24hr Pianothon 2020

Pianothon 2020 will take place from 6pm on Thursday this week and will run right through the night to Friday evening at 6pm! The 24 hour piano concert with Andrew Quartermain will feature special guests and is part of the Piano Sanctuary program run by Pro Corda. Indeed the last hour of the Pianothon will be broadcast live as Episode 20 of Piano Sanctuary On Air on Friday evening at 6pm.

The Pianothon is all about a very special group of people – Pro Corda’s incredible Create Together cast who have been performing every single week during lockdown on the Virtual Theatres and creative workshops.

This week we will be on to show number 20 on those Virtual Theatres, having performed a wide variety of amazing musicals from Wizard of Oz to Dear Evan Hansen, Moana to Les Miserables – it’s been an incredible journey so far.

Pro Corda’s provision for children and young adults with additional needs will continue digitally throughout August and then with a dual delivery of digital workshops and getting participants back together as soon as it is safe to do so. That all means a significant increase of resources, so Pianothon is part of the crowdfunding campaign raising £10,000 to allow us to do that.

To get involved, and be part of Pianothon 2020, click the button to donate.

You can also be part of Pianothon 2020 by tuning in at any point from 6pm on Thursday through to 6pm on Friday. The whole event will be broadcast live on Pro Corda’s YouTube channel. The final hour will then be broadcast as episode 20 of our weekly podcast Piano Sanctuary.

You can link through to the live streams below.

6pm, 6th August - 6pm, 7th August
YouTube LIVE
5pm, 7th August
Piano Sanctuary On Air Podcast

This is an extraordinary event put on for an extraordinary group of people. Please do whatever you can to help us. Thank you.

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Pro Corda secures purchase of Leiston Abbey freehold

After nearly 3 years of negotiations (following the Church’s wish to dispose of its long standing freehold stake in the Leiston Abbey site) we’re thrilled to announce that a fully funded deal has been struck and Pro Corda will now be the proud owners of the Lady Chapel, the Abbey ruins, the entrance drive, and car park.

From Pro Corda’s CEO Andrew Quartermain: “This is a major development and the best possible “welcome back” present to all our Pro Corda community returning to Leiston Abbey as we re-start courses. Owning the freehold (to add to Pro Corda’s existing ownership of the other buildings on site) allows us to do so many things. We can develop new and exciting rehearsal and teaching spaces, we can instigate new and imaginative aspects of the visitor experience for those across the world who visit our site each year, and we can also enhance our own safeguarding of the site together with its security for all our Pro Corda students.”

This whole deal has been made possible by two private funders who will be recorded with a special plaque in due course. We are so immensely grateful to them for their support.

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Leiston Abbey re-opens it's doors

This weekend sees Pro Corda’s first steps back to its courses.

We will be the first course provider of our kind in the country to be back, starting with two small “Piano Sanctuary Retreat” weekends followed by the revised summer series as of 21st July.

From our CEO Andrew: “I’m thrilled we are leading the way bringing residential courses back. Each step we take is within the full boundaries of safety and will be done in the right way at the right time. It is vital also that we continue to operate – for as long as it takes – our “Dual Pro Corda.” Not all our participants will be able to be back with us in person right now, and some will not be able to return for many months. So we will meet that challenge and make sure we are there for them in equal measure. My thanks as ever to a wonderful team. We cannot wait to welcome you back!”

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International Piano Magazine showcases Piano Sanctuary

International Piano Magazine showcases Piano Sanctuary

The following article appeared in the July / August 2020 edition of International Piano Magazine. It is kindly reproduced with permission.


British pianist Andrew Quartermain has launched a new piano and lifestyle initiative aimed at adult learners and piano music lovers. Dubbed Piano Sanctuary, Quartermain says ‘It will be so much more than a piano course. It will be a retreat. It will be about people. It will be about a great social time. It will be about great food and wine. And above all it will be about friendships. The piano will be the common factor that binds all of these threads together.’

