In July 2017 Joe received a call from the production team of Sky Atlantic’s “Patrick Melrose” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugo Weaving. The show, also produced by Cumberbatch, is based on the Edward St Aubyn novels concerning a playboy character from the 1960s. Weaving plays the father to Cumberbatch’s Patrick. Weaving (Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy (1999–2003), Elrond in The Lord of the Rings (2001–2003)) needed to learn the piano from scratch – and fast!
“Of all the film actors I’ve worked with,” said Joe, “Hugo knew the least and improved the quickest in just one week. And what a great guy! He was also the most complimentary. I was sad the day he left to go back to Sydney!
With audiences (and award panels) going ga-ga for Hollywood musical La La Land, BBC’s flagship news show Today got in touch with Joe to find out how actors prepare for roles that involve playing piano on-screen. Actor Ryan Gosling has spoken of how he had to learn to play for hours, five days a week, to prepare for his role as a jazz pianist in the film. Joe was called in to help journalist Nicola Stanbridge see if she could too could get to grips with a piano co-star.
“When The Today programme’s producer writes to you saying ‘Can you help us?’, you know you must be doing something right,” says Joe.
Listen to the feature:
You can find out more about Joe’s work preparing actors to play convincing musicians in films, here. And to contact Joe about your own coaching, drop him a line here.
Over the years, Joe has worked in many primary and secondary schools. He is passionate about getting young people playing, practising and improvising. Joe concentrates on the basic principles of contrast (light and shade, loud and soft), rhythm and basic performance skills in order to encourage young musicians to get the most out of their music and to enable them share it more effectively with other people. These Blackheath Conservatoire dates offer youngsters and their parents a chance to hear top London jazz musicians up close and learn how they got where they are today.
27 November 2016 – Mark Armstrong on trumpet, Robert Rickenberg on bass
For more details visit www.conservatoire.org.uk
“Joe Thompson, who is a former pupil of King Edwards School, has worked with us in a variety of ways in recent times. On two occasions he has run workshops with some of our musicians during the day and then put on a concert in the evening. These occasions have been spectacular successes. He has shown the players things about their playing that they did not know and, in a very short space of time, taken them somewhere new. The concerts have been a joy not least because of the energy and enthusiasm that Joe shows and his deep rapport with the boys. Joe has brought delight and knowledge in equal measure to this school and he works brilliantly with children of a range of ages. He is a star and a gem.”
John Claughton, Chief Master
King Edward’s School, Birmingham
This informal Blackheath Conservatoire session is all about the music. Come see if you have ‘big ears’, as Joe and his fellow musicians play you the best in jazz and show you how it’s done – just like they’ve done at The Ivy Club the night before!
Perfect for aspiring young musicians, or families who want some quality musical time together. This really is some of the best jazz in town, and when you pair it with an espresso from our café, makes for the hippest family scene around.
This session will see us joined by Lizzie Deane – a soul, funk and blues songstress with a deeply soulful voice that emulates the sweet melodic and raw belting lines associated with the classic divas. With her warm persona and infectious performance style Lizzie contemporises her musical influences, that include Aretha Franklin, James Brown, The Jacksons, Etta James, Stevie Wonder & Otis Reading. Along with Joe Thompson on piano and Robert Rickenberg on bass, Lizzie will be demonstrating some different styles and techniques and sharing with our local young singers some of the tricks of the trade.
On 18 October, (and again on 29 November) Joe will be resuming his jazz trio sessions for young musicians at the Blackheath Conservatoire. As usual Joe will be looking at “opposites” in performance and featuring proper grown-up jazz examples in attempt to encourage performers of any age to get the most out of their instruments and the best out of themselves. Tickets £10 and £5.
More here: http://www.conservatoire.org.uk/Events/Joe-Thompson-s-Primary-Jazz-194.aspx/
For London’s historical Blackheath Conservatoire Joe has created a unique educational family jazz series, bringing in some of London’s best jazz musicians to offer children and their families an opportunity to hear some top drawer (grown-up) jazz, while exploring musical opposites in performance and the power of contrast.
Monthly. Nov 23 then Dec 14
Jan-March 2015 tbc
To find out more, and book tickets:
“Our family jazz series has been incredibly successful. Joe has a fantastic way of connecting with the kids because he never treats them as any less sophisticated than their adult counterparts – he plays them the same jazz, with the same artistic quality and the same expectation that it will move them just as much as it moves grown ups. The success of the concerts prove what most of us in arts education have always known – that the best way to get kids into art and music is to give them the highest quality examples you can find. And Joe’s music is certainly that.”
Chief Executive, The Conservatoire