There’s a reason why wifi goes down in my office… so I have an excuse to work on my laptop, on one of the more inconspicuous tables at the Orwell Hotel, while watching the incredible Tom Metcalf perform live. On one lucky quiet evening, this is what happened. It was just me, Tom, a pot of freshly brewed tea and a bowl of cheesy chips. The evening couldn’t have been more perfect.
I was fortunate to have the chance to meet Tom and find out a little more about what makes him tick in the musical world. Here’s a little interview with our ever-talent Felixstowe fella:
How did you first start playing the piano?
Well, I grew up in Coventry and my dad played in a pub just outside Coventry. It was just him on a guitar and this other bloke, Mike, on piano and keyboards, and I’d only have been about five or six at the time, and for their last gig dad said to my mum to take me and my brother to go see them. So, yeah it was great…
It was great to be in a pub at that age (laughs)… they were playing away and this guy, Mike, on the synthesiser and the piano just blew me away.
And so, I go home and in the next week or two I said, “Mummy, Daddy I want a synthesiser… I want to play like Mike.” Because kids change their mind every five minutes that said they’ll see if I still want to do it in a couple of years. Two years later I was still saying, “Mummy, Daddy I want a synthesiser and I want to play like Mike.” We had a piano at home, so we’ll start you on the piano so you can learn on the piano before you’re doing all these fantastic things on the synthesiser. When I was about eight, they got a proper tutor to come into my house, and I was able to start practicing and playing then, and that’s how I started.
Did you learn at school too?
I did it for a few years as part of the curriculum, but I never followed on with it because my private lessons had taken me beyond what they were teaching, so I was bored – I should have really done it… explored it and maybe got a GCSE maybe done an A Level and maybe gone down that route, but the lessons just weren’t doing it for me, so I didn’t pursue it.
Do you have qualifications?
With the teacher at home, we go through certain grades – with the classical stuff you’ve got your eight basic grades so I went through and did all them.
Did you learn all genres of music?
After about grade five or six, my teacher started to introduce me to other things, like jazz, popular… show tunes, just to get a broad spectral of playing rather than just all the classics. I’d have to do the classics for the grades… he wanted me to explore other stuff so I was grateful he did that.
Was there a genre you particularly liked?
It does depends on what mood I’m in. I do lean towards the popular stuff a lot because it’s what I’ve grown up listening to, but I do like to touch on jazz or blues or whatever… sometime I’m practicing new stuff and I’ll do something wrong, but it actually sounds alright for that particular song I’m doing, and that’ll take me off doing something else where I can go into a different genre or just in a different song or, you know, just explore where that’s taking me.
*At this point I ask Tom to play a little jazz for me… he choses the ultra sultry Summertime! To see the full performance, click here. (Apologise for the poor sound… it was our first interview!)
When you play, you go through emotions?
Yeah, different songs can mean different thing and it’s nice for me to be able to express that, it’s nice as well when it connects with other people. People will come to me and they’ll say, “I’ve loved your night, I’ve really enjoyed listening to you, but that song in particular was really something….” Getting that connection with people, it’s really good, as well as my release. Whether I’m playing in here (Orwell Hotel) for the people or I’m at home on my own, it’s nice to have that as well.
The quality of how you play really brings another atmosphere to the room.
Especially when the restaurant is full, it can really crackle the atmosphere. It’s really good. Also here in the library, it’s smaller and you get a different mood, a different feel. You know, if there’s a function on here, whatever it is; a small wedding or birthday or whatever… it can really add to the experience of the hotel.
Talking of weddings, you’re available for weddings right?
Yeah I do weddings, birthdays, anniversaries… if someone wants a pianist I’ll try and get there if I can.
Do you play with other musicians?
No, I’ve never done that. Sometimes I think that’s better because as a member of the audience we get to focus on what you’re doing – it’s very peaceful. Sometimes I get emotional listening to you play as a member of the audience.
(Smiles) That’s lovely for me to hear – I think I’m doing something right then… That’s the idea of it. Everybody has a song or piece of music that they connect with in some way; whether it makes them cry, or they get elated or whatever, everybody has that, and if I can give that to them in some way, then brilliant! It makes it worthwhile. It’s not just for my own benefit, it makes it all worthwhile.
In fact, there’s a piece you’ve composed yourself that I just love, will you play it for us?
Yes of course I will!
(Tom swigs a quick sip of his coffee before giving me a big treat by playing one of my favourite Tom Metcalf originals! It was a truly beautiful experience! You can watch it here.)
They say the best art is that which communicates – tells the audience something or tells a story. Do you have a story?
No, like I said before… sometimes you just hit something and go with it. Other times I’ll be playing a few chords and structures of chords and again, depending on what mood I’m in; what I’m feeling at the time, I’ll go with it.
With your own compositions, do you have a goal in mind of where you’d like to go with your own music?
I need to get it recorded and it’s always there then. I can read music but I don’t write it – I’m just lazy (laughs)! But the thing is, if I’m home or I’m playing something and I’ll go off on something, I want to stay with it so I can keep it in my head and once it’s there, it’s there, rather than stop and go, “Ah yeah, I’ll write that down.” So, I don’t want to lose the moment or the feel of what I’m doing, so I need to actually just get it recorded; not just my stuff but cover versions and stuff like that.