Quartermain is the CEO of the leading music education charity Pro Corda in Suffolk, UK. His ideas for Piano Sanctuary have been developed through many years of performing and teaching, meaning that he understands ‘what adult learners actually want, as well as ways to fast-track learning via creative work’.

Piano Sanctuary will feature weekly podcasts (soundcloud. com/liveattheabbey) plus online courses. These include Piano Sanctuary Adventure (which fast- tracks learning via the powers of improvisation) and a Starter course for beginners or those who learnt as children but who have been put off re-starting the piano.

Improvisation plays a key role in Quartermain’s approach because ‘it ticks every single teaching box’, he explains. ‘Pulse, phrasing, understanding of structure, harmonic language, textural and sonority awareness, confidence in performing, technical advancement, memory and also performing technique in general – if you are making up your own music you are developing ways to make a performance sound completely fresh. Plus, for adult learners, improvisation provides a fast-track method to exploring new sounds, possibilities and general sense of excitement at the keyboard.’

Another special initiative Quartermain has developed during the lockdown is a regular Spa session – an offshoot of the weekly podcasts, featuring 20 minutes of non-stop soothing piano music. ‘I’ve received great feedback from listeners,’ says Quartermain. ‘People use it for early evening wind-downs, as well as during stressful and worrying times to get them into sleep mode.’

Once the lockdown lifts, Piano Sanctuary will begin hosting retreats at Suffolk’s beautiful medieval Leiston Abbey and neighbouring Abbey House. ‘Our first retreat takes place from 3-5 July, with many more planned throughout the year,’ says Quartermain. ‘While the virus persists we will ensure complete safety by ensuring very low numbers each weekend. Leiston Abbey also gives us all the space needed for safe, distanced teaching. Each participant will have their own piano and the site will be run like a hotel, including wonderful food prepared and served in very safe ways.’

Quartermain promises that Piano Sanctuary ‘will truly be a music course with a difference’. Meanwhile, the weekly podcasts and regular Spa sessions are free to stream for all those who can’t yet attend a retreat in person.

Once the lockdown lifts, Piano Sanctuary will begin hosting retreats at Suffolk’s beautiful medieval Leiston Abbey and neighbouring Abbey House. ‘Our first retreat takes place from 3-5 July, with many more planned throughout the year,’ says Quartermain. ‘While the virus persists we will ensure complete safety by ensuring very low numbers each weekend. Leiston Abbey also gives us all the space needed for safe, distanced teaching. Each participant will have their own piano and the site will be run like a hotel, including wonderful food prepared and served in very safe ways.’

Quartermain promises that Piano Sanctuary ‘will truly be a music course with a difference’. Meanwhile, the weekly podcasts and regular Spa sessions are free to stream for all those who can’t yet attend a retreat in person.

You can find out more about Piano Sanctuary by clicking the links below:

Piano Sanctuary Podcasts
Piano Sanctuary Weekends
Piano Sanctuary Podcasts
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Join in with our new Create Together Video

Pure Imagination:
Sing & Sign Along
Check out this little teaser trailer to see what the video might look like...
This week we are making a special Create Together, Wherever! video together
- We need your help!

Try and learn the words and signs with Laura, then record yourself singing & signing the WHOLE SONG. Please wear headphones (or have the music turned down really low) and stand close to the screen, facing it when you record yourself. You can see the words by clicking the Willy Wonka banner above.

We can’t wait to see and hear your singing & signing videos!! Send them to laura@procorda.com by Friday 5th June at the latest.

We will then bring everyone’s videos together to make our special Create Together, Wherever! version of Pure Imagination.

Those who making this film are taking part in Pro Corda’s extensive weekly provision for our young people with additional needs “Create Together Wherever” which we launched immediately back in March when the crisis began and when it was clear that these vulnerable children and young adults would be ever more vulnerable during lockdown.

