Sussex pianist completes 26-hour epic to fund his studies

Burgess Hill pianist Oliver Cuttriss has come up with a remarkable way to fund his studies – a 26-hour piano recital. And he says he could easily have gone on longer.

Oliver Cuttriss
Oliver Cuttriss

He achieved it – with energy to spare.

Oliver was delighted that his final piece, the monumental Rudepoêma by Villa-Lobos from memory, sounded as strong as his first pieces more than a day earlier.

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As a result of the event, which he livestreamed on Facebook, Oliver has raised so far £5,050, enough to help him out of a “financial pickle” for the moment.

Born in Haywards Heath, Oliver, aged 25, attended schools in Burgess Hill, Cuckfield and Horsham before graduating from Royal Holloway in 2016 with the Alice Dougherty-Chaplin Prize for Performance.

He then worked full-time as a graduate/music assistant at both Bishopsgate School, Egham, and St George’s School, Windsor Castle, for the best part of three years before embarking on a masters in performance at the Royal College of Music.

Oliver has since spent the past year practically living in the practice rooms due to lockdown – difficult times.

“I have missed out on the social side and the contacts, but actually it has been the most beneficial time of my musical life. I have composed two compositions that have been quite well received and also two mash-ups that went on YouTube (search for Schubert-Carey - All I Want for Christmas is Erlkönig).”

All of which led to the massive online recital… or rather, succession of recitals.

“Originally it was just a motivational thing. I started off things just to keep busy. I thought I would do the odd livestream just for fun.”

But Oliver was working his way through his savings of the past three years and needed to bring in some money. Hence the 24-hour Facebook event… which became nearly 26 hours: “I started at 2pm on the Sunday and I went on until 3.45pm the following day. What was nice was the fact that it was quite informal actually helped me. I was able to talk to people about what was going on during the livestream in the middle of the night.

“The recital itself was filled with nine individual recitals of about two and a half hours each. Facebook only allows you to stream from a mobile device for four hours so I was playing a recital for two and a half hours and then having a ten to 20-minute break. With the informality there was no need to stick exactly to time.

“There were certain moments where I was flagging quite hard. I called it A (Whole) Day at the Office, but actually I am known for feats of quite stupid endurance. I will do multiple hours of practice. This was just an extension. I was actually pretty in focus for most of the time.”

And the Villa-Lobos was the perfect way to finish: “I did it for a recital last year and played it without a score. It was just like I sat down and it was like the first thing I had played.”

Oliver is delighted with the result – a substantial sum towards his studies: “I am not against crowd-funding at all, but I only wanted to do it as a last resort. I wanted to do something that really justified the fundraising, and at the end I was up for another four hours and it didn’t take long to get back into shape. My shoulders ached a little bit, but it only lasted one day. Two days later it was like I hadn’t done anything at all.”