Christmas melodies for 2015

It’s nearly Christmas and London has a buzzing feel. The streets are thronged with happy shoppers, excited kids and equally excited grown men masquerading as Santa Claus. Whilst each year a slew of new artists and albums are released, one can’t help but wonder why the same old Christmas pop music plays everywhere year after year, with countless remakes reaching the pinnacle of the UK Top 40 Musical Charts. Certainly the style of music has evolved over the last few decades, with the classically themed 1930’s Christmas tunes giving way to Jazz in the 1950’s, Swing and Big Band in the 1960’s, which led to Rock & Roll, finally culminating in Electronic Techno by the mid to late 80’s, & the X Factor in the last few years. A simple question: what next?

Whilst one cannot criticise shifting tastes and human expression, I feel somewhat aggrieved that the simple magical stylings, so rich in creativity appear largely absent from the Christmas soundscape as engrossed shoppers surround me with their shopping bags and festive mood. Whilst new and innovative styles of music, such as Rap, R & B, DubStep and Drum & Bass, make up our yearlong listening, why do they remain largely absent from our Christmas music? In particular, why have recording artists not been capitalising on this rather glaring omission?

Call me old-fashioned, or perhaps not quite down withit, but I was rather excited when in 2003, the Darkness released a brilliant Christmas tune that nearly made the Christmas Number One. I’m certainly not criticising any of the 80’s music either, since those artists did an amazing job back at the time that has stood the test of nearly three decades and is still going strong. I am just trying to make a simple observation about the perennial lack of new melodies and innovation around this festive season. Also, it feels like there is a dilution and loss of the wonderful values and traditions that make Christmas a time for peace, love and togetherness. These are the values that create a great society and wonderful people. Whilst the underlying Christian traditions behind Christmas have been largely replaced with our society’s overemphasis on commercialisation, is there a direct correlation between the simple creativity of the seasoned professional musicians and its replacement with ‘X Factor’ like instant gratification of novices craving 15 minutes of fame? Perhaps I love a good simple melody which despite its simplicity, oozes style, warmth and creativity, and can be easily spawned on a lovely grand piano.

Have you listened to a good Christmas tune lately? What are your favourite Christmas memories or music? Please share your views and opinions in the Comments and from everyone at AMH Piano Tuning have a great Christmas and very best wishes for the Holiday & for 2016.

Keeping the pace with London

2016 London Marathon – Latest update on my progress towards next years Marathon which I will be entering in support of RP Fighting Blindness.

I have been really busy over the last few weeks, setting up some running partners – guides to help with my training during the cold and wet build up to Christmas.

Fortunately I have found a couple of guides who will help me stay focussed over the next couple of months, and help me to build my overall fitness during this period.

I am really pleased to share that I’ve found a fitness instructor, who will be training with me after Christmas, and he has taken on the task to actually guide me throughout the Marathon.

It is really cool to have found such a guide, because he is happy to set me up with a full Marathon running plan, helping me at each stage of the journey.

Being a lazy runner, I will need someone like him to get the best out of my training, keep me injury free, and push things to the next level.

My hopes are to do a sub four hour run but I will have to work really hard to get there, and I will be adding to this blog to keep you all up to date with my progress so watch this space and keep tuned to AMH Pianos or my Twitter feed for updates. Wish me luck!

A Brief History Of Lewisham-WOW!

I am always fascinated by, and deeply interested in the history of places which I carry out my work of tuning pianos, restoration and repairs, and piano removals. I like to imagine what it might have been like back in time, as London which we know today developed from small villages or even a collection of properties. This is my favourite whistle stop historical account of Lewisham, a vibrant and important borough of London.

Lewisham began its humble Saxon beginnings as Oleofsa’s village. In 862 Lewisham was referred to as LIofshema Mearc, then as Lieuesham in 918 and as Levesham in the Doomsday Book In 1086. Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham (1610-1657), founded a grammar school, a primary school, and six almshouses for the inhabitants of Lewisham.

In 1816 Lewisham was described as a rural village on the banks of the Ravensbourne that could only be reached by a long coach ride. It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to cover the distance in a day without what TFL has provided us in terms of transportation these days.

