YOU could say that it was fate that brought classical pianist Anita d’Attellis to live in Henley. About four years ago she was driving back from a concert in the Midlands when she decided to make an unscheduled pit stop.
“I was coming down the M40 when I saw the sign for Henley, and I thought I’d just turn off and have a look. I’d never been before,” she said. “I was one of those really sunny days when Henley looks just lovely. I parked in the Waitrose car park and looked around, and thought, ‘this is just so nice.’”
At the time she was living in the West Country, and had a job as head of keyboards at Sherborne School for girls, but her partner — now her husband — John Downing, a former Fleet Street photographer, was living in London. Within a year they had moved lock, stock and barrel to Henley.
Since then Anita has established herself firmly as one of the most talented and sought-after pianists on the local scene. As well as taking up a position of piano teacher at Eton College she has played with a number of local choirs — both as soloist and accompanist — and at the end of March she will play Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2 with the Elgar Orchestra at Dorchester Abbey, in a concert which also features Belshazzar’s Feast sung by Benson Choral Society.
Anita began playing piano at the age of eight when her grandmother, eager to encourage her desire to learn, bought the family a piano. But it was only when she attended Chelmsford Grammar School that her musicianship really took off.