A Nocturne created from a discovery left behind in a derelict house.

Nocturne No.3 for solo trombone and two pianos, written and performed by Vic Berry in 2022.

extract of original piano score written in fountain pen
Nocturne No.3 Piano Score extract of original handwritten music

The music is part scored and partially improvised and the original piano score dates to the early 1980s. At the time I was living in a shared flat in Titchfield Street, London and sharing with a couple blokes who were studying at UCL. The place was a rundown Edwardian block of flats toward the Regent’s Park end of the street and very cheap.

I was out of work, on the dole and playing a bit of music trying to discover what I should do next. It was about this time when one of my flat mates heard about a piano that was left in a derelict building in nearby Grafton Street.

We decided to claim it.

Grafton Street has rows of three storey Georgian terrace houses on each side of the road. The houses stood in the shadow of the Post Office Tower, the BT Tower as it is known today. The piano was located on the top floor. There was a spiral staircase with original wooden bannisters all the way down to the ground floor. Many of the banisters were missing on the top floors making the ascent hazardous to say the least.

Getting the piano down to street level was an enormous challenge for a ten-stone weakling like me with Julian, my flatmate and Zoe, his five-foot-two girlfriend. Luckily for me Julian was used to doing a bit of casual labouring and Zoe was a tough Sheffielder who was not afraid of anything. I had seen Zoe wading into a fight against the local rugby club to rescue her bloke who was getting a hammering.

Initially the piano descent did not go well. With Zoe and I underneath the piano teetering on the top step, I was in a complete state of terror as the staircase had nothing to hold onto since all the bannisters had been removed. Thankfully we stopped on the brink of disaster and had a rethink.

We finally managed to get the piano down with the aid of a long rope. Running a rope out of the top floor windows and round the brickwork into an adjacent opening, we tethered one end of the line round the piano. Then the piano was literally pushed off the top step with us hanging onto the rope. It was fortuitous, that the piano was trapped, suspended in the air, held with the friction caused between the fibres of the rope against the surface of the wall. Gradually we could lower the piano a few inches at a time by freeing the rope from the brickwork by twanging it like a guitar string.

It was a risky and dangerous venture which in hindsight should never have been undertaken, but we were all young and foolish.

Once the instrument was at street level it was easy to trundle it down the quiet London streets to get it back to Titchfield Street.

Nocturne N.o3 – Vic Berry 2023

Now I had a piano I started composing once again. I always liked writing music late at night. It was the silence and freedom from interruption that allowed me time to focus and experiment. Inspired by Chopin nocturnes and Beethoven Moonlight Sonata, my own piano composition has a nocturnal mood. The third nocturne was written following earlier attempts at composing in this form during my late teens while at school.

Last year I bought a new electronic piano, and it was the first had my own instrument for over 25 years. As my muscle memory returned, I started to dig out some of my old compositions including Nocturne No.3. I felt it was a piece that had stood the test of time well and was worth recording to share.

I made the recording in one take and listen back to the results. I could not resist the temptation to improvise along with the track to provide a little bit of additional colour to what was a simple piece. So, I pressed the record button to get an overdub straight away.

It was a few weeks later when practising the trombone, I had the idea to add a solo improvisation on top of the piano duet. Sadly, I didn’t get the first take, in haste I had not set the recorder controls properly, which I thought it sounded better than take-two. Such is life. I had no appetite for trying a third take once I had something “in the can”. I uploaded the track to SoundCloud last year where is seemed to be well received, so I decided to release on all music streams in March 2023.

Nocturne No.3 by Vic Berry – Download

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