Manny Vass - the Cheshire-based concert pianist set to launch second album
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 May 2015
Manny Vass tells Janet Reeder about his mission to become a world record beater
Musician Manny Vass has an ambition - to become the first ever crowd-funded artist to have a top ten album.
It isn’t just a pipe dream. The pianist who lives in Davenport, Stockport used the fund-raising site Kickstarter to raise the cash for his latest album and hit his £2,000 target within a week.
But then 26-year-old Manny isn’t your ordinary tinkler of the old ivories. He’s a tech savvy performer who admits to combining his talents with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Manny who was born in the Philippines and graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in 2011 says: ‘My dad is a carpenter and I grew up watching him build his business so I understood the importance of being an entrepreneur and the importance of not just waiting for something to happen.
‘That phrase ‘if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door’ is what I am all about. It is what I’ve been doing pretty much all my life. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work and being businesslike and just believing in yourself and understanding what makes you different.’
Manny’s musical talents shone through when he was just seven years old. His parents had bought him a Fisher Price toy xylophone for Christmas and he loved it, graduating to lessons with local music teachers as an older child and eventually winning a Leverhulme scholarship to the RNCM.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and he has already given a recital for the Prince of Monaco, played a solo concert in the West End and been aired on BBC Radio two and three, Classic FM and Six music. His first album from Bach to Bond was a crossover recording that featured a broad range of music which he hopes helps to de-mystify the classics.
‘What I’ve tried to do is make them much more accessible,’ he tells me over coffee and cake in a Stockport cafe.
‘I want to help break down those barriers that prevent people from listening to classical music, so my first album features Bach (obviously) and James Bond themes, George Gershwin, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, Debussy, all sorts really. ‘
His second release Sonic Waves will be out this summer and he will be taking it on tour with a series of dates all over the UK including two in Cheshire at Alderley Edge on June 26 and Sandbach on June 27.
‘Sonic Waves is a water-themed repertoire from composers such as Liszt, Schubert, Chopin and Handel,’ he explains.
‘But I’ve also included three sea shanties, so I’m arranging What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor, Blow the Man Down and Jack the Lad, which everyone knows when they hear it (it’s the sailors’ hornpipe song). I’m not interested in this idea of classical music as boring and immovable there’s a wealth of pieces of music and enjoyment to be had from it.’
Home is where he prepares for the challenges of the day. He organises all his gigs himself and gets up at 5am to do all his admin work before heading off to work as a lecturer at Leeds College of Music.
‘I like to think I am a new breed of musician, using the internet, using crowd funding, using social media just to get my message out there,’ he explains.
‘I am not using a manager, I’m not using an agent I am not using any company to do it for me. I am doing it myself. So if I want to put a grand piano on a beach I will.’
He’s referring to the stunning publicity shot, which involved him playing a grand piano on Southport beach in the freezing cold.
‘We drove onto the beach and then put down boards and covered them with sand before moving the piano into position, then I sat down and played. We drew quite a crowd although my overriding memory is of the freezing cold wind blowing in my face,’ he says with a laugh.
Although he spent much of his youth growing up in Yorkshire he has taken the north west to his heart. He’s lived here for eight years and now shares his Davenport house with a dog called Zeus.
‘I really like the atmosphere and environment here,’ he says.
‘It’s close enough to be near Manchester but far enough to have your own space and be close to the beautiful countryside of the Peaks.
‘There are plenty of places to go. I love Lyme Park, which is where I take my dog Zeus who is a German Shepherd. He’s all white so basically looks like a wolf! I also like areas like Bramhall and Stockton Heath.
‘My favourite cafe is The Funky Monkey in Davenport and I’m a fan of the Bubble Room in Bramhall.’
Of course he’ll get plenty of opportunity to explore the UK when he goes on tour with his new album.
‘The tour will be the CD live,’ he says.
‘I’ll be in Cheshire mid June and at that stage I will have already been classic FM’s album of the week. And there’s also my world record bid to become the first crowd-funded unsigned artist to hit the top ten in any chart regardless of genre.
‘There has not been a single musician in the world who is unsigned and crowd funded who has yet to reach the top ten. It’s exciting. As part of my Kickstarter campaign I am selling copies of my CDs so I already know the sales even before it’s released and judging from the early sales I may just well achieve my goal.’
Lives: Davenport, Cheshire
Loves: Lyme Park, The Funky Monkey cafe, Davenport, The Bubble Room Bramhall
Hopes: To break the world record as the first ever top ten Kickstarter artist
Tickets for Sandbach: www.emmanuelvass.co.uk
Alderley Edge: www.stphilipandstjames.co.uk
Tickets are the same for both: £12 full (no concessions) and £9 students
Pianos for these events have kindly been provided by Shackleford Pianos Cheshire