This Sunday’s show will be “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”. If you want to join us, click on the Golden ticket from 2:45pm on Sunday 31st May. We will be LIVE from 3pm!

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Arts Council England’s Coronavirus Emergency Response

Arts Council funding

Pro Corda has been awarded a full grant within Arts Council England’s Coronavirus Emergency Response stream. This represents the 3rd Arts Council grant for Pro Corda in recent times (ACE were also exclusive sponsors of our 50th Anniversary series.)

This new and very significant grant will not only be pivotal as we enter the transition phase back to course delivery, but is also wonderful national recognition of Pro Corda’s current and immediate response to the national crisis via the digital delivery we are putting out across all our programmes – from the Virtual Theatres for our participants with additional needs to Pro Corda@home for our Core course students through to the podcasts.

To find out more about these incredible programs click the links below:

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Pro Corda's Rainbow

Pro Corda's Rainbow - a must watch for all!

With the NHS Rainbow such a poignant symbol during these times – a symbol both of thanks to those who give so much on our behalf and of hope for all of society –  Pro Corda are very proud of a selection of our participants with additional needs who have come together to produce this incredible film.

Do find a moment to watch it
– you won’t regret it!

And do please share it on your social media platforms. All those featured have permission for their performance to be seen.

Those who came together to make this film are taking part in Pro Corda’s extensive weekly provision for our young people with additional needs “Create Together Wherever” which we launched immediately back in March when the crisis began and when it was clear that these vulnerable children and young adults would be ever more vulnerable during lockdown.

As well as creative and instrumental workshops each week, together with daily Pro Corda digital resources for them, these participants come together each Sunday for a Virtual Theatre rehearsal and performance. The show last week was “The Wizard of Oz” featuring of course the ever famous “Over the rainbow!”

Please enjoy Pro Corda’s incredible aural NHS Rainbow……

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Pro Corda@home Launch

PRO CORDA@home launched!

Pro Corda@home, directed by Annabel Thwaite, is the perfect tool to inspire your own personal practice, both on solo and chamber music repertoire. It is also the ideal place for you to complement all your studies by exploring the benefits of Yoga, Mindfulness, Warm ups, Practice techniques, Creative improvisation and much more.

Every week there will be new content to explore and a chance to really develop yourself both as a player and Chamber musician. Click through to each of the three content areas below, each week, to discover brand new videos, lessons, meditations, new ideas and materials!

  • Yoga for musicians
  • Breathing exercises
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditations
  • Yoga Nidra
  • Practice techniques

  • Listen to core chamber works
  • Compare
  • Study

  • Backing tracks and top tips so you can enjoy and develop improvisation and creative skills – vital for chamber music – at home!

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Leiston Abbey

The still Abbey whose energy has never been more vibrant!

When I drive to work each day right now and I arrive at an empty Abbey House and Guesten Hall, I am reminded of my first personal memory of Pro Corda’s magical site. I was 12 and was walking through what we now all know as the coded door to Abbey house for the first time as a young pianist, apprehensive yet so excited about what lay ahead on the Junior course.

I remember the smell of mashed potato as I walked in! (In those days the Guesten Hall hadn’t quite been built and we used to eat our meals in what are now the common room and the library – some particularly strict course matrons at the time dividing girls and boys in each eating space much to our polite disdain…. )

And, of course, by that first evening on my first ever Pro Corda course, my memories are of an excited mosaic of people coming together in a uniquely beautiful space, new lifelong friendships forming, new incredible music discovered, and creativity oozing out of every beam, crevice (and rabbit hole…..) That was the evening I discovered what chamber music was.

Andrew Quartermain
CEO & Artistic Director

And so it was that up to mid March 2020 the same hustle and bustle of artistry and friendship bound together by Pro Corda’s unique education characterised each and every week at Leiston Abbey. Our most recent course season this year had been one I didn’t know back then as a child – our term time courses and weekends for children and young adults with additional needs and disabilities. We had just hosted one of our longest standing partner schools – the Shrubberies from Gloucestershire – who had staged a sparkling performance of “Mulan” in the Upper Guesten and had had their week full of friendship, discovery and creativity (and on at least one day that same smell of mash I remember walking into that very first day all those years ago!)

