Grand Day Out For Four In Chelsea: An Interview With Four Lallemants

by Karine Hetherington

On Saturday October 6th 2018, The Lallemant Quartet will perform a piano extravaganza at St Luke’s Church, Chelsea.

Karine Hetherington caught up with three of the sibling pianists: Miles, Oliver and Lydia Lallemant.

You’re going to be performing on four grand pianos. That’s quite a feat!

Oliver: We’ve done this before. The first time was in 2011, seven years ago. But then it was out of necessity! I had to hire two extra pianos for a concert I was directing and I needed to recoup the cost of piano hire. I therefore organised an ad hoc event the night before the main concert and got my three siblings to play with me. We got our money back but I have to admit that our first foray wasn’t much good. However it was a start and we got a taste for it. Since then we have had much more concert practice!

What is the appeal of multiple pianos for audiences do you think?

Miles: It’s a novelty.

Oliver: It hardly ever happens! Very few large concert halls stock that many pianos. Perhaps the Carnegie Hall. Extra pianos are brought in only for special occasions. And this will be special, as part of the KOFMA music festival.

How will the grand pianos all fit into St Luke’s Church, Chelsea?

Oliver: Unfortunately we won’t be able to slot our pianos together on stage as the space isn’t deep enough but we’re going to be arranged in a line: the middle pianos towards the back, pianos one and four towards the front. The arrangement is slightly more interesting in fact.

Miles: With this pattern, we will be able to see the other person’s hands. We can even set up a really clever selection of mirrors so that we can see all the other people from all angles.

Oliver: (Laughing) In an ideal world Miles. But as we’ve discovered it’s not quite an ideal world.

Who leads? Keeps the beat?

Miles: Often the person playing bass

Lydia: And also the pianists who start the piece.

Miles: It depends. Timing is a big consideration when playing multiple pianos. It’s easier to play pieces that have a regular pulse, like Bach. Anyway – it’s something we obviously need to pay attention to.

Have you fixed the programme yet?

Lydia: Yes, we’re performing the following pieces:

Hungarian Dance No 5 by Johannes Brahms
Habañera from Carmen by Georges Bizet
Nursery Suite – composed especially for the Lallemants by Peter Foggitt
La Donna è Mobile from Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi
Can-Can from Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach
Danse Macabre by Camille Saint–Saëns
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No 5 First Movement by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Brandenburg No 3 First Movement by Johann Sebastian Bach

What was your childhood like? Was it piano lessons for all of you?

Miles: We were seven siblings in total. The quartet is made up of siblings one, three, five and seven. I call us the odd siblings. 

Oliver: Speak for yourself Miles!

Miles: (Laughs) And we were all musical and we only had one piano.

Did you fight over it?

Oliver: Most of the time, as Mum didn’t want us to play at all!

You were brought up in Wales?

Miles: In Swansea. But we moved around for the schools.

Were your parents musical?

Oliver: Dad was quite good at whistling and Mum sang in a local choral society.

So where did your musical drive come from?

Miles: My mother luckily found me a really good inspiring piano teacher, Mr Yeoman. He suggested that I attend the voice trials at Llandaff to see if I could be a Cathedral Chorister. I ended up at the Cathedral School as a boarder, on a scholarship aged nine. And years later went to Trinity College, Cambridge.

Several of Mr Yeoman’s pupils in Swansea went to Oxbridge. Without him, I doubt whether any of this would have been possible.

Oliver: Yes, and we all wanted to be as good as Miles in the family. We were very competitive. But luckily we all get on.

Lydia, what is it like being the only girl in the ensemble?

Lydia: To be honest, I don’t think about it. Except when I have to choose something to wear. It’s easier for my brothers.

Who practises the most to this day?

Lydia: Definitely me!

The Four Lallemants will be performing at St Luke’s Church in Chelsea on Saturday 6th October at 3pm. Book your tickets here.

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