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Stapleford Granary's Bite-Sized Culture programme is an artist-led digital platform designed to support new work, new ideas or shine light on lesser-known voices. Késia Decoté applied to the scheme to film two works written for her: Wax Candles by Michael Taplin and Para a frente for toy piano by Yfat Soul Zisso, both of which feature on her new EP for Non-Classical. 

 

Késia is a pianist from Vitoria, Brazil who has been developing a rich and diverse career as a piano soloist, chamber musician and exponent of the toy piano. Dedicated to contemporary music and with a passion for other art forms (drama, video, photography and craft) Késia creates interdisciplinary projects with other artists, composers and improvisers. The Granary’s CEO, Kate Romano, caught up with Késia to ask her Five Questions:

 

Kate: Tell me what you love so much about the toy piano...

Késia: To be honest, I was first attracted to it because of its portability! I play with a collective in Oxford (Oxford Improvisers) and we usually do concerts in a venue with no piano. Not having a car back then, I always had to ask for a lift, or get a taxi…Then I thought, ‘with a toy piano I can just hop on a bus and go to the gig’! But then I became hooked by the irreverence of it, the surprise element, how whimsical it is... You are doing a solo piano concert, then you throw a toy piano piece in the middle, and everything change, a whole new universe opens - sonically, visually, culturally…

 

Kate: What about the sound? It’s complex… like bells… it doesn’t behave like a full size piano in any sense…

Késia: Yes, a toy piano is not a mini piano. It indeed sounds like bells, because the sound is made by metal rods being struck by hammers and, in essence, it’s a toy. So the action is much less refined. There is no fine action or subtleties like a piano. But there is space to explore other elements – timing, pacing, exaggerating a little with the dynamics. I find the harmonics and tuning a bit crazy at times. Sometimes it brings out some lower partials… so I think the appeal for me is exactly in this craziness. Things will never be just how you thought they would be. The harmonics that will come out today will be different from yesterday. The action will behave differently. When you ‘play’ the toy piano, you are ‘playing’ in a childish sense… it needs to have a sense of playfulness about everything…

 

Kate: these two works we filmed are included on your recent Non-Classical EP.  How did the collaborations come about?

Késia: Years ago, I approached Yfat Soul Zisso to ask for ‘Recollection’ a piece that she wrote for Xenia Pestova Bennett (a huge reference for me). I played that piece a number of times and Soul and I became friends. Through Soul I met composer Michael Taplin, we became good friends too, and in 2018 we decided to do an UK tour together, when I would premiere pieces that they wrote for me. Soul wrote ‘Para a frente’, which in Portuguese (my mother tongue) means ‘forward’. By that time Soul had a 25 key Schoenhut toy piano, which she explored a lot and she has become very fluent and prolific in writing for the toy piano! My Nonclassical EP includes another piece piece written by her for me - ‘Full Moon’ - which she also wrote on that 25 key Schoenhut.

 

Kate: you’re an acclaimed recital pianist – is it really annoying when people like me just talk about the toy piano?

Késia: it’s so funny to see how the toy piano always steals the scene! I play zillions of notes on the piano, and then two minutes of toy piano pieces and everyone comments about the toy piano afterwards! But its super fun… just this week I am presenting a lecture-recital, and mediating a roundtable on the toy piano. One of the guests is the composer Karlheinz Essl. He has explored the toy piano in so many ways, including toy piano & ensemble, toy piano & orchestra, toy piano & harpsichord… on that note, I have a piece for toy piano & accordion that Max Gibson wrote for me which is yet to be played if any accordionist reading this would like to have a go?

 

Kate: what’s your driving force as an artist and pianist?

Késia: Well, having a loving audience is important to me; a faithful bunch of people that my music makes a positive impact on, and they make a positive impact on me. I’d like to have an interesting and busy calendar of concerts, be involved in interesting collaborations and venues but, ultimately, I’d love to be able to develop unique concerts, different piano performance experiences, get out of the ‘recital box’ and I look forward to developing these ideas more in my professional path.

 

FIND OUT MORE

https://kesiadecote.wordpress.com