Feb 19, 2011

An Interview With Christopher Lewis - Welsh Harpsichord Maestro

'Christopher D. Lewis is The Welsh Contemporary Harpsichordist, and is currently based in San Francisco, California. Born in Rhiwbina, Wales and moved to North America to study music at McGill University, Montreal Quebec in 2005 under the guidance of harpsichordists Luc Beausejour & Hank Knox....' more here

AmeriCymru: Hi Christopher....many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. I suppose many people will be curious to know what initially attracted you to the harpsichord?

Chris: I remember, so vividly, at maybe 5 or 6 going for my first piano exam at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and sitting in a room filed with pianos. But I was drawn to a funny looking "piano" in the corner of the room, and I recall so vividly the vibrant plucking sound when I pushed some keys. My Mother informed me it was a harpsichord, and the sound always stuck in my head! But I battled on with piano lessons over the years, never really cared for them.

I didn't like the music and I didn't love the sound the piano made. So when the opportunity arose I took lessons when I was 16 with the Early Music teacher at the WCMD after being reminded of the sound when listening to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 on the radio one day. (Classic FM I believe!)

AmeriCymru: Can you tell us how you came to be studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music?

Chris: Aged 18 I moved to Canada, and lived there for 5 gloriously happy years. I studied at first at McGill University specializing in modern music on the harpsichord. After 4 very French years in Montreal I lived for a year in Toronto, not my happiest time, but all that changed when I was accepted into the Masters harpsichord program at the Conservatory here in San Francisco. Finally, some sunshine in my life, and no more snow! I'm currently halfway through my first year here and loving the city, the weather and the music scene here in the Bay Area.

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your repertoire? What are your favorite performance pieces?

Chris: I've always said very clearly that with very few exceptions, almost any music type will work on the harpsichord. From serious baroque/classical works, to pop and rock - it all works. Of course in the 60's and 70's the harpsichord had such a great career in pop music, just take a listen to some of the Beatles (Piggies, All You Need is Love, Because etc), The Rolling Stones to the Beach Boys. They all used harpsichord fantastically! Alas I don't get to play much pop music (Maybe a Jimi Hendrix or two!) at the Conservatory, I tend to play the more serious classical contemporary pieces, but I'm always drawn to the more audience pleasing pieces. If people are going to hear modern harpsichord, I want to make it fun! I always find a tango piece brings the house down......

A Selection of Performances From Christopher D. Lewis's Youtube Channel

AmeriCymru: Do you compose for the instrument as well? Any future plans in that direction?

Chris: No, Would that I could! I'm pretty useless in that department, but what I am very good at is commissioning pieces for harpsichord. I'd much rather get some wonderful composer to write something deeply idiomatic for harpsichord and for me to play it well, than for me to write something shoddy. Its all about keeping the instrument alive with good music!

AmeriCymru: Where can people go to hear/purchase your music online?

Chris: My website, www.christopherlewis.net features all of this information. It also has a pretty fantastic (If I say so myself!) collection of youtube videos, documenting the most successful and my favourite uses of harpsichord in pop music, I think its worth checking out, you would never think that Joplin's "The Entertainer" or something more shocking like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" would sound so good on the harpsichord! I always welcome new subscribers gladly at www.youtube.com/chriswales19 and one final shoutout for my facebook page which is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-D-Lewis-Contemporary-Harpsichord/123597011032776?v=info

AmeriCymru: What's next for Christopher D. Lewis? Any public appearances/performances lined up?

Chris: This coming year seems like a good year for me, I'll be active in the Bay Area, and currently working on the Philip Glass harpsichord concerto in the Fall, but I'm very excited to be giving a solo modern harpsichord performance on April 16th at Osher Salon in San Francisco. I'd love to see any fellow Welshies at that who are in the area!

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Chris: Delighted to be a part of AmeriCymru, its wonderful to be able to represent Wales on foreign soil, and great connecting with fellow Welsh ex-pats out there. Hope to meet many of you at the Eisteddfod in L.A this coming Autumn, and who knows perhaps you might have a chance to hear me play some popular Welsh tunes on my beloved harpsichord at that event! It goes without saying of course, that I owe all my successes with the instrument to my Welsh blood, to be born Welsh truly is to be born blessed. Pob Iwch. CDL

Interview by Ceri Shaw Email

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