“Mesmerising”, “unbelievable”, “exceptional” – these are just a few words that have been used to describe Wayne Marshall OBE’s concert here at King’s this week!

More than 100 people, including our Music Scholars, got to witness leading pianist, organist and conductor, Wayne perform in the Recital Hall on Wednesday evening (December 6th).

Not only was the concert of an as anticipated sensational quality, but it was also a first for King’s, in that it was completely improvised!

Mr Neil Porter-Thaw, our Director of Music, said: “We were delighted to welcome Wayne to King’s to experience what he does best. Before he touched a note, Wayne explained to the audience how he began to play the piano when he was just 3 years old, completely by ear, and that he learnt to read music much later on. He also said that listening to lots of music, and of all genres, is key to the success of improvisation. It is not something you can teach!

“Members of the audience wrote their favourite song/music/composer on a piece of paper and popped it into a basket. I then invited young audience members to come up and choose a piece of paper. Nobody had a clue what might be on the paper! If Wayne did not know a song he had to pass, but this only happened a couple of times. At least fourteen pieces were improvised, from wonderful Christmas tunes to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Star Wars, Mission Impossible, the Gladiator theme in the style of Ragtime, some Gershwin, UB40, and more. When Wayne started a three-part fugue in the middle of his improvisation of Mission Impossible, I nearly fell off my seat!

“After setting up, Wayne took the time to listen to our wonderful boys’ a cappella group, The King’s Barbers, preparing for next Monday’s Concert, which he enjoyed very much. After their rehearsal, he asked for a favourite Christmas song of the boys. “Crocodile Rock!” came from the Bass section. All I can say is that jaws were on the floor for a long time after Wayne had finished his improvisation.

“Wayne commented on how electric the audience were and how they really challenged him. What a night. What a man.”

Thank you to Wayne for an incredible evening, and thank you to everyone who supported the concert. We have some recordings from the evening, which we will share with you soon!

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