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Edinburgh Fringe 2016


Will Pickvance

Genre: Music, Storytelling

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

A whimsical look at the piano and its ability to take one tune and morph it into something completely different. Or should I be referring to the pianist? A masterful hour of entertainment from this rising star on the Scottish music scene.


Will Pickvance is in his pilot seat, he tells us, as we settle into the atmospheric Victorian surroundings of Summerhall’s Anatomy Theatre. The piano. The pilot seat of Pickvance’s imagination holding the key to his past, the anxiety of his present (he’s apparently about to become a father for the first time) and the portal to his future. The piano is his better half.

Moving on from his previous success, Anatomy of the Piano, the theme this year is metamorphosis, or perhaps morphosis with a bit of piano involved. And so, in what is part lecture, part musical, Pickvance makes his instrument of choice come alive as we embark on a phantasmagorical, sometimes absurdist examination of how music is constructed and the vital role played by the “spare time bits” in tunes.

Take Strauss’s Blue Danube, for example. We all know it, but can you spot where the “spare time bits” are and just what a dirge the piece becomes without them? I couldn’t, but I can now. And I spent a couple of hours last night listening to some of my favourite pieces, trying to spot these “spare time bits” and it isn’t as easy as he makes it look.

Deconstruction is Pickvance’s forte as he effortlessly shows how Beethoven’s Rage Over A Lost Penny can morph into a jazz jam yet still be totally recognisable as a Beethoven piece. Or how a nursery rhyme with its origins in the 17th Century can morph into what I think was Mozart’s 41st. But how did he musically swerve Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond into a medley of Fats Waller hits? And back again?

Pickvance’s fertile imagination, his eye for the surreal and his sense of the absurd is given full vent with his urbane, dry delivery adding credence to the verbiage tumbling forth from his lips. The effect is contagious, with laughter spreading around the hall like ripples on a pond as the audience catches on to his laconic wit. I’m still trying to work out just why it was so funny, but perhaps it was just the combination of the words and their delivery, plus the fact that Pickvance just looks believable. .And his reverence for his instrument is genuine and his playing is simply sublime – he wouldn’t look out of place in any concert hall.

Pickvance is in his element in his pilot’s seat. And in the piano he’s discovered something that can take him to wherever he now wants to go. I hope he gets there as he’s a rare talent – whimsical, scatty, absurdist and a damn good musician to boot. Highly recommended viewing for young and old alike.