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keyboards

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A short bio
buttonI started playing in public when I was about 13 years old playing Hammond organ in local pubs and clubs. I was really nervous at the time, just a kid playing in the grownups' world, and my foot used to shake - luckily it wasn't my hands.
My first band Dark Saloon was a typical 70's schoolboy band, named after a solo album by John 'Rabbit' Bundrick who occasionally played keyboards with Free (do you remember 'Alright Now'?). It was a 5 piece and while it never gigged it did keep my neighbours awake on Saturday afternoons.
button After that came Cassiopeia a jazz rock outfit in which I played bass guitar and flute. We entered the Melody Maker competition in Leeds. The judges said we would have gone through had it not been the year that punk arrived. I never really suited safety pins!
button Next was Windenwires. We played contemporary music. Some was self-penned and some covers. We did quite a bit of vocal harmonies and could do a mean version of Steeleye Span's 'Gaudete' at Christmas. I just can't remember who sang Maddy Prior's bit. Strange - we were all blokes but somebody did.
button Then the move to the Manchester club scene which I worked for about 25 years. Live performances have included work with Karl 'Wimoweh' Denver, Jeff Layton (of 'Les Miserables' fame), Jane McDonald, and Ruby Murray (who still shares the record with Elvis and Madonna, for the greatest number of singles in the British Top 20 at the same time - she said she had had a good week that week) plus literally hundreds of others
button I have no idea how many of Manchester's clubs I have played but it is probably most of them. As well as the 'bread and butter' jobs I have also played at the Tameside Hippodrome to a full house and a few enormous bingo halls - seating between 1500 and 2000 people. My recording credits include work for Keith Harris & Orville, Little & Large, Jaqui Scott and the Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
button Nowadays I devote more of my time to playing church organs, something I love. I play regularly at St. Patrick's in Oldham. In 2000 I was asked to play for the Mayor of Oldham's Inaugural Mass which was scary. I didn't know that that much pomp and ceremony existed in Oldham. Then, in September 2007 the BBC recorded their Sunday Worship programme at St Patricks' so I got to play on the radio to 5,000,000 listeners. At least that's what we were told.
button While most of my time is spent teaching I'm happy to say that I did play for the Soul Inspiration Gospel Choir for a couple of years. As well as performing at charity events, we sang at weddings, concerts, including a sellout gig at Shaw Playhouse 2, and at the Centenary Celebrations of Dunwood Park. All good fun.
buttonIn 2014, I got to play with my old school friend Maartin Allcock. We played at the Middleton Arena as part of the Pete Cowap Music Festival with Paul Burgess of 10cc on drums and Mike Power on Bass. The last time that Maart and me had played together was back at school in an Interhouse Music Competition. We were beaten by a guy who played bagpipes. No-one knew that he played them.
buttonOne of my recent projects was to reintroduce a traditional choir to St Patrick's. They have had African and Filipino Community choirs for a number of years but no traditional 4 part harmony choir. I figured it was about time. The choir is called Nostro Coro which means Our Choir and the first performance was at the end of November 2014 as part of an International Music Event to start Advent. We started with a dozen members but now the choir has grown and has almost 20 members. If anyone is interested please get in touch or just turn up. We usually rehearse straight after 10.00am Mass on Sundays.
 

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Twelve pieces in twelve weeks

In September 2018 I decided to learn twelve pieces in twelve weeks. I didn't invite requests, which may seem a bit harsh, but that's because I really wanted to play pieces that I would request, so the list was already fundamentally chosen; if you can fundamentally chose a list, that is.
The idea was that each week I would learn a piece, record it and post it on YouTube and publicise it on Facebook.

Why did I do it?

First of all; because I could. I've been a musician since I started playing at seven years old, and have spent my entire life playing, writing or teaching music. That is over 50 years in which hardly one day has gone by when I didn't play some music. Secondly, I like a challenge. After all of that time I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface of that that is piano repertoire or if you like; piano music. Some might find that ridiculous after all of that time but I think it's really healthy. Go to any music shop and browse the shelves containing their stock of piano music and you'll get some idea of how vast piano repertoire is. Bear in mind that that will only be a fraction of what is available and that that has to be a fraction of what has been written. It's mind blowing. So here we go on a mini adventure. I seriously hope that you enjoy the trip and please feel free to make any comments that you want to.




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These are some of the keyboards
that I have had the pleasure to play

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Ekosynth P15

Ekosynth P15

 

Over the years I have played quite a few different keyboards to say the least. These are just some of them.

The first synth I ever bought was the Ekosynth P15. It had 15 presets on it that you could modify with a was limited to attack and sustain envelope. In spite of that you could get a pretty good French horn sound out of it and the panpipes always sounded fine to me. On reflection I think it was supposed to sound a bit like the ARPs of the day. It worked for me anyway.

