Jamie Cullum presents new BBC Radio 4 series Piano Pilgrimage
3 January 2014
Jamie Cullum meets Martin Heckscher, managing director of Heckscher & Company, one of the longest-running piano suppliers in the country
Jazz pianist Jamie Cullum explores the role of the piano in modern life in a new mini series for BBC Radio 4. Piano Pilgrimage, produced by Andrea Rangecroft, promises to debunk certain myths about the demise of the piano industry, as Cullum focuses on success stories across the UK.
As part of his ‘pilgrimage’, Cullum visits the London Borough of Camden where piano historian Dr Alastair Laurence takes him on a tour around the area that, only a century ago, was the world centre of the piano making industry. Cullum meets Heckscher & Company, one of the oldest piano specialists in the country, established in 1883. Managing director Martin Heckscher explains that Camden Town had a distinct advantage as a piano manufacturing base due to its excellent transport infrastructure with the Grand Union Canal and the railway network on the doorstep. In fact, by the late 19th century, at least 100 piano factories were in existence in Camden and neighbouring Kentish Town.
Cullum also travels to the Yorkshire Dales to visit one of the few places left in the country where pianos are still being made from scratch, uncovers some surprising facts about the physics of piano tuning and learns what the instrument meant for women in terms of courtship in the 1800s. Once a film student himself, Cullum looks at the position of the piano in silent cinema and learns about the resurgence of the phenomenon today at an open-air event in south London. The series concludes with a discussion on the piano’s place in pub culture, and features an impromptu sing-a-long with Rockney duo Chas and Dave.
The first episode is on BBC Radio 4 at 10:30am, 4 January