Duncan Honeybourne’s Contemporary Piano Soundbites

A musician supports musician friends and colleagues during lockdown

British pianist Duncan Honeybourne

Duncan Honeybourne

There have been many musical initiatives during the national lockdowns in response to coronavirus as musicians and others have sought to keep the music playing and to remind audiences that even if the concert halls are shut, music can still be heard and enjoyed.

British pianist Duncan Honeybourne started offering daily video recitals from his home back in late March, not long after the UK went into lockdown. These were short piano pieces, engagingly introduced by Honeybourne, recorded on his smart phone and uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. The project proved very popular, with many people finding comfort and pleasure in the daily broadcasts, and so Honeybourne – a long-standing champion of British piano music – decided to extend the project to give contemporary British composers an opportunity to showcase new work. The response was very enthusiastic and Honeybourne was flooded with new pieces. Collectively called ‘Contemporary Piano Soundbites’, these solo piano miniatures by British composers were commissioned and premiered by Honeybourne during April, May and June through daily video recitals. The original purpose of the project was, in Honeybourne’s words, “to imaginatively harness the zeitgeist of our present situation: to bring comfort and enjoyment to a large ready-made audience stuck at home, to aid musicians badly affected by the “cultural lockdown”, and to add to the contemporary repertoire, creating an artistic keepsake of this extraordinary phase in our history.

Duncan Honeybourne’s Contemporary Piano SoundbitesAlongside his daily video recitals, Honeybourne also raised money for the Help Musicians UK Coronavirus Hardship Fund, to support musician colleagues struggling in the current situation. The project, which ranked in the top 10% of Just Giving fundraisers nationally during April 2020, has already raised well over £2000, and profits from the sale of the CD will also be donated to this charity.

The disc, recorded in July 2020 under conditions of social distancing, presents a representative selection from the online Contemporary Piano Soundbites series. It celebrates the diversity of styles embraced by a broad cross-section of professional composers working today, and for Duncan Honeybourne it was “an invigorating experience to record an entire disc of pieces which hadn’t existed less than four months earlier. Especially stimulating and exciting is the juxtaposition of several leading senior composers with some of their most gifted younger colleagues. Several young composers make their first appearances on disc.

John McLeod: A Dark Waltz

‘Contemporary Piano Soundbites’ will not only help musician colleagues at a time of need, it also provides a snapshot of reflections and musings by some of the finest and most distinctive composers of our time at a unique and unprecedented moment in our history. In addition, it adds new music to the piano repertoire for other pianists – amateur, student or professional – to explore and enjoy.

“I hope the disc will make for a refreshing, enriching, stimulating and quirky listening experience too!” – Duncan Honeybourne

Sadie Harrison: In the Air…

The album includes piano miniatures by Graham Fitkin, John McLeod, Sadie Harrison, Francis Pott, Luke Whitlock, and David Lancaster, amongst others, as well as pieces by young and emerging composers.

Contemporary Piano Soundbites is available on CD from the Prima Facie label and is available to stream.

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