill a day before and on the day of the concert I had fever of 39.5°C which is scary. Nevertheless, I still went and played and got a standing ovation, which was amazing. But I remember getting to the cadenza and having a complete memory blank – I couldn’t remember at all how it went! But luckily I have quite good improvisation skills, so made up the cadenza right there on the spot.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

It should always be about the music.

Sometimes people practice so hard to get all the notes right. And they do, but the audience feels nothing. Why is that? It is because it is not just about the notes, but what is between the notes that matters. And how we can pass the beauty of that music to the audience to make them feel all the emotions that there are in the music that we play. We need to create and convey stories through music. Life becomes much brighter and more colourful when one lets music into their heart and I feel so lucky to be a musician to let these wonderful miracles happen.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think a perfect balance between work and family. I know I wouldn’t be happy if I spent all my time working, but I also wouldn’t have been happy if I didn’t have my work, as I do love being musician. But with this perfect balance, I would always want to give my absolute 100% to both.

Alena Lugovkina performs music by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and more with harpist Anne Denholm at Dorich House Museum, Kingston, on Thursday 7th December 2017. The music will be interspersed with readings from Russian poetry and literature. Audience members will have an opportunity to explore Dorich House Museum, the Art Deco former home of artist Dora Gordine, before the concert. Full details and tickets here

Alena Lugovkina’s website

(Photo: Nick Rutter)

Meet the Artist…..Stefanos Tsourelis

Ahead of his concert at the Jazz Room at The Bull’s Head on 14 November, we spoke to guitar and oud player and composer Stefanos Tsourelis about his musical influences and inspirations, and more…..

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I was inspired and motivated by my music heroes like Jim Hendrix, John McLaughlin and Anoir Brahem. Also was also very keen on the idea of making a living from something I really love doing.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My music teachers, my guitar and oud idols and my friends who are great musicians

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Making a living in a city like London as a musician is a challenge. It can be hard to balance work with creativity.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I am proud of my debut album “Native Speaker” and recent album launch in London.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

The Bull’s Head in Barnes seems to be one of my favourites at the moment. I like the vibe of this venue

As a composer, of which works are you most proud?

At the moment I am proud of a ballad I wrote for my debut album called “Calm Sea”. It is a gentle piece and ideal for creative improvisation

How would you characterise your compositional language?

I would call it ‘Jazz World Fusion’

How do you work? (as a composer)

I usually work on a melody or a riff that comes out naturally. Some times the piece comes with no effort. Some times I revisit ideas and develop the piece in time.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When a musician and composer finds their true inner voice. I believe that people recognise and appreciate the true individuality

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Hard work, open mind, honesty to your art and an open ear to your inner voice

 

Hot on the heels of the release of their debut album ‘Native Speaker’, Stefanos Tsourelis Trio brings a to the Bull’s Head a heady mix of jazz and rock with Oriental and Greek influences, traditional Mediterranean melodies and textures, with Flamenco and African rhythms which conspire to generate dynamic grooves underpinning wonderful melodic forms combined with nuanced dynamics and sparkling arrangements. Tuesday 14 November at 8pm. Featuring ‘live art’ by Alban Low (creator of The Art of Jazz). Part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

BOOK TICKETS

‘Driftwood’ by Klara Smith

A taster of Klara Smith’s beautiful papercuts with music by David le Page, composed in response to Klara’s work, ahead of the concert and exhibition opening on Saturday 4th November at Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre

Book tickets

Meet the Artist……Liam Stevens, piano

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

I loved football, but I wasn’t going to make it as a footballer even though I loved it. Then I discovered that I didn’t have to play only classical music on the piano. Joining a soul band at high school was probably a big influence.

I was at home in Wigan where I’m from and I watched a TV programme about Oscar Peterson. I think it was an all-night thing, and I thought that’s what I want to do, although I will always love classical music as well.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Jazz

Oscar Peterson, Erroll Garner, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, Wynton Kelly, Kenny Kirkland, Dan Nimmer, Benet Mclean, Benny Green, Ahmad Jamal, Nathan Britton, Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen, Vernell Fournier, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Leo Wright, Clifford Brown, Wynton Marsalis, Phil Woods,,Sonny Stitt, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Wes Montgomery, Nigel Price, Andy Davies, and Joe Pass, (I could go on forever) I tried to include some British guys!

Classical/Other

Georges Cziffra, Evgeny Kissin, Daniil Trifonov, Anthony Hewitt, Vladimir Horowitz, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckermann, Benjamin Grosvenor, Sviatoslav Richter, Glenn Gould, and Rachmaninoff

I’m also a big fan of choral music such as Rachmaninoff’s Vespers and Bach’s St Matthew Passion

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Being consistent within my own playing

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I’ve only ever recorded one album, and I am very proud of it, although that said, I do prefer playing live.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Jazz Standards and jazz that really swings. I enjoy playing stride piano as I am a massive Art Tatum fan

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I usually let everyone else pick the tunes

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Piano Bar Soho and most of the jazz clubs in London. I prefer intimacy and having the band close. I think we play more as a unit in these situations. I’m happy to rock up and play anywhere as long as it’s good vibes! If I had to say, probably the smaller places with the smaller audiences. That way we can play more musically as a trio rather than just trying to make lots of noise to overpower a loud audience or fill a big room with sound

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My first solo concert was terrifying but loads of fun. First time playing with Aydenne Simone and Benet Mclean was a roast!

