Beautiful sounds - and why not get along to enjoy them in Sunderland

Members of Sunderland Pianoforte Society.
Members of Sunderland Pianoforte Society.

For 75 years, Sunderland has been lifted by the sounds of the Pianoforte Society.

The music of the masters, from Bach to Beethoven, has been there for all to enjoy - and now even more people are being urged to take up the cause.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

If Schubert, Schumann and Chopin appeal to you, a feast of classical pieces is the tempting offer starting later this month.

But behind it all is the story of a society steeped in history.

Chris Cordner reports.

It started in the early 1940s when music was brought to the people using borrowed pianos.

We get an audience of between 30 and the upper 40s and people can also pay at the door

Kevin Walsh

Initially, half of each concert would be given by members. In the second half, a professional pianist would take over.

But as the society grew in popularity, so did the need for an instrument to match its standing in society.

And so a Steinway concert grand was bought. It is still being used.

And just in case you’re under the impression that it’s entirely an older audience which is being reached out to, think again.

The venue for the society's performances.

The venue for the society's performances.

“We get one girl of 16, we get people in their 20s and 30s as well as an older audience,” said society chairman Kevin Walsh.

And it’s not just Sunderland itself which makes up the area on which the membership draws.

“Half of our membership is from Sunderland itself and the rest comes from the surrounding areas as well as further afield such as Tyneside, Hexham, Otterburn and Darlington,” said Mr Walsh.

The venue for the Society’s recitals for many years was the Art Gallery (upstairs) in Borough Road, Sunderland.

Now, it is the pottery room at the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

The society’s season runs from September to April. All performances are from 7.15pm.

Audiences are treated to the best in piano recitals at the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

The first in this new season is on Tuesday, September 19, when Sarah Beth Briggs plays music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Hans Gál, Debussy, Schumann and Chopin.

Tickets at the door are £12.50 or free for accompanied children of 16 and under.

Full time students and those on unemployment benefit will be admitted for £6.

But if you want to experience the whole season of superb sound, membership is £60 for all seven recitals.

The full programme for 2017/2018 is as follows;

Tuesday, September 19- Sarah Beth Briggs.

Tuesday, October 24 - Dinara Klinton performs works by Bach/Busoni, Medtner, Beethoven, Liszt.

Tuesday, November 14 - Alexander Karpeyev gives a recital of works by Prokofiev, Medtner, Grechaninov, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky,

Tuesday, December 12 - Grace Yeo’s performance is of works by Frank Bridge, Debussy, Ravel, York Bowen and Schumann.

Tuesday, February 13 - Viv McLean has a programme featuring Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin.

Tuesday, March 13 - Samantha Ward takes to the stage to give a recital of works by Schubert, Brahms and Schumann.

Tuesday, April 17 - Alexandra Vaduva brings the curtain down on a wonderful celebration year with works by Schubert, Enescu and Brahms.

And in a milestone year of huge importance, Mr Walsh is planning a return of a great tradition from the society’s past.

“We always used to have a members night in that members rather than professionals would come up and play the piano once a year.

“It fell by the wayside about 15 years ago because there were not enough people volunteering.

“But I have got that going again this year.”

The night has been extended to a “members, guests and friends night” said Mr Walsh. He added: “So far we have got six participants but there will be more.”

Watch out for the members night in May next year with more details to come in the coming months.

In the meantime, the society would love to hear from more people interested in listening to music which includes 20th and 21st creations, contemporary sounds and music with a jazz influence.

To find out more about the society, visit www. http://sunderlandpianofortesociety.org.