In 1828 the Riverdale Mill was built and is the only one of the Ravensbourne mills still surviving today. The Riverdale Mill was initially a leather mill and then became a corn mill in the 18th century. The first railway through Lewisham, the North Kent Line to Dartford, opened in 1849 and the present Lewisham station opened in 1857. In 1897 the Lewisham Clock tower was built to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

The Lewisham Street Market started in 1906 Lewisham town centre was devastated by a flying bomb in 1944, but recovered by the 1950’s. In 1977 the Lewisham Shopping Centre was built and in 1994 the High Street in the town centre was pedestrianised allowing a traffic-free street market and an open space.

Lewisham’s rich history has fed into the vibrant diverse town centre that it is today. The area is bordered by Catford, Deptford, Greenwich and Hither Green. It is a busy shopping district with a good mix of chain and independent stores and Lewisham Shopping Centre, which is one of the biggest in South East London, and Lewisham Market. The market is open seven days a week with the Monday to Saturday market selling mainly fruit, vegetables, fresh cut flowers and a small range of non-perishable goods. The Sunday market is a general market selling non-perishable goods with up to 60 stalls. There is also an annual programme of themed markets, which include, French, Polish, International and a market made up of local traders.

On Lee High Road there is an eclectic mix of independent shops which include an Italian barbers, an accordion shop, a Polish shop and fancy dress shop. At the Ladywell end of Lewisham High Street a pet store, a selection of beauty and hair dressing businesses and a wide selection of specialist food stores can be found.

Lewisham Borough’s famous residents, past and present include Danny Baker (Broadcaster), Kate Bush (singer/song-writer), James Callaghan (Labour Prime Minister), Sir James Clark-Ross (polar explorer), Big Jim Connell (socialist), Ernest Dowson (poet), Alfred Titch Freeman (cricketer), Gabrielle (singer/song-writer), Sir Isaac Hayward (politician), Glenda Jackson MP (politician & actress), David Jones (painter & poet), Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen (TV presenter), Spike Milligan (comedian & writer), Mica Paris (singer/song-writer), Sybil Pheonix MBE (community worker), Terry Waite (Archbishop’s Envoy), Max Wall (comedian) and Ian Wright (footballer), just to name a few. That seems to be a fairly illustrious, star studded list if I say so myself.

I really enjoy travelling throughout this part of the city, and sometimes wonder in hundreds of years time, how will people be living, and will there be pianos to tune.

Meanwhile, if you would like some attention for your piano here in 2015, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Give thanks to www.lewisham.towntalk.co.uk
Best,

Andy M Howard (AMH Pianos)
AEWVH Dip, MABPT, MIMIT
Fully Qualified & Insured Piano Tuner Technician
(Disclosure Barring Service) Checked

Office: 020 3685 5083
Mob: 07500 661581

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Looking Back At the Years

It has been quite a journey for me, both personally and professionally, ever since I set up AMH Pianos. With my work gaining constant coverage across London, I have been profoundly affected by the multi-cultural surroundings, which seems to exhibit novel creative and social dimensions not found in Bristol and the West Country. I feel as if the vibes of the capital have moved me; shaped my ways of thinking as well as my perspective in life. I do wonder, what might have been, had I not made the bold move of taking the world on my own terms, in new surroundings. Certainly, whatever has become of me in the last few years, has been a substantial improvement.

With my birthday on the horizon, I reminisce about my own personal development. Ever since my relocation to Hammersmith in West London, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many unique, interesting individuals, from all walks of life. I not only am tasked with looking after their pianos, they are also my friends. Being in the capital, my offerings related to piano removals and full scale general repairs have allowed me exposure to an even greater array of instruments, in different surroundings. Constant exposure to all makes and models has ensured that I am able to provide a better tuning service with the passage of time.

In addition to what I know best, I have also learned the use of social media and have even gained quite a fan following. Blogging, training for the London Marathon, and being exposed to the arts, has without a doubt, filled in many of the building blocks that nowhere else in the country could. However, in the grand scheme of things, all this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The greatest accomplishment for me, I feel, has been my personal development on the people skills front. Each time one of my customers provide me with praise and thanks, appreciating what I have done, I feel so much taller, yet humbled. For a new place to be favourable, it is not the environment or infrastructure, but rather the people who make up the community. Being blessed to be part of a cosmopolitan, multifaceted and creative mix, I come away each day learning not just something new, but often something so out of the box. This daily phenomena is sufficient to keep me grounded, since whenever I feel like I have learnt a great deal, I also find myself thinking that I have really not learnt anything at all. Still however, there is a long way to go before world domination.