Our activity immediately before the national crisis was in fact off site – the biggest Pro Corda schools festival to date had run it semi – final rounds across the UK during the first 2 weeks of March and Laura, Katy and I were in Brighton on 14th March ready to go with the National Finals day on the 15th which then had to be cancelled at the last minute. The last actual Pro Corda live event pre-crisis was the Friday prior, a memorable reception at the 1901 Arts Club in London.

Some of the amazing performers at this year’s Pro Corda festival

Over a month on there is of course a sadness to the Abbey’s stillness I drive into each day. We should by now have had the annual joy of the Easter Primary and Junior courses, further schools bookings, SEN weekends, and an archaeological group from Cambridge University coming to stay with us to discover yet more about our site’s rich history.

All of this will return. As readers know there is a firm mitigation plan in place, all courses are to be rescheduled (not cancelled,) and I am already working proactively on our route back to “normal” delivery via the revisions we, like everyone, will need to make in our daily practices – from social distancing to aspects of course structure to ensure everyone’s safety and good health. And it goes without saying we will not press play on all of this until it is absolutely safe to do so. Some aspects of our programmes will take longer than others. Our dinner concerts for our ever growing local public audiences may take longer to bring back for example, but they too will be re-programmed at the earliest opportunity.

But meanwhile, I notice two other important things about the Abbey right now.

Its unique energy, while its walls have indeed temporarily fallen silent, is in fact buzzing more than ever to inspire the Pro Corda team to rise to the challenge of delivering the Pro Corda magic to those who need it the most (and in fact a growing number of users.)

Laura Feeney has been busy each week preparing our Virtual Theatre performances each Sunday for our students with additional needs (plus weekly instrumental, vocal and creative workshops.)

Annabel Thwaite has been preparing “Pro Corda@home” which launches on May 1 st for our core course students.

“YSE@home” also launches next month for our London Saturday school young string players.

The concert and chat podcasts coming out of the Guesten Hall are reaching many who are completely isolated (including the elderly) and – like all the above – are in fact growing our audience of each Pro Corda stream we currently put out in this way.

And then there is something else rather special that I feel from our beloved Abbey right now. That it is itself, as well as inspiring us to do more than ever, charging its own batteries of therapeutic energy within the flints of the ruins, the beams of Abbey house, and the rafters of the Barn, Chapel, and Guesten Hall; so that it is ready to welcome back the larger-than-ever Pro Corda family through its caring gates once again as soon as we are able to all come back together – and for the very best version of Pro Corda and Leiston Abbey we have ever known.

I wish you and your families good health and safety, and I look forward to seeing you soon


Create Together, Wherever! Launch

Create Together, Wherever! launched

To all of the amazing young people we work with, we want you to know that we are thinking about you at this difficult time and that we miss you! Social distancing is essential, but that does not mean that there needs to be creative distance between you and Pro Corda.

We want to ensure that you keep creating and enjoying our shared love of music! We know you are all fabulous performers – anyone who’s witnessed a talent show in Tudor Room knows just how spectacular your talents are!

Create Together, Wherever! Is a way for us to connect with our Pro Corda family and to support each other through the challenges that the Corona Virus may bring. Please stay home and keep safe and we look forward to sharing online videos, workshops, creative tasks and so much more with you over the next few weeks.

You can find out about our exciting new programmes by clicking through to the Create Together, Whenever! page. There’s brand new content for you to watch and join in with, live interactive shows every Thursday and Sunday online, with loads more coming over the next few days and weeks.

Click the image below to find out more.

Now is the time for us all to Create Together, Wherever we are!

We look forward to seeing and hearing you all in action as you practise your performances and share them with us.

Take care and stay safe – we can’t wait to see you all soon!

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