Fresh from performing in front of passengers on a luxury liner cruising from Dubai to Sri Lanka,
Steven and Kevin will be delighting an audience in Brighton at the beginning of March.
The pair are no strangers to exotic places as their enormously popular and distinctive act takes them around the globe, but Brighton is close to their hearts. They played there for the first time in 2018 and made a huge impression with their astonishing arrangements of some of the world’s greatest music, tunes we all know and love but presented with tremendous showmanship in a way we’ve never heard them before.
“We’re so excited to be coming back to Brighton as we love the place,” says Kevin. “The last time we played there was one of the highlights of our career – the reaction from the audience was fantastic and it’s an honour to be playing at the Dome on March 1.
“I’ve always wanted to live in Brighton and probably will one day.”
For almost two decades, Steven and Kevin have captured the attention of the music world with their barnstorming blend of sparky comedy and absolutely sensational piano playing – superb artistry combined with a wicked sense of humour that is irresistible.
They have played with the world’s leading symphony orchestras, achieved over a million hits on YouTube, and entertained in more than 150 countries. The way in which they push the boundaries of a piano, using it in unconventional ways to mimic the sound of a full symphony orchestra, is in perfect harmony with their sense of fun and mastery of the instrument.
They met at the Royal College of Music where Kevin was studying piano/composition with Peter Wallfisch and Joseph Horowitz and Steven studied piano performance with Phyllis Sellick and Peter Katin. Although pursuing separate careers, they met regularly and eventually the act came together, fusing their personalities and skills.
“While we were studying at the Royal College of Music, we became friends very quickly and after four years, both of our careers were doing pretty well,” says Steven.
“Then one night in 2002, we got locked in my flat and after a couple of glasses of white wine, we started to play my piano together. We were just improvising and having fun, because we share the same sense of humour, then we realised the potential of playing together like that was an opportunity we had been missing out on for years.
“We thought we might be able to do something with it and everything just clicked into place, the humour, the synchronisation, the improvised sense of fun. It was quite mind-blowing – we discovered that we played the piano together in a way that had never been played before.”
Once they launched their new act, it had a kind of domino effect and ever since they have been in demand all over the world, dazzling audiences who are amazed and thrilled to listen to some of the greatest music ever written, presented in a new and exciting way.
Their first gig was at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, which led to a flood of offers across the world, including a performance on the maiden voyage of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.
“We adore that ship,” says Steven. “We were on it again at the beginning of this year, on the first leg of a world cruise.
“We’re very lucky, as well as performing on cruises, we do shows all over the UK and around the world, and we had a month’s residency in South Africa. It’s a really fantastic mix.”
That diverse mix has included a two-month sell-out run in Vienna of the Canadian smash-hit play, Two Pianos Four Hands, and performing in shows with the late Mickey Rooney in the United States. They have composed and arranged a popular dance track, and their work takes them to Australia, South Korea, Portugal, Austria, Canada and Japan. They are regulars on BBC Radio 3 and on television, including ITV’s This Morning, and have just completed a 24-date concert tour of South Africa.
The key to this exuberant duo’s success is their amazing virtuosity and artistry, combined with a charming rapport with their audiences.
“We spend months on each arrangement, sometimes contorting ourselves into odd positions to push the boundaries and create orchestral sounds from the piano,” Steven says.
“A huge change in our lives came about in 2011 at the Edinburgh Festival when we met Geoff Durham, the comedy magician and actor. He took us to one side and told us we needed to concentrate on the relationship between us and with the audience when we were on stage. He became our mentor and director and that really took us to the next level.
“At the beginning we had tended to do a lot of sketches because musical comedy was in fashion at the time, but now we concentrate on the music and the arrangements, chatting all the time. Often when we walk on stage, we spend five or ten minutes just chatting and building up a rapport with the audience before we even touch the piano. We want them to get to know us and feel we’re taking them on a journey into music.”
That important rapport and interaction with the audience will definitely come to the fore when Kevin and Steven take to the stage at the Brighton Dome on March 1. Their concert will include their astonishing arrangements of iconic pieces of music such as Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Addinsell’s iconic Warsaw Concerto, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and a spectacular version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
But there will also be some surprises. Steven and Kevin will ask if any members of the audience are celebrating a special occasion, perhaps a birthday. When someone responds, the duo will ask them to shout out the letters of their name and they will then play impromptu pieces of music starting with the same letter of the alphabet as each letter of the name.
“Audiences love it – we do it live on the evening and make it clear that it’s totally unplanned, so it can be a bit ‘dangerous’ for us to come up with all the right music. It’s one of the best things we’ve brought in to really capture people’s imaginations,” Steven says.
“Another totally different new thing we’ll be doing at Brighton is having a massive screen on which everyone in the audience can see the keyboard and watch our hands. Because we play in such an unusual way, we want them to get the magic of the keys.”
Just before making their way to Brighton, Kevin and Steven will be presenting their show on one leg of a cruise on the Queen Mary 2, sailing from Dubai to Sri Lanka, then flying to Sussex for a week of rehearsal before their appearance for the Brighton and Hove Philharmonic Society at the Dome, which they say was the venue for one of the best shows they have done over the years. •