Crumar Performer

Crumar Performer

  So once you've bought your first monophonic synth, you find you need something to play chords on. Enter the Crumar Performer. I didn't realise when I bought it but Duran Duran had one too. I loved it because of the graphic equalizer and a warm but gritty sound. Ever one else seemed to be buying Logan String Machines which I can't understand to this day.

Pianet

Hohner Pianet T

  This one is superb. Everything you could possibly want. It was light and very portable with a built in lid so that you didn't need a case, it never needed tuning and it sounded great. Plus - it wasn't expensive. I paid £175 for mine. I put it through a Pearl Phaser to give the sound a bit of movement. We went everywhere together.

Yamaha DX7

Yamaha DX7

 

Next, the world's first mass production touch sensitive synthesizer. I saved and saved for this. Back in the early 80s a £1500 price tag was serious money when you are trying to earn a crust as a musician. Mine is alive and well after years of service and it still gives me a buzz when I play it. Yamaha put out a mark II version but nothing sounds quite like the original. I did play a MII once - it wasn't the same at all. They had tried to make it sound warmer. Was it ever meant to be? Personally I don't think so.

D50Roland D50

  The perfect partner for the Yamaha DX7 had to be the Roland D50. Same price and still living, the D50 had the warmth that the DX7 lacked. I added some Oberheim patches to give it a really fat synth sound and also have the original Go West brass sound. Luvly!

Pro one

Sequential Circuits Pro One

  I loved this, it was my best buy and even though it was always slipping out of tune, it didn't matter. I found this in a local music shop covered in dust. The conversation went - Why's that there? - Dunno!?! - Is it for sale? - erm give us £50 and it's yours - Sold! One of the advantages of a misspent youth is that you know a Prophet V's baby brother when you see one. Apart from Minimoogs this has to be one of the best lead synths ever produced. It could sail past the racket that the rhythm guitarist was making with ease. Unfortunately it is no longer with me. I did see one sell for over £1500! s'truth!

CZ1

Casio CZ1

  I actually got this to act as a master keyboard for a Kawai K1r module that I bought for string sounds. I nearly bought one of these when I was doing the famous saving up for the DX7. I never really used it for it's own sounds though on the odd occasion I used them they did sound okay I suppose. Another one in the Keyboard Mausoleum

hammond

Hammond C3

  The Hammond organ - the daddy of all electronic organs. I must have played every conceivable type of Hammond Organ including gritty M100s, smooth B200s and an extremely expensive one that a BBC organist let me play now and again. For a while I played a C3. The thing about the C3 was that they used a tonewheel system. You had to get the tonewheel spinning before you started it up for real. Confused? So was I. It gave them an amazing sound which I'm sorry to say is not the same as the newer transistor based ones.

yamaha cp80

Yamaha CP80

  As heavy as it was I used a Yamaha CP80 for many years. It was supposedly portable but I beg to differ. Even when you took it apart - it did spilt in two - it still weighed a ton. Okay, maybe be not a ton but it was really heavy. the god thing about it was the sound. Classic 80s piano, as heard on practically every recording in the 80s. It actually belonged to my drummer who bought it from his previous keyboard player because he missed it. Sweet.

XP60

Roland XP60

  Bought with the fee I got for playing on Millenium Night - it was bought to replace the DX7 on live gigs. I was getting increasingly worried about how much damage constantly moving the DX7 about was doing. Enter the XP60. Okay I know it's a totally different animal, it is in fact a workstation but times move on. I added the vocal expansion board which has some great vocal samples. The drum sounds are fine and linked to my computer makes for a great audio/midi studio. Some would say that with something like this you don't need any other gear but then again they would say that, wouldn't they. Having played the others - nope - no contest. Lots of work and ingenuity went into those keyboards and they all have their own niche. Respect!

Electric Blue Voyager

Moog
Voyager
Electric Blue

 

Next ... the beautiful Voyager Electric Blue, built by the legendary Bob Moog who sadly died in 2005. These were released as a celebration of Bob's 50 years designing possibly the best keyboards available. Bought for me by my lovely wife to celebrate my 50th birthday, it sounds amazing, looks amazing and is amazing and it stays in tune, which the original Minimoog (which it is based on) unfortunately didn't.

kronos

Korg Kronos

 

My latest keyboard is the Korg Kronos. This is the undeniably, the best keyboard I have ever bought. In fact, I would say that it is the best keyboard ever produced. It ticks so many boxes and has so many great features I hardly know where to begin so I will just say 'How many?'
It is basically nine different keyboards in one. That's right, nine!
Combine that with being able to store different setlists, incredible sounds and a very powerful sequencer, I doubt I will be replacing this for a while, if ever!

But that's what I said last time.