Saturday, 25 September 2021

Practice has made perfect for choir’s new piano accompanist

Practice has made perfect for choir’s new piano accompanist

WHEN Jo Miller-Shepherd takes centre stage at the Aliquando concert tomorrow night (Saturday) it will mark another milestone in a remarkable career for the Charvil-born pianist, writes Robert Treharne Jones.

For as well as working regularly with groups including Opera at Bearwood and Spotlights Musical Theatre Group, Jo has now taken on the role of accompanist to the Henley-based chamber choir.

It was her father, an organ-builder, who first introduced her to the medium that would shape her life and future career.

“Our home was full of bits of organ everywhere, especially the garage and the shed,” she recalls. “He started teaching me himself, when I was six, but he quickly realised that I needed something more formal.”

So while her friends were doing other things Jo was busy practising two hours a day, every day of the week. Small wonder that this degree of application brought success, and she achieved grade eight, with distinction, at the age of 12.

It wasn’t just the piano where she excelled — while attending the Piggott School Jo also played clarinet and cello and sang in the church choir at St Andrew’s, Sonning. It was there that she was invited to accompany the Reading Bach Choir while still only 14 years old.

After studying piano and voice at Trinity College of Music she returned to Berkshire where she works full-time as a piano teacher, vocal coach and accompanist.

She also sang with the Reading Phoenix Choir, and travelled to concerts all over the world, but has now stopped singing to allow her to concentrate on the piano.

Jo is one of those rare individuals with perfect pitch — the ability to recognise or sing any given note with absolute accuracy — which she freely admits is both a blessing and a curse.

While accompanying choirs she is able to tell when, and by how much, they may have gone flat, but it also means she finds it impossible to sing in a group where others may be off the note.

“I play mostly for opera, either individual singers or groups, as well as musical theatre, so working with Aliquando is a bit of a departure for me — it’s really rather splendid!” she says.

Showcasing mainly but not exclusively Nordic composers, the concert, — entitled “Northern Lights” — takes place at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road at 7.30pm tomorrow (Saturday). Tickets are £16 for adults and £5 for students, with children admitted free. To book, call (01491) 577733 or (01491) 578238 or call in at the Christ Church Centre.

More News:

POLL: Have your say