Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition – and shanty singers. Musical contrasts!

Yes, it was time again for us to pile into the White Rock theatre with half of Hastings for the two-night final of the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition. I’ve written about it plenty of times before! The previous night, we’d been with the other half of Hastings, crammed into the Jenny Lind pub in the Old Town for the launch of a CD album from our own local RXShantymen – four blokes who sing acapella traditional and more modern sea shanties. Full houses in the Jenny Lind and in the White Rock!


Firstly – a word about the photos on here – some taken by me, some are from the Facebook pages related to the events. I think any photos of the piano do which are not mine were taken by my old Writers’ Group chum, John Cole, who seems to be the official photographer. My photos in such dark and crowded places are useless.

Let’s talk about the shanties first. One of the group? band? troupe? is Tom Kelly, the husband of my friend Jan. He has an excellent singing voice. The Shantymen have a sing-along night every Thursday in the Jenny Lind, and have a devoted following.  Here’s a link to some of their music.

Thursday evening was good, and we both joined in with the singing. Somehow, Battleaxe always finds herself singing sea shanties in a deep baritone. But how else would you sing about hauling, heaving round the capstan lads etc?  Battleaxe would indeed recommend the CD – you can get it from the Jenny Lind – am not sure about other outlets right now.

However, we are talking the more whiskery end of Hastings society here, and I do think that Philosopher would have to get much more whiskery to truly fit in with the shanty set. Not that Tom is whiskery… Oh, did I say? Poor Philosopher had to go to hospital in distant East Grinstead to have a patch of skin cancer removed from his pate. He had a skin graft and it has left this sort of crater – hope it sorts itself out. At the moment he looks as if he has been shot in the head. How did I get onto that? Ah yes, Tom not being whiskery – Philosopher  has more hair than him. Apparently the shantymen even had their own beer for the night – see below.

So, with a covering plaster slapped on Philosopher’s head, and me in a frock, the next two nights we were down at the White Rock Theatre, greeting friends and hearing some great music.  A lady accosted me – ‘Are you the Battleaxe?’  Always nice to meet a reader.

As usual, there were six finalists, three on each night, playing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It is always good to hear a full orchestra strutting their stuff round here.

The first night, we started with a Chopin concerto played by a little lad of 16….  amazing, he eventually came third.  Then came the eventual winner, Fumiya Koido, a Japanese boy who gave the most riveting performance of Ravel’s PC in G, and a performance of Rachmaninoff 3, never one of my favourites but always popular with competition contestants for some reason. On the second night we had Rachmaninoff 2 – the Brief Encounter music, played by the only girl in the line-up. I thought she played really well and would have liked to have seen her do better.  Then Prokofiev – I never know how the judges tackle that one. There are so many notes to be played I can’t see how the pianist has time for artistic variation. Finally the obligatory Russian playing Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 – with maximum volume and feeling. However, he eventually came second. Here is a really useless photo of the winner getting his prize, and a better one of all the finalists, with Frank Wibaut and the Lord Lieutenant, who presented the prizes (Battleaxe and Philosopher are naughty – we never stand up when told to ‘be upstanding for the LL…’)



On Saturday night, the theatre was a total sell-out, every seat taken. The place has had a bit of a refurbishment – they’ve taken away our favourite seats, the raised stalls, taken the carpet up and rearranged the stalls seating. I think they want to make it a bit more mosh-pitty for rock gigs. Traditionally, the theatre had 1066 seats – I don’t know if it still has, but anyway, all were full.  Battleaxe and Philosopher always make sure to get seats at the end of a row – as soon as interval time arrives I am out like a greyhound from the traps heading for the Ladies. On Saturday I was the first one in there… delay any longer and there will be a queue of thirty women.

The Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition has been growing in popularity year on year. This year there were 176 entrants. The driving force behind it all is Frank Wibaut, who travels the world auditioning young people and selecting the group to come to Hastings. However, as from now the competition will be biennual. The next will be 2021.  The Competition is financially supported by the Kowitz’s from Fairlight Hall… Fairlight Hall? Oh Lordy don’t remind me about those 400-odd WI women descending on the hall on 6 July. So much work for Battleaxe to do….



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