The Pianoplayers: A Centenary Beer
We are delighted to announce a special anniversary collaboration between the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and Thornbridge Brewery.
The Pianoplayers is a new craft beer created to celebrate Anthony Burgess’s centenary in 2017. Using Mosaic, Amarillo and Simcoe hops, it is a clean, refreshing modern American Pale Ale style beer brewed at 5.2% that will appeal to thirsty pub pianists and casual drinkers alike.
The first Thornbridge craft beers were produced in February 2005 in a brewery housed in the grounds of Thornbridge Hall, Derbyshire. Based on the innovation, passion and knowledge of their brewers Thornbridge aims to produce high quality beers using the best natural ingredients. Their range of cask, keg and bottled beers has gained considerable success with over 350 consumer and industry awards being won across the world, and they now export their beers to over 30 countries.
Anthony Burgess played the piano throughout his childhood, and the piano appears in his writing most substantially in his novel The Pianoplayers (1986), which is a bawdy semiautobiographical work that describes the career of Billy Henshaw – an itinerant pianoplayer based on his father, Joseph Wilson – and his daughter Ellen Henshaw, the narrator, whose early life is very similar to that of Burgess’s own. The action mainly takes place in the pubs and clubs of 1920s and 1930s Manchester and Blackpool and provides an affectionate and clear-eyed portrait of the time; the climax is a marathon piano performance of thirty days and nights.
In the collection of essays Lives Of The Piano (1981), Burges’s contribution details his love for the instrument, and the importance of music to his family. He writes:
My mother was a soubrette and my father was a piano-player. He would not use the term pianist of himself, considering that it ought to be reserved to artists who performed on the concert platform, to which he was never good enough to be elevated. His place was the orchestra pit … He had, without being a virtuoso, as full a grasp of the capabilities of the piano as any professional performer I have ever known. He could switch from ragtime to Chopin; he was a brilliant improviser.
Like his father, Burgess was never classically trained but he became confident in popular and jazz traditions which informed his music and his writing throughout his life. It is not quite regret that makes him write in the same chapter ‘my father and I have been merely piano players’, rather than pianists.
Anthony Burgess’s novel The Pianoplayers will be republished in a new edition by Manchester University Press in 2017. The beer The Pianoplayers is available from the Engine House Café, and good retailers worldwide.