In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE
JULIAN LLOYD WEBBER
is an internationally acclaimed British solo cellist who has won many awards for his services to music. Brother of Andrew Lloyd Webber, he lives in London with his wife, cellist Jiaxin Cheng, and daughter, Jasmine Orienta
I met Pam in 1988, when I was running a cello festival in London’s Southbank [arts centre]. Pam was the artists’ liaison officer – her job was to look after people at Southbank. She’d just started work about two weeks before. I got on with her very well – she’s a very bubbly, kind, helpful sort of person.
We talked about music and everything and we kept in touch. I first worked with Pam in the early 1990s, a couple of years after that. I found out what a good arranger she was and she did some arrangements of my own music. The first one we did together was a song that I wrote for my son David, a lullaby that we still play on the tour. It was on a CD called Cradle Song that came out about 1995: Pam played the piano on those arrangements and is on five or six of the tracks on that CD. We also composed a nursery suite together built around children’s tunes.
I was very very impressed with the work that she did – and she was still working full-time at the Southbank Centre, as she still is. She rose to become pretty important there – she’s the programme manager now, very senior, and when I met her, she was in the most junior possible role.
Gradually, we’ve done more and more work together, after I found out what a very fine pianist she is. She hadn’t done a lot of professional concert work and I kind of had faith in her. We were such good friends it made everything easier, and rehearsals much more fun.
I started working with Pam in full recitals comparatively recently, around seven years ago. I’ve had lots of regular pianists: first of all they must be very good pianists, I’m not very patient working with someone who I have to tell what to do all the time. We have to have an instinctive musical rapport – they’ve got to be very good players technically and have an understanding of what I’m trying to do. And it helps if you have a good relationship, get on together.
“Last year we did six concerts in Ireland in February and then 10 in November. They went really really well, and they seem to want us to come back. You don’t have to be friends when you go on tour like that, but it helps, as you’re thrown together all the time: in Pam’s case we definitely were friends before we worked together. She’s lively, bubbly, effervescent – that comes across on stage and audiences take to her.
We used to have a bossa nova band together eight years ago, and did a lot of concerts. But I don’t go for the heavy metal stuff that Pam does. Do Pam and I have interests in common apart from music? We both support quite bad football teams – I’m a Leyton Orient supporter, Pam’s from Oldham and her husband Pete supports Portsmouth.”
Julian Lloyd Webber and his piano accompanist Pam Chowhan start a tour of Ireland with a performance in the Cork Opera House, Cork, on January 31st
is a musician who has has accompanied Julian Lloyd Webber on tour since 2005. She is head of planning in the artistic programming department of London’s Southbank Centre and a member of heavy metal vampyre band Symphony of Pain. She lives in London with her husband, percussionist Pete Lockett
Julian was one of the first people I met when I started work at Southbank’s Festival Hall in 1988. Famous artists were coming in every day, and a lot don’t engage. But he was instantly friendly, down to earth, no air and graces whatsoever about him. He’s unpretentious, a guy who’d rather go down to the pub for a beer than to a fancy restaurant.
I was born in India but we moved to Oldham in Manchester when I was six or seven. My mum’s English and met dad at university – some of my mum’s side of the family came from Ireland. I went to Cambridge, the Northern College of Music and East Midlands Arts before going to the Southbank Centre.
I never left – now I’m head of planning. I didn’t want to make piano playing a full-time option, I like to do different things.
“Julian was talking about doing an album called Cradle Song and asked if I could help with some research. He showed me that he’d written this little tune, called Song for Baba. I took it home and wrote a piano part. When I showed it to him, he really liked it and said, you may as well record it with me. That was the first recording I did with him.
Our next project together was our bossa nova band. That started when we got booked on a cruise ship and they asked him to do a short recital; I played piano. Then I did another concert with him, worked on another album. Gradually we’ve fallen into it. We get on very well, he’s an easy person to work with, to have a drink with and to tease . . . he’s quite level all the time.
We have our own little routines and respect each other in the way that we work. For example, if we’re away, he’ll always get up really early for breakfast; I’ll always leave it to the last possible moment.
We keep to ourselves during the day; I go down to the theatre early, make sure the lights and so on are okay. We order sandwiches before the show, then never eat them. After the concert we’ll have a few drinks. We’ve played in Istanbul, Vietnam, Beirut and Barcelona as well as England and Ireland.
I’m in a vampyre rock band, Symphony of Pain – I play keyboards and electric violin and everything is co-written with Tracie Law: we’ve just released an album, Hydeology. But of course in the show with Julian, we play mainly classical.
Julian never lets personal things affect his work, he’s incredibly professional – even if Leyton Orient has just lost a match. He’s incredibly passionate about his London football team.
“He’s a really deep thinker, reflects a lot, is very passionate about certain projects; he’s very focused and quite private, doesn’t share that much personal stuff. There’ll be weeks when you won’t hear from him, but he’s someone I can call and talk to about anything.”