Local Piano Tuner

I have thought about a really interesting mindset; let me try to explain. When I finished moving to London, and set up AMH Pianos, I found that people would call me, and ask if I am a Local Piano Tuner!

I have to ask them, "What actually makes a Local Piano Tuner?". I am Based in Hammersmith, and my working area is all across London – please check my Areas Covered Page to find out where I serve.

I think the Idea of a Local service is very undefined, and near impossible to actually qualify, for example:

If I got on the Hammersmith and City Line from Goldhawk Road, for a job in and around London Bridge, I would then consider myself as being local to Camden, Greenwich, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth at this point of my working day.

Also, If I had a job in Ealing, traveling  up on the Central Line from Shepherds Bush, I would then be Local to Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and so on. There is a definite pattern here. Can you see what I am talking about?

Is there some kind of an invisible, “local area distinction”?! And if so, could someone please explain to a new London resident like me what these are, and why? I am aware of so many people with their crash pads in London, working  in London during the week, and getting away for the weekend.

I am also aware of Piano Tuners, who don’t live in the city, but come and work in London for a couple of days, and then head back home, which happens to be outside the Greater London boundaries.

Can there be such a thing as a London wide Local Piano Tuning Service?
I believe that in the 21st century, we are all living in a "Global Village". Still however, if you were to operate more than five miles from one's home in London, you may not be considered local anymore.

I wonder, how far is the average commute in the City, and are these people looked at as being non Local at their place of work?

Scratching head trying to work out what the answer really is!! My own personal view is that to be truly considered local, anywhere, the key is to develop close ties with the area, community and activities within that area. Least of all, this would begain you respect from the people for your efforts

Please call on us: AMH Pianos- Local London wide Piano Related Services.

Reflections on Guy Fawkes Night

The nights are drawing in & the season for pyrotechnics has begun across Britain. Starting with Halloween, it gathers pace, culminating with a bang at the New Year. Revered highly by the ancient Greeks & worshipped by the Zoroastrians fire has fascinated man since the dawn of time. The old traditions of history, like the Hindu wedding ceremony & the Olympic torch, all depict a harmonious relation between fire & music. So as I wander throughout London, I can just imagine the City’s historical grandeur consisting of gaslights, architecture & beautiful music – perhaps some of the finest works ever created.

European classical music has been created to grip, captivate & provoke thought. Could the creative purity remain unadulterated, not confined to today’s chart topping convention! Today’s instrument definitions have changed whilst fire remains constant. The contrast intrigues me. Classical music is deceptively simple in execution & creation, despite the complexities of the stories & human emotions conveyed. With our shorter attention spans, craving more extravagant visual displays, is our aesthetic appreciation rising at the expense of our musical concentration?

London fireworks
London fireworks – courtesy: Timeout

Is our changing perception evolutionary or revolutionary? Was there an event that tipped the balance to make us resonate more with transverse light than with longitudinal sound waves? Is the trend reversible? If so then what would the catalyst be? Only a few days after Guy Fawkes Night, I leave you with these thought provoking questions. Meanwhile, I am hoping for a new, more fulfilling sound leading into 2016.

Have a melodious week ahead, from everyone at AMH Tuning Pianos.

Living In West London

After moving to London around two and a half years ago, I am so impressed with the transport network within the city. In fact, I would go as far as saying that this is the one city of the UK where public transport really works. Living close to Goldhawk Road tube Station, I feel blessed with the amount of underground lines and travel options thatI can link into, in order to carry out my work as a Piano Tuner.

There are five underground lines within a ten minute walk from my home, near Hammersmith Broadway, where I can link into the District and Piccadilly Lines. being able to use these lines to access Central London, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, linking to London Victoria station, and trains to Wandsworth, Lewisham, Greenwich, and further afield into South East London, and South West London and beyond. The choices are plentiful, making it possible for me to get to my required destination on time and with the appropriate assistance if required.

The District Line from Hammersmith, passess through Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, linking into Waterloo, and Waterloo East, where I can link in with the overground stations, that serve places like London Bridge, Deptford, Bexley heath, and all over South East London. The Piccadilly Line links in with stations to Ealing Broadway and Cock fosters. Going north, I can link into stations like South Kensington, Hyde Park Corner, Kings Cross St. Pancras, which is a great inter-connecting station to all parts of London where I work.