My first late night gig at Pizza Express Soho. I was about 19 and my drummer Joe Dessauer had just turned 18, I think. We were both scared but it was such a good eye-opener as to what we needed to do, and what we could really achieve. My first solo concert was the same, really nerve-wracking but I learnt so much in terms of what I needed to do and achieve

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

It’s different for everyone. I just really got into a few specific piano players and tried to emulate their style.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Same place as I am now! Quite a privilege to play piano for a living

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It doesn’t exist!

What is your most treasured possession?

My hands. Gotta pay those bills, man!

What do you enjoy doing most?

Cooking, Reading, Beer, Wine, Scotch, Pub, Theatre and watching football

What is your present state of mind?

Rebellious

 

‘Blue Skies’, Liam Stevens’ debut disc, with Aydenne Simone, is available now.

Liam performs and his trio perform with Aydenne Simone at The Bull’s Head as part of the Blue Skies tour on Thursday 5th October. Full details of all concerts here

 

‘Blue Skies’ – new album from Aydenne Simone & Liam Stevens

BLUE SKIES – the new album from Aydenne Simone & Liam Stevens Trio, is just swinging!

The story so far……

Aydenne & Liam met at The Piano Bar Street Jazz Festival June 2016 – six days later they performed their first gig together and it was sheer magic. The rest is history!

​The chemistry between them is incredible to watch. Every performance they do together they have the audience in the palm of their hand, hanging on every note!

This magical collaboration has now resulted in a new album featuring Aydenne and Liam’s personal take on popular jazz standards such as Summertime and One For My Baby.

one of those albums you will play again and again, the songs are known and loved, and the quality of playing is stunning

Aydenne and Liam will be performing music from Blue Skies at The Jazz Room at The Bull’s Head as part of their album launch tour on Thursday 5 October 2017. More information

 

Blue Skies is released on 22 July 2017

 

Listen to a sample track

 

Order Blue Skies

 

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Meet the Artist……Aydenne Simone, jazz and blues vocalist

‘BLUE SKIES’ – the new album with Liam Stevens is released 22 July 2017

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

My father was a jazz musician, and a massive jazz fan. Jazz is what I grew up listening to and was given my first jazz album at 6 years old.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Sarah Vaughan, Eydie Gorme, and Ella Fitzgerald

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Well every day is a school day, and the greatest challenge has got to be to consistently striving forward and raising the bar. When the bar is raised you have two choices step up, or step out. I choose to step up and take on the challenge to constantly improve what I do.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

“All of me” album (not least because I had a broken foot and full blown flu at the time), “Running Away” single and a recording I did with Roger Limb of ‘Round Midnight’

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Jazz ballads, and firing blues numbers; ‘Misty’, ‘My Funny Valentine’, ‘Round Midnight’, ‘Stormy Monday’ and ‘Mama Told me’.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I like songs that are pretty, in a way, either I fall in love with the melody or I love the story the lyricist is telling. I tend to choose songs that I know I can make my own, and use the tones in my vocal range to add light and shade, use techniques to get to try and demonstrate the story the lyricists is telling us.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

The Piano Bar in Soho (not a concert venue but one of my favourite places to sing), Pizza Express, The Pheasantry, Chelsea, London, and Quay Arts Theatre, Isle of Wight

Who are your favourite musicians?

Oh my days I could go on all day! In London, *Benet Mclean (violin & piano), Nathan Britton (pianist), *Liam Stevens (pianist), *Clinton Paul (blues guitar), *Harry Bolt (pianist) Roger Limb (pianist), *Dario Di Leece (double bass), *Emiliano Carouseli (drums), Andrew Huggett (drums), Imre Varga (pianist), Derek Nash (sax), that is just a small handful (apologies to anybody who feels left out, but I could be here till next Christmas!).

Listening/Records my favourites are Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Oscar Peterson (pianist), Errol Garner (pianist), Michel Camilo (pianist), Count Basie (pianist + band leader/arranger), Bill Evans (pianist), Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Benet McLean, again I could just go on and on!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Newport Jazz Weekend, Isle of Wight 2013 and 2015, Piano Bar Street Jazz Festival 2016, and Pizza Express Live The Pheasantry with the most incredible line up*

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Listen rather than hear and as much as possible. Listen to each musician and the interaction between them, the phrasing, timing……it all educates.

Aydenne Simone performs with the Liam Stevens Trio at The Jazz Room at The Bull’s Head Barnes on 5 January 2017 – further details here

(photo ©Aydenne Simone)

www.aydennesimone.co.uk

7 Star Arts residency at The Bull’s Head, Barnes

From 24 December 2016, 7 Star Arts has a year-long residency at the iconic Jazz Room at The Bull’s Head, Barnes.

The Bull’s original music room was opened at the same time as Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in 1959 and became known as the “suburban Ronnie Scott’s”. It is now an established part of the London jazz scene and host to many acclaimed jazz musicians and singers, including Humphrey Lyttleton, Jamie Cullum and Peter King. It attracts audiences from all over the capital and beyond who favour the intimate setting and a chance to get up close and personal with music and musicians.

7 Star Arts presents a series of events featuring acclaimed musicians Viv McLean, Susan Porrett, Liam Stevens and his trio, Duncan Eagles and saxophonist Jess Gillam, and many more……

Check out our Events page for more information