The Seat of Learning

On a normal day in London, my piano tuning, and full-scale repair work takes me to some interesting places around the city, right from South Bromley and the southern edges of the capital, to Temple Fortune towards the far north, and from everywhere in between. Whilst every service job always adds experience to my resùmé, and experience and practice are never to be taken for granted by anyone, I always think back to my time at the Royal National College of the Blind in Hereford, and the importance of formal learning about my craft. A specially tailored classroom, focusing on a skill or specific subject, can add character, discipline and life-long transferrable skills to one’s toolkit, in turn leading to a more enhanced experience when doing what we do. My years at the RNC have allowed me to gain a specialised craft, gain valuable insights into the industry and consequently, earn a livelihood.

LondonSchoolOfEconomicsMainEntrance

During work hours, I always tend to encounter a wide range of students, from all backgrounds, subjects and institutions dotted across London. There are plenty of world-class universities and specialist colleges through out the city, making the capital perhaps one of the largest student populations anywhere in the world. A collection of young, bright and eager minds, often embarking on challenging academic disciplines, possibly away from home, or even their country for the very first time, appear to be taking on the world. These young people, whether studying at top rated universities like University College London or Imperial College, or a specialist institution such as the Royal Academy of Music or RADA, will be our future doctors, engineers, service providers and world leaders. A competitive city such as London, will always attract the sharpest, brightest young minds, with the promise of a better life for them and their families. Whatever the discipline, one must never discount the value of top quality education and the struggle to improve one’s own wisdom and knowledge.

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Whether I am boarding a train at , or performing instrument relocation around one of the student halls of residence near Kings Cross, these young and dynamic students always seem to have bright ideas, ambition and interesting thought patterns. They make great conversationalists, full of aspirations and optimism. Despite all the stories and negative press around student life, the growing student debt and acts of decadence, one cannot help wondering how many of these generously paying customers for our city’s economy would gain plaudits in the media for studying all night, conducting innovative research, contributing to charities and causes, living away from home comforts for the very first time in the face of adversity, or just learning the best way to balance demands and expectations in the fast paced world we inhabit. Sometimes, it is just too easy to fall under the spell of sensationalism based on other people’s expense, is it not?

BirkbeckCollege UniversityOfLondon

So at the beginning of a sunny spell, here is to all the students, from Colindale to Croydon. Here is hoping that the sun always shines on your creativity, boldness and future success. After all, we would all be dependent on your work in decades to come. Make us proud!

GoldsmithsCollege MainBuilding

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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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!

The Importance of Certification and Verification

Playing the piano is fun until it is time to have it tuned. Finding anyone in the service industry can be a very confusing frustrating experience for pianists. It is imperative that you select the best tuner for your piano. You can’t just go by appearances and if you don’t even know where to start searching, you could easily be conned by someone who doesn’t know much about pianos or even how they are tuned and maintained. Looks can be deceiving.

It is important therefore to do your research on the person that turns up to tune your piano. Check that they can provide documentation proving that they are certified to do the work. That way you will be assured of quality service. There are many reasons why you should verify the qualifications of your tuner. They include the following.

Ensures quality service

If a tuner is a certified practitioner then he/she has been vetted to take care of your piano. Such measures include a criminal records (DBS) check, as well as membership of industry organisations. Professional bodies include The Association of Blind Piano Tuners and the Institute of Musical Instrument Technology.

Ensures value for your money

Once you have ensured that your tuner is bona fide, you can relax in the knowledge that you are putting your piano into capable hands. Entrusting your priceless instrument into the wrong hands would be a waste of money; it would also put your initial investment at risk. You need to rest assured that the expert will do what he/she is trained to do, to give you the best tunes on your piano, which may be worth just about anything in the whole wide world.

Security purposes

It is always good to verify the qualifications and identities of service providers that we allow into our homes. For reasons of personal safety and security verifying the identity and credibility of the individual or organisation is even more important in a large city like London. Top rated professionals, as a matter of pride, would always aim to provide you with value for money. They will also ensure that work is carried out in a safe and expeditious manner with the personnel having the appropriate insurance cover.

Conclusion

In 2015 it is remarkably easy to ascertain information about the person you wish to employ for tuning or repairing your piano. In fact, a growing number of people are beginning to provide reviews and comments to assist you to make the right choice. A few minutes of research can save you time, money and hassle in the future.

Is London’s music up-tempo?

Having moved to London not so long ago, I have noticed a definite surge in my energy. The crowds and the hustle and bustle, coupled with the relentless pace of life, are all definitely a shock to anyone’s system, especially if the person has not been accustomed to living in big cities. Now that I am settled and gradually becoming more established, I can certainly appreciate the whole spectrum of activity and opportunities that this world-renowned capital of ours has to offer… and I love it more every day.

I love London guitar

Having lived in Bristol and Bath for a considerable chunk of my life, I was fortunate enough to attend plenty of events that featured some of the best music I have ever heard. Whilst Bristol may be renowned for its music scene, there is certainly no place like London when it comes to the Arts. Having just attended an Ed Sheeran gig last week, it got me thinking: does London’s music tempo match its lifestyle?

Comparing the size, population and average distance travelled per week, the pace of London completely dwarfs that of Bristol. I now find myself walking and talking faster and I certainly want to achieve a lot more in the smallest possible timeframe. Assuming that this phenomenon applies to every Londoner, does it mean that I am now listening to more up-tempo music to match my energetic lifestyle? London has certainly given rise to many musical genres including Drum and Bass and more recently Dubstep – both being a somewhat up-tempo take on the world famous West Indian influences of Reggae, Calypso and Steel Band. I have not conducted formal scientific research. However, I do wonder whether or not my music loving customers expect their pianos to be prepared differently to produce more up-tempo and louder sounds so that they can play at top-notch speed. Given that a piano is always a piano and serviced in exactly the same way to produce the best quality of music regardless of location, are there underlying factors expected by the piano player to aid their composition that matches the pace of their lifestyle. It goes without saying that with each passing day I seem to be working faster and more efficiently in line with the London way of life.

Street Piano London
courtesy: streetpianos.com

Humans have a tendency to naturally increase their rhythm over time once they have mastered a particular pattern – a psychological phenomenon known as forward telescoping. It is therefore imperative that strict discipline is required to counteract this tendency if one intends to produce top quality music. The question still remains: Does the pace of London, or for that matter any city, impact the rate of playing or producing music? I would certainly love to hear from my readers purely to generate interesting ideas on the subject that I could one day turn into academic research.

Give a shout out in the comments! :)