Speaking of covers, I hear you do a great Elton John, will you do that for us?
Yeah, I’ll do that for you (smiles).
Once again, I’m treated to a private performance, this time of Song for Guy by Elton John.
Do you have a favourite you like to cover?
The popular stuff I like to do, the old standards… More Modern, you did a video of me doing Alicia Keys. I think she’s fantastic! When you see her live, she just seems so alive when she’s performing – she plays beautifully, she sings beautifully. I think she’s something special. So I like to do a couple of hers. Also 90s when I was 18-25, you know, there was your Brit-pop stuff, so that kind of thing takes me back to when I was younger. Whatever I feel at the time.
You seem very alive when you play.
(We talk about how musicians can really get into their performance and come alive with it). There is that and that’s why we do it but at a certain time if I’m not into it, how can I expect anyone else to be. You have to put that in and give that to people… you can connect with people that way and this is the only way you can do it, so you have to be like that.
That connection – you must have had so many people come up to you.
I have, it’s lovely. I’m lucky being here because they look after the piano so well; they’re really good pianos; they (Orwell Hotel) maintain them well; they’re regularly tuned. You know, the atmosphere In the room with a nice setting like this, it all adds to it, so I am lucky with that. In some venues their pianos haven’t been touched in years and not tuned – some keys don’t work… it’s half in pieces, it’s a shame for a pianist to see that, and you can’t use it so it’s just a shame. So I’m lucky to have these good pianos here.
How do you approach your craft and your profession when it comes to living your dream and playing the piano and performing for others and then as a father taking your kids out and juggling everything. How do you make it all happen?
It is hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve got my regular job here at the hotel, I do the music at the weekends, I’ve got my family life – it’s all hard and a lot of time, but I love doing all of it….I finish my job here, then I go be with the kids, I help my wife Claire raise them, knee deep in nappies. Then when the kids go to bed I’m able to play a bit and practice. So I don’t have much down time but it’s great, I love all aspects of my life – I’m just lucky I guess.
Apparently, when I was still in my pram, if my dad played Summertime, he could play anything fine, but if he played Summertime in a minor key he’d have to change or I’d start crying. He’d have to play something happy just to shut me up! (laughs) I would have been six months or a year.
I do believe there’s that connection there with music to some people. It gets to any body at any age.
Tom finished off the interview with a beautiful performance originally composed by Mike, the man that inspired Tom to play the piano from the very beginning.
With thanks to The Orwell Hotel for hosting us for the evening. You can see Tom play live on Friday and Saturdays at 6.30-9.30pm and Sundays at 12-3pm at The Orwell Hotel Felixstowe, with jazz, blues, classic and so much more, allow yourself to be taken away on cloud nine with this lovely local lad.
Available for weddings and other celebrations
Titanium Cover by Felixstowe Pianist, Tom Metcalf
Tom is an extraordinary pianist who performs at The Orwell Hotel on Friday and Saturday evening, and Sunday lunchtime. He is also available for all types of functions like weddings, birthdays etc.
You can contact Tom through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For now, enjoy this gorgeous cover of “Titanium” by David Guette and Sia….
Trimley Artist Shares Her Passion for Creativity
Angela Ashford is an incredibly talented artist based in Trimley. She has shown a great passion for helping others – here she is to tell us about the charities she’s worked with and what inspires her work…
Even though I have lived in various places around the world, I was born and brought up in Suffolk. So after all the traveling settled once again in the county I call home, and consider myself a Suffolk girl at heart.
I am mainly a self-taught artist as I never had the luxury of going to university to study art, due to being profoundly dyslexic. This I did not find out until later in life as it was not recognised in the 1960s & 70s as it is today. I am now retired from the NHS where I had worked for the last 10 years and live in Trimley St Mary. It is here and now that I can concentrate fully on art.
I have a heart for sharing my knowledge with others, I am not talking about teaching… I will leave that to those who are professionally trained. But to come along side people and small groups to encourage them to express themselves creatively in art and crafts of various sorts.
Last year I started working with “Insideout,” an Ipswich based charity as one of their artists.
“The charity believes in the power of the creative process to strengthen the spirit.”
It works with people of all ages who live with mental health issues in their lives. Insideout not only offers art and crafts but singing and creative writing as well, different ways in which people are encouraged to express themselves in.
Another small charity I’ve started working with doing much the same as with Insideout and that is “Beam” in Ipswich…. Beam supports mothers whose children have bean adopted and put into care or live elsewhere. It gives them a place they can meet up share and with one another, where there is no judgement, just loving support.
Last autunm my local primary school in Trimley St Mary. They were requiring the help of someone who could help design a large mural for the reception class outside play area, I decided to volunteer. I designed the mural, and together with parents and children, we painted what resembled a giant paint by numbers with all ages joining in to paint the mural. It was such a fun day.
And lastly, I was so delighted last year to be sponsored by Fred Olson to paint an Elmer for the “Elmer’s Big Parade Ipswich,” He was called “Elmer’s Travel Trunk,” and raised £4,400 towards the St Elizabeth Hospice, which is dear to my heart.
In my own work, I normally work in various genres from Portraiture and Prophetic art, (paintings based on biblical truths,) to more recently collages with sea glass and drift wood, as I love beach-combing and try to find ways to show the beauty in what I find on the beach.
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