From Genesis to revelation – a Steinway for Sussex

Posted On 23 Apr 2016 at 12:32 pm

Sussex students will have the chance to play a Steinway piano thanks to a gift from former student and Genesis keyboard player Tony Banks.

The Steinway is due to be delivered to the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts at Sussex University’s Falmer campus on Thursday (28 April).

The university said that the piano had “an illustrious past”, having featured in the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.

It has been bought by the university with a generous donation from Banks. He came to Sussex to study chemistry in 1968 but left after a year as his pop career took off.

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Martin Butler, Ed Hughes and Laura McDermott with Sussex University's new Steinway piano

Martin Butler, Ed Hughes and Laura McDermott with Sussex University’s new Steinway piano

The university said: “The purchase went ahead after the piano was given a test run by University of Sussex music professors Martin Butler and Ed Hughes.

“They gave an impromptu recital of pieces by Debussy and Bach at Steinway Hall in London, where the piano received a new set of higher register strings and its bodywork was restored to showroom standards.”

Professor Butler said: “It has an incredible power. The higher notes have a pearly sound that blossoms and hangs.

“The lower notes hold their purity, no matter how loudly they are played. Sussex has never had a concert grand like this before.”

The piano was hand-built at the Steinway factory in Hamburg in 2010 and, at 9ft (2m 74cm), is the longest of the models produced by the 163-year-old business.

Banks, who learnt piano from the age of seven, has been credited with giving Genesis its distinctive sound of unusual chords and chords sequences.

Tony Banks

Tony Banks

He told the university’s alumni magazine Falmer: “I wrote a lot at Sussex and it was a really creative period for me. It was also the time when I first started to get more seriously into classical music.

“I would like to have finished my course and I do rather miss that more academic side of life but the music was a very big calling and having the opportunity to explore it was just too important.”

Laura McDermott, the creative director at the Attenborough Centre, said: “It’s a beautiful piano, with an interesting and prestigious heritage. It has been carefully chosen for our context – to be suitable for younger and developing pianists as well as world-class concert musicians.

“I look forward to hearing it being played in our auditorium which has the perfect acoustics to appreciate its sound.”

The piano’s first public outing will be for the music department’s final year recital exam recitals on 31 May 2016.

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