Ensuring our vibrant future for 2021… and beyond

Welcome to the 2021 edition of our ever-expanding but always friendly piano summer school! Who would have thought twelve months ago that August 2020 would have brought such radical changes to CIPPS and our continued mission of inspiring, enabling and supporting a love of piano playing in the broadest, most comprehensive sense?   At one stage in preparations we considered cancelling everything: The world was in lockdown, concerts and teaching sessions everywhere seemed in disarray. The planet was in pandemic, panic mode….But no!  In late March CIPSS took firm steps to continue online for the new Junior Academy as well as for the, now traditional, Parts One and Two.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the generosity of our incredible faculty of world class pianist-teachers, and more than a little stubbornness and determination on the part of Kathryn, myself and the indefatigable IT guru that is Lesley Martin, CIPPS 2020 proved to be a resounding success.  Who had even heard of Zoom break out rooms before the pandemic started? Not us certainly- but ultimately last August’s triumphantly successful summer course worked because we made sure that one to one lessons, filmed concerts and lectures were only a part of what was on offer.  In addition to daily coffee morning chats, we opened up the virtual evening bar. We continued with the cabaret. We laughed, we giggled, we supported, we inspired.

In 2021 we are determined to move forward and offer the warmest, most generous and inspirational support for pianists and pianofiles that we possibly can.  Who knows what the future will bring? Will the Covid Vaccine be ready and mean that musical activity returns to normal?  Vaccine or no vaccine, CIPSS is determined to continue.  But we have learnt so much from 2020. The pandemic has completely changed our lives.  We would be ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ if we were to totally forget about online possibilities for 2021, and that is why the 21st edition of our beloved summer school will set new standards and parameters by simultaneously being both Online AND Onsite in Manchester.

It is easy to understand why 2021 will bring this vibrant new hybrid online/onsite approach to proceedings when we remember what August 2020 was like.   We had nearly three hundred participants, spread evenly into groups of 100 a piece over the three sessions of the event.   Zoom break outs became a daily fixture for the course as we got used to 11am coffee mornings and lots of chatting and camaraderie.  It was really emotional to reconnect with so many participants from previous years, as well as to make new friendships from across the world.  Kathryn and I shed many a gentle tear as participant after participant joined in the conversations, sharing some of the concerns, worries and frustrations- as well as the new found joys, facilities, opportunities and creativity- of lockdown with the CIPSS community. We ‘broke out’ into small groups, continued conversations, made new friendships, and supported each other  constantly.

As if that was not enough, we had some fantastic webinars, supported by the ultra-kind and always charmingly efficient Nicole Wilson of Musical Orbit. Steven Osborne gave a wonderful and highly illuminating talk on our approach to the text, and was joined by many of the other faculty members for further discussion. – World famous concert pianist Noriko Ogawa gave an extraordinary amount of time not only via one to one teaching but also through classes in webinar format, even jumping over from London to Tokyo within twenty-four hours as she continued to support the online school, shrugging off jetlag and the inconvenience of having to work in the middle of the night in order to offer her inspirational support to eager pianists.   

The final morning concerts with participants sum up the success of the online event perfectly- we divided into three groups each, and hosted extraordinary virtual globe trotting performances that swiftly moved across the planet from Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China (we were conscious of international datelines  in scheduling times for individuals!) to Russia, central Europe and the States.   We may all have been at home in our individual houses…. But we were truly ‘at home’ on the internet via zoom together! Moreover, we had the opportunity to review and remember most of what we experienced, whether it be by zoom recordings, or YouTube films of technique, practising, as well as of concerts and lectures, not to mention the many handouts on playing issues too.

Moving forward we feel that online activities will enhance CIPSS in future, regardless of whether or not the course- Heaven forbid- has to go back completely to online activities or not.  By streaming all the major concerts and lectures as well as  by making available online  major parts of the teaching that happens on the course daily, we are immediately opening out our unique opportunities to participants who may be unable for all kinds of reasons to travel to Manchester in person.   We want all piano lovers to be able to take part in what we offer.  For this reason there is now the opportunity to have online lessons exclusively if you register to be a participant on the course.   We have created a bespoke online programme that will include virtual coffee mornings, the opportunity to watch live daily teaching from many different members of the faculty as well as watch all lectures and recitals on Live stream from the glorious Stoller Hall.

For those who are able to come to Chetham’s in person and work face to face with our extraordinary faculty as well as attend all of the events, the programme surely speaks for itself.  However, it may be possible for participants to have one or more lessons online with selected members of the online faculty by using the excellent AV machines that are now firmly installed in many of the teaching rooms in Chetham’s school.

As I write this (early November 2020) it is impossible to gauge where the world will be in nine months time.  Will there be a new vaccine? Will the second wave lead to more lockdowns? Whatever the scenario, rest assured that CIPSS is ready to adapt and modify so that safety is always the priority.  Last August we proved that inspiration and musical support could thrive and remain vibrant alongside  the (essential) health and safety needs.  Therefore we are ready to move with the times.  We can change the offsite course to online quickly if need be. We can adjust and look after everyone- faculty and participants alike- as they join the CIPSS community.

Kathryn and I send you all our love and warmest greetings and look forward eagerly to welcoming piano ‘friends’-old and new- to 2021 onsite and online CIPSS. We remain ‘the friendliest summer school in the world’

Murray McLachlan, Founder and Artistic Director.