As someone who is Blind, I find it so much easier to move across London, than it was to travel around the West Country. Thanks to the work done by TFL, I am able to live an independent life and offer the services for AMH Pianos.

My Massive Personal Physical Challenge

Next year, will bring for me a massive challenge both mentally and Physically. I am at this time, preparing for the London Marathon 2016. This is going to be my second London Marathon, and I am running in aid of a blindness charity called Metro Blind Sports. The charity helps Blind and Partially sighted people to enjoy sports and live a Healthier lifestyle, and opens sporting opportunities which may not be available to them.

I have not only been set the task of running 26 miles, but also to promote the charity and hopefully reach out to Blind and Partially sighted people across London. Bring it on!

The Race starts in Greenwich Park, and finishes in St. James's Park, with the iconic finish along the Mall heading up to Buckingham Palace. Being new to London, I really enjoy passing through the many Boroughs where I serve the public through my Piano Tuning and Piano Maintenance work.

I am planning to write Blog entries throughout my training, and also hoping to add some film clips of my training runs along the way. These would be available to watch directly from my website or through my Youtube Channel, and I will let you know on Twitter, GooglePlus and Facebook when the next clip is live.

Generally I run from my home, over the Hammersmith bridge towards Barnes, dropping down onto the river bank, heading towards Kew, and on towards Richmond Park. In addition, I will also be doing some track work at the Battersea Park running track , to build up my speed skills and general physical fitness.

As a blind runner, taking on such a challenge, is a real mountain to climb, and I hope my runs over the next few months will interest you, and offer an insight into running a marathon with severe sight loss. If you have any advice or running tips for me, please share them in the comments section below, or by sending me an email. Wish me luck!

Accessible London

Having travelled all over the UK, I often think to myself: is London the most accessible city in the country? We are seeing a really integrated transport system in the Capital, with great transport networks, both above and below ground and having step free access becoming more and more the norm for the commuters of London. As a Blind Piano Tuner, I can travel, using this amazing public transport system, carrying out my work and indulge in social activities. Having a smart phone, using GPS and route mapping, I don’t think I could do as well anywhere else in the UK. Transport for London, TFL, should be really proud of the network, and I would like to give thanks for the skills and insights of the city planners.




Audio announcements on trains and buses are helpful to so many people whether you are new to the city or travelling to other areas outside of your daily commute. These audio systems help along all stages of ones travel. Many accessibility advancements, I feel, have been a direct result of the Paralympic Games 2012, which as one of my passions, finds great coverage across London, providing all the more reason to fall in love with this beautiful capital of ours.

In praise of Greenwich

Thought I would offer a little insight into some of the areas in which I tune pianos throughout London.

One of the Boroughs I enjoy working in is Greenwich. I love the history of the place, and the mix of districts within Greenwich: Abbey Wood, Blackheath, Charlton, Eltham, North Greenwich, Thamesmead, Westcombe Park, to name but a few!

Each of these areas has its own personality, offering great diversity and a colourful mix throughout the Borough of Greenwich.

I really enjoy the history of Eltham, what with the quintessentially English royal Palace, and I wish so much that I could travel back in time and see what life was like there in the Fifteenth Century!

Having moved to London recently, I make the most of what the city has on offer, and you will see me going to concerts at the 02. I have also been fortunate enough to have walked over the top of the Dome, and taken the cable car across the Thames.

I really enjoy the trip aboard the Thames Clipper along the riverbank into Westminster. I especially love this trip at night time, marvelling at all the amazing buildings and bridges lit up as you make your way to Westminster Palace.

My favourite sights include St Paul’s cathedral, the amazing Shard at London Bridge, and Tower Bridge at night time. It was fascinating to discover that Tower Bridge is classed as a ship, and has a captain manning the helm at all times.

The reason I’m writing this blog about Greenwich is chiefly the result of my time spent exploring the Borough following my recent relocation to London.

Time is such an interesting concept, and I guess the Borough of Greenwich is the modern day focal point of time, “the Prime Meridian Line”.

I have so much more to say about the Borough, what with music and entertainment over the years, but for now, it is time for me to go!