Top honour for Montville pianist

July 3, 2023 9:07 am in by

An amateur Montville pianist has been given the honour of giving the opening performance in front of a packed auditorium at the prestigious Sydney International Piano Competition this Thursday.

The Sydney, as it is known, is described as one of the world’s greatest piano competitions, open to 32 of the world’s elite young professional pianists (18 to 32).

Ian Lucas to open prestigious Sydney piano comp this week.
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Sunshine Coast local Ian Lucas won the amateur section (the Sydney Piano Lovers Competition – for pianists over 30) of last year’s competition, and part of his prize was the right to play at this year’s event.

He was asked if he would present the opening recital at the prestigious event.

“It’s quite flattering to think that of all the people in all the world, they actually considered me suitable to open,” Mr Lucas said.

“I’m participating in The Sydney as a non-competitor, I’ll be the first pianist to play, and beyond that, the competition begins.

“For those who understand the importance of this event for pianists on the world stage, to be included amongst the elite players, and to be able to meet, socialise with them and play for the judges and the audience, it’s an honour and quite unexpected.”

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Mr Lucas was informed of the honour by the event’s artistic director, Piers Lane AO, arguably Australia’s most well-known classical musician.

Mr Lucas, 65, has twice won the amateur Sydney Piano Lovers Competition – he was named joint winner at the inaugural Australians-only event in late-2020 but due to the pandemic he was unable to perform live in Sydney.

His second win in 2022 was even more significant as the event had been widened for the first time to also allow entries from pianists from New Zealand.

Mr Lucas’ success as an amateur pianist in recent years follows his return to playing after more than three decades away from the keys, working as an airline pilot.

He was first taught classical piano by his mother as a child, but in his late teens his life took a different path and he embarked on his career as a pilot. It was around 32 years later, having retired from flying and with encouragement from his wife Lee, that he again sat down to play.

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“It wasn’t until I turned 50 and my wife said, ‘You should go back to music’, and I said, ‘OK’,” Mr Lucas explained.

“So, I started to regain my technique and my piano abilities, and it was quite slow coming back; it didn’t return overnight, believe me, it took quite a few years to get it back.”

He admits he has always felt some responsibility for keeping alive a family history of classical music.

“It’s a lineage – my grandmother taught my mother, who taught me, and I guess my grandmother’s mother probably taught her as well.”

Mr Lucas also took the time to teach the couple’s twin children, Sam and Meg, who have also followed musical paths. Sam is now a professional cellist studying and living in Germany, performing globally and with a record label contract. Meg is a successful lawyer who still enjoys playing the piano when she has the chance.

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To have the chance to perform at this year’s Sydney International is in some way vindication of his decision to return to his much-loved musical passions.

“It’s lovely, I’m 65 years old, it’s nice I some small way to be associated with one of the great piano competitions, which it is., it’s a lovely thing and I’m looking forward to it,” Mr Lucas said.

“The more I think about it, the happier and excited I am. It took me a bit by surprise.

“It’s a personal thrill. The Sydney competition is very well attended – it’s presented in a hall that holds 2500 to 3000 people and it always sells out, so it’s playing to a big audience… the prize is worth the thrill of participation.

“I’m going to use one new piece – of about three minutes and 30 seconds – and one of the ones I used in the entry, about 8 minutes.

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“I’ll have to continue to practice, so therefore I’ll have sore hands, sore rear, all those things that are a by-product of sitting for long hours at a piano.”

Ian and Lee are known for establishing Lucas Parklands, near Montville, home to a 150-seat classical music auditorium described as one of the top performance venues of its size in the world.

The auditorium is set amongst the beauty and peace of undisturbed rainforest. Soft lighting and large windows have helped provide a natural backdrop in the auditorium for regular performances by classical musicians through recent years.

The Sydney International Piano Competition is being held from July 6 to 22, 2023.