The story behind the success of the The Leeds International Piano Competition's first Tabor Piano Ambassador programme

11 October 2021
By Guest Writer
Young British pianist Rose McLachlan, currently studying at RNCM, shares her experiences of being a Tabor Piano Ambassador at the recent Leeds International Piano Competition 2021.


It was a great honour to be a Tabor Piano Ambassador at this year's Leeds International Piano Competition. It was a new initiative that was founded by the competition for this year's edition. Its mission was to give young pianists who are not yet old enough to participate in major international competitions the opportunity to spectate all the rounds and to give back to the community through music.


What did being a Tabor Piano Ambassador entail?

Part of the Leeds Piano Trail in Trinity Shopping Centre. © Instagram/@leedspianocompetition


Our role was essentially to bring music to the streets of Leeds as part of the Piano Trail. The pianos were placed in a range of unique locations, from idyllic gardens to the hubbub of busy shopping centres, which made for exciting and unpredictable performances! The pianos themselves were also very distinctive after having undergone transformation by professional artists and community groups. One was spray painted, another metamorphosized into an elephant and another displayed a powerful image of the effects of climate change on the planet.

Alongside the pianos, there were sculptures made entirely from up-cycled pianos created by critically-acclaimed artists’ collective Pianodrome, making the performance an altogether remarkable visual experience.



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By stepping away from the traditional concert hall and instead performing in unorthodox settings, it perhaps breaks down the stigma of elitism surrounding classical music. It was encouraging to see people take time out of their day to stop and listen, and sometimes request specific pieces or even join in!


"The Leeds International Piano Competition's mission was to give young pianists who are not yet old enough to participate in major international competitions the opportunity to spectate all the rounds and to give back to the community through music."



The ‘Musical Night Walk’ was a big part of the ambassador’s life and was performed eight times to a sold-out audience. Actress Lottie Parker led the walk, reciting poetry which complemented the dusk-inspired music, including nocturnes by John Field and Poulenc. Night-time in Leeds can be anything but peaceful, with sirens bursting through at the quietest moment and people bustling into bars, but if anything, this emphasized the ideology behind the walk; to provide a fleeting escape from the chaos of life. Over the past difficult eighteen months, many people relied on the arts for support and comfort, by aiding and liberating them through turmoil and the painful reality. This was evident in the immense gratitude expressed by audience members, which made the musicians feel appreciated and in turn resulted in more enjoyable and satisfying performances. 

We also had the chance to perform to young school children, some of whom had never seen or heard a piano before. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to see them so captured by the music and a humbling reminder as to why we are musicians. It is easy to become consumed by inner demons and perfectionism, but possibly by forgetting about ourselves and thinking about giving to others we will not only play better, but also feel more fulfilled. 



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How inspiring was it to watch the competition finals?


Kazakhstani pianist Alim Beisembayev took home 1st Prize


It was fascinating to watch the competition in its entirety, and to hear such a wide variety of repertoire from Rameau to Hindemith. The sheer amount of music required is astonishing, including two seventy-minute semi-final programmes and two concerti, as well as the element of uncertainty for the competitors, as they don’t find out which programme they will play until the day before. After speaking to various competitors, it was apparent that in order to remain focused and calm, a healthy mindset was crucial. Many of them were so happy and thankful to be in the final twenty-two that they were there to simply share music with the audience. It was very inspiring to hear this, as there is of course a less attractive side to competitions, which there was certainly no sign of in Leeds.

Initially, it was surprising just how friendly and warm the atmosphere was, but in retrospect this is how it should always be! When listening to the rounds it was easy to forget that the performers were actually competing, as they all seemed to let go and really just ‘perform’!

Ultimately the honour of being a Tabor Ambassador has left me with an even greater love of music. Piano playing can reach everyone, and I returned to the RNCM this week with renewed energy, determination and enthusiasm.


About Rose McLachlan

Rose was born in 2002 and comes from a family of musicians. She entered Chetham’s School of Music in 2011, initially as a Chorister and having piano lessons with her father Murray, then later with Helen Krizos. Rose has already had considerable success in national and international competitions, including first prize in the Beethoven Society of Europe intercollegiate competition, the overall winner of the EPTA Croatia competition and the 2016 Scottish International Youth Competition, the Chetham’s concerto competition and Chopin prize. 

In 2019, Rose performed Shostakovich 2nd concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth which was broadcast of BBC Radio 3. Rose now studies at the Royal Northern College of Music and is externally grateful to receive financial support from the Waverley Fund and the Pendle Young Musicians bursary. 

Main image: Leeds Town Hall. ©The Leeds International Piano Competition.