Friday, 6 November 2015

For Your Ears Only

So there we were, having afternoon tea in the world-famous Pump Room in Bath, taking delight in the refined Georgian elegance, its unhurried atmosphere and the excellent service. I mean, it's just one of those places from where everything in the world can feel almost ... okay. Know what I mean? So nothing's perfect, but having left behind Yorkshire's constant drizzle and simply chilling out in such acceptable surroundings was very agreeable – and I don't use adverbs lightly. 

To my right was a highly-polished grand piano, at which the pianist was doing an excellent job performing what in the US is termed "elevator music". Yes, someone spends years and countless hours practising every day – and not just playing the notes and getting them in the right order, but also refining the tone, the touch, the way the fingers contact with the keys to make that unmistakable sound, a marvel of creative interpretation that is every bit as unique as a fingerprint. A grand piano is, after all, a mechanical instrument and isn't as forgiving as a plastic electronic keyboard.

So all of that effort goes into the performance. And it matters not whether it's for a concert or being used to accompany people scoffing buns.

Yet it's taken for granted by many people.

But not by me. I've been there; I've done that. I've eaten semiquavers for breakfast (cheese and onion flavour) and had my fingers smacked by a fascist ruler-wielding piano teacher, so I appreciate live performances – yes, even in a tea room, and certainly in the best tea room in the world.

The classical piece ended and the pianist began the next number. As soon as he began, I could have named that tune in three. The left hand harmony confirmed my surprise: it was the title music of For Your Eyes Only, which just happens to be my favourite Roger Moore James Bond film. Wow!

He played all of it, with feeling and expression, and I was sensing a little hesitation as he wondered if he could get away with his choice here, in this most prestigious of tea joints.

It went rather quiet at our table because all four of us are Bond fans, and to hear this theme played live on piano was a new experience. When he finished, we applauded. The tea- and coffee-drinking fraternity around us fell silent, obviously wondering if they had missed something, which of course they had. I gave the pianist a thumbs up, which he returned, then he went into a medley of other Bond themes; he didn't need any further encouragement. Nobody Does it Better (from The Spy Who Loved Me), Live and Let Die, and You Only Live Twice flowed faultlessly from the stage. It was brilliant – maybe you'd guessed? And all to accompany people having afternoon tea, which seems such a waste and yet, had that not been the case, we never would have witnessed that performance.

We met him afterwards; his name is Jools Scott, accomplished musician and composer. You can listen to some of his music on his website here.

Yeah, the best afternoon tea ever. And speaking of James Bond, please see my next post, Bonding with the Saint.


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