Harriet Stubbs says she plans to continue playing for her neighbours
Normally concert pianist Harriet Stubbs would be travelling to record music and entertain packed audiences.
But with the coronavirus lockdown and temporary closure of music venues she decided to entertain people a little closer to home.
She is normally based in New York and flies across the Atlantic each week. But she headed back home to the UK before lockdown and has been entertaining people by playing in her West Kensington flat since April.
She has been playing since she was three years old – but has never had an audience quite like this. And for her neighbours it’s the chance to hear music from a musician who was named as one of the country’s top three pianists by Julian Lloyd Webber on ITV’s Britain’s Musical Prodigies.
She’s also played on the soundtrack for hit movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And she had been planning to open a concert series in the Cayman Islands this year before lockdown started.
Harriet said the response from her socially distanced audience at West Kensington is fantastic.
“A little girl brought me flowers on a scooter.
“There’s been so many lovely ways that they’ve said thank you. It’s been wonderful. It’s been really really rewarding,” she said.
“There’s usually people outside listening so I thought ‘what if I do it the same time every day to give people some routine because everybody’s lost that’. Every hour feels like the last and the next.”
So after a hard day’s rehearsal the musician sits down at her piano at 5pm and entertains people in the streets nearby.
And she vows to carry on playing all summer.
The 31-year-old musician who is on the board of the top music award scheme, Grammy awards, said it was more rewarding than live streaming for the artist and the listener.
She said the lockdown had made things seem a little bit “purposeless”. However she added: “When I realised what a difference it makes to people’s day I felt like it was doing something and I still do and I keep going.”
A lot of her audience sit on their balconies, whilst others come on their bikes or park in their cars.
“Even the police come – which was really really lovely.”
And she said the daily 20 minute concerts take a lot of planning.
“I showcase the album with Marianne Faithfull, something from the album which is already out and from the album I’m doing with Mike Garson – David Bowie’s pianist.”
She added: “I had never really got to know my neighbours quite like this.
“It’s been incredibly reassuring during a time like this to feel there’s so much positivity around.”
She added: “We live in a word that is so in our phones that it is good to take them (people) out of that. In this time I hope they have found peace in that way because it requires being present and so much of life doesn’t anymore.”
And she added that in the future as we adapt to living with coronavirus “I think that music will always be needed. I think that maybe a way forward is that people have PPE and go to concerts like that. I think there’s a real hunger and a real need for it. I hope that we find a way of doing it safely.”
Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter