Yeoman of the Month March 2015 – Ashley Fripp

During a recent all-Chopin recital at St. Lawrence Jewry, a Christopher Wren church next door to the Guildhall (the site of Chopin’s last ever public performance), I reflected on how incredibly lucky I am. As a concert pianist I get to travel the world, perform recitals and concertos at some of the most wonderful concert halls, and meet and work with many exceptionally gifted and inspiring people.

I came to the piano at the age of nine when my parents bought me a tiny, battery operated keyboard for Christmas. I immediately became fascinated with it and taught myself to read and write music using the keyboard’s accompanying book. Having not come from a musical family I was happy to simply be left to my own devices for quite some time (although with some upgrade to the instrument I was using along the way!), and I enjoyed the freedom of exploring a great deal of music, even if I did so without discipline. Knowing I wanted to take studies more earnestly, at the age of twelve I auditioned and joined the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music and at fourteen, I enrolled at the Purcell School. I have immeasurably happy and fond memories of my studies at these two institutions and they were absolutely key to my development at that crucial stage.

In 2007, I began my tertiary education at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where, in 2012, I was awarded the Gold Medal. This involved the very special opportunity to perform Liszt’s Totentanz in the Barbican Hall with the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra under James Judd. I have been fortunate to have won a number of prizes throughout Europe and Asia, many of which offer ensuing performance opportunities, but I feel especially close to the Worshipful Company of Musicians. In 2013, I was awarded their Prince’s Prize, and enjoy a lovely relationship with this organisation who do such a considerable amount in support of young musicians. With concert opportunities, the chance for “networking” and invaluable career advice, this is one of the awards I have cherished the most.

I am currently undertaking an extensive tour for the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) for their Rising Stars programme – an initiative that sees the 21 member halls nominate young musicians and choose a privileged few to embark on the series. I discovered that I had been nominated by the Barbican Centre for the 2014/2015 Rising Stars via an answer machine message during the interval of a concert I was giving. Needless to say I felt quite ecstatic for the second half, although with venues such as the Musikverein, Concertgebouw, Bozar and Koelner Philharmonie on the list it did cross my mind that it could have been a very elaborate joke at my expense!

Being a Rising Star has, so far, been a dream come true; in March alone I will be performing in Budapest, Dortmund, Barcelona, Stockholm, Gateshead and, on 13th March, at the Barbican here in London. I am deeply honoured that Shigeru Kawai are providing me with my own concert grand and a Master Piano Artisan technician to keep the piano at its peak for the entire tour, which enhances the entire ECHO experience no end.

The busy performing and travel schedule can be tiring so I try and conserve as much energy as possible on concert days, rather than cram in last-minute practice. Part of my pre-concert ritual involves drinking loose leaf jasmine tea and the application of Elemis “Quiet Mind” Temple Balm just before going on stage!

I am very much enjoying the packed diary I have at the moment and hope that I can continue in the same vein for the future. I also enjoy the frequent flyer perks – first class check-in, unlimited lounge access (champagne!), priority boarding, earning double miles etc., all of which help keep things calm on the road. I’ll be going to Japan later this year and will be redeeming a few of my miles to go first class return!

For concert dates and more information visit www.ashleyfripp.co.uk