Sunday, 01 September 2019

Alexis Affonso, a renowned concert pianist, won a music scholarship to Brighton College to study piano and organ, as well as the violin.  He has travelled extensively across the world, accompanying singers and instrumentalists. Alexis tells us all about his wonderful career, and why being a musician means so much to him.

  • When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
    It was very clear to me that I was destined for a career in music, and when I left the College it was to become a Concert Pianist. I began at the Junior School in 1966 as a Music Scholar and continued as a Music Scholar through the Senior School. I played the piano, organ in Chapel, and firstly the violin, and then the viola in the school orchestra, alongside being a member of the choir and the Glee club.
  • What are you now you've grown up?
    I am a Concert Pianist and have been fortunate to combine this with teaching. It is essential we hand the “baton” on to future generations.
  • What is your best memory of school?
    I was playing a Mozart piano concerto for a College concert in the Hall. Gordon Lawson (Director of Music) was conducting the College orchestra. Shortly after the Concerto began, he released his baton by mistake, which ended several rows back in the audience. This was followed by the legs of a Timpani drum collapsing and that drum bouncing off the stage it was on. To cap it all, some undesirable characters decided to stone some of the windows. All of this in one concert! I never knew Mozart could be so contemporary!
  • What was the best piece of advice you were given?
    To dream big, and believe in yourself.
  • What do you do as a career?
    I have performed the piano all over the world, and have a piano duo (Kong-Affonso Duo) with my wife. We gave our professional debut back in 1983 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the very first two-piano recital in South Korea back in 1984, and have recently returned from our fifth appearance at the Edinburgh Festival. I was the Director of Music and Organist in a Wimbledon Church for 23 years, where I played the organ, conducted a fine choir, and conducted orchestral concerts. I have been a senior music examiner for Oxford & Cambridge RSA, and am a visiting Professor of the piano in South Korea. 
  • What does your job involve?
    I plan and prepare recital programmes with my wife, that we will play in forthcoming concerts. We have two pianos at home which makes this easy to rehearse. Since I accompany many musicians in concerts also, I learn many pieces of Instrumental/Chamber music. I conduct choirs and orchestras, play the organ occasionally alongside some examining work. I teach piano and coach singing, have been a repetiteur for various opera companies, and accompanist at several International music competitions. I have broadcast on radio, and also television, and enjoy a wonderful life of music-making and teaching.
  • What are the most challenging parts of your job?
    Trying to make each and every performance fresh and vibrant. Making sure that your audience leaves satisfied, and feeling better persons for their experience. Making sure that you are honest to the composer and yourself. When you rehearse hours per day,  pieces can become a little robotic, and boring. Knowing when to stop, and being patient with other performers who may have very different ideas than yours about the interpretation of the music (rarely I am glad to say). Listening to students and helping them to seek deeper insights into their own music-making.
  • What have you done that you are most proud of?
    I am proud that my wife and I have put three wonderful children (adults now !) into the world, who have done well in music, drama, and the world of Animation. Like us, they followed their dream and have succeeded, with a BAFTA nomination and an Emmy winner.
  • What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
    To age slowly, and enjoy perfect health!
  • What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
    My J.S. Bach 333 Neue Gesamtausgabe CD collection of his complete works.
    An iPad with an internet connection.
    A case of premium single malt whisky (West Coast).
  • How would you like to be remembered?
    As a vehicle through which music has enriched the lives of both the young and old.

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