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Harry the Piano at St Mary’s Church (©AAH/Alan Wright)


About 30 years ago, Paul Harris was performing as Harry the Piano at the Moscow Club in London when he received an unusual request. A patron asked him to play the theme tune to the Cadbury’s Flake advert, as it had been written by her husband Ronnie Bond, a renowned composer of jingles. 

Harry’s rendition was so well received by its composer that not only did it lead to him collaborating with Ronnie Bond, but also led to to him incorporating novelty songs and jingles into performances. After relating this story during a concert at St Mary’s Church, Horsham, Harry gave a wonderfully jaunty rendition of Tasty Tasty, Very Very Tasty, another of Bond’s famous jingles from a Bran Flakes advert, but with the added bonus of playing it in the style of a Mozart sonata. 

Harry told AAH: ‘For the final stages of my cabaret shows, I encourage the audience to make requests. It’s nice to have a level of interaction and they ask for anything and everything from classical, jazz and blues to nursery rhymes and theme tunes. It might be the EastEnders theme tune in the style of Stevie Wonder, or Carmina Burana in the style of Schubert. It is like a jukebox playing random songs, which certainly keeps me on my toes! It also makes the audience laugh and they applaud when they hear both of the suggested elements. Of course, those who make requests go home even happier as they contributed to the entertainment. Some ideas work better than others, but sometimes they’re so good that you wish you’d thought of them first!’

Richard Symonds, Jill Elsworthy, Luca Imperiale and Margaret Symonds of Horsham Music Circle (©AAH/Alan Wright)



Harry the Piano’s concert was hosted by Horsham Music Circle (HMC), a non-profit organisation that has organised music events in the town since 1942. It was founded by local professional pianist Grace Humphery, who attended the Royal College of Music. Grace often invited her friends and colleagues to perform for the Circle and acclaimed musicians including York Bowen, Leon Goossens and cellist Jacqueline du Pré are among those who have played for HMC. 

Initially, concerts were held at the Friends Meeting House in Worthing Road, but the Circle has at times used several other venues including Duckering Hall at Collyer’s, Horsham Arts Centre, the Capitol and the Drill Hall. Today, concerts are held at St Mary’s Church or the Barn in Causeway and – in its 82nd season – the Circle continues to provide a varied programme including solo recitals, ensembles and even jazz. 

Jill Elsworthy, Organising Secretary since 1978, said: ‘We don’t have a committee at the HMC, but I’m supported by a small team of passionate advisors who work hard to produce a high-quality programme. The format has changed over the years, but we now split the programme into an autumn and spring series, with three concerts in each, as well as two lunchtime organ recitals.’  

‘We continue to attract renowned musicians and rising stars. We once booked Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie before she had even graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, as we could see her potential. More recently, we have welcomed the brilliant cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, having previously welcomed five other members of the talented Kanneh-Mason family for a wonderful evening. There is much for audiences to enjoy, with classical music as well folk, jazz and light music. For May’s concert, we try to attract a bigger name to close the series. In 2023, we welcomed saxophonist Jess Gillam, the youngest soloist to perform at the Last Night of the Proms, and this year we will be hosting a piano recital by Warren Mailley-Smith, performing works by Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Chopin and John Ireland.’

Jill Elsworthy organises HMC concerts (©AAH/Alan Wright)



The Circle also supports local musicians including Luca Imperiale. The Horsham-based musician is currently studying historical performance on recorder and clarinet at the Royal College of Music, having previously benefited from tuition by locally-based musicians Lou Bradbury and Steve Dummer.  

Last October, Luca performed French baroque for the HMC. He was joined by Turkish cellist Ozgur Kaya, who has an affiliation to the Horsham District having been based here during lockdown, and Apolline Khou, a harpsichordist and pianist who recently graduated from the College of Music. In addition to his studies, Luca teaches clarinet at local schools and has a growing interest in conducting, having been inspired by Steve Dummer of Horsham Symphony Orchestra. He also helps Jill organise events, bringing fresh ideas to the Circle.

Luca said: ‘My first involvement with HMC was when I volunteered to be a steward during a performance by Lou Bradbury’s group. Since then, I have helped out whenever I can, while also reviewing concerts for the website and local press. What I like about the HMC is that every performance is different and it exposes you to various types of music and interpretations. It also allows me to meet other musicians and form connections, which is important in this industry. I would encourage others to come along, as you always have a good time watching live music. Sometimes, we host concerts that I don’t expect to enjoy, but they’re often the most surprising, so I try to attend as many as I can to appreciate the variety of each season.’

Harry’s cabaret act was born in Horsham (©AAH/Alan Wright)


Harry the Piano is the latest in a long line of fine musicians to have performed for Horsham Music Circle, including cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber and Romanian pianist Radu Lupu. Having been given his stage name by a presenter who wasn’t struck by the idea of introducing him simply as ‘Harry’, he has gone on to enjoy a successful career as a professional pianist, touring and recording with the likes of Alexander Armstrong and Rick Astley. After being spotted at the Groucho Club in Soho, Harry was invited to join the house band on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast, where he played with everyone from Will Smith to David Bowie, and was later part of the band on Johnny Vaughan Tonight, after the presenter’s switch to the BBC.  

Now based in London, Harry has recorded three albums (including Lockdown Blues, made after he recorded a tune every day during the pandemic) and composes tunes and jingles for Audio Network, a catalogue of music used for TV, radio and advertising. He also teaches young people how to play piano, adopting a method based on fun and improvision that offers an alternative to the rigid, technical tuition that he feels puts many off the idea of learning an instrument. 

However, Harry spends about half his life on the road, and while he has travelled the world and played at prestigious venues, coming to Horsham feels like a homecoming.  

He said: ‘I had played the piano for years before I finally decided to take my cabaret act on the road. I played at Christ’s Hospital Theatre and Jill was in the audience. She invited me to play for the Horsham Music Circle and I remember looking them up, as I had never heard of it. I saw a list of incredible acts that had played there before and was impressed, although I wasn’t sure if my style would suit its audience. Rather than perform classical recitals, I’m more inspired by the likes of Dudley Moore and Victor Borge, combining elements of jazz and comedy. However, I played for the Circle at the Capitol some 30 years ago and that really kick-started my one-man show. Jill has since become a friend and for this latest concert, joined me on stage to perform Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Every show is different and this one had some festive touches!’

‘I wish I had an Elton John level of kudos and money, and could afford to transport my own piano around the world with me, but I don’t. So, I have to use a different piano at each venue. Some suit me more than others, and there are times when I sit down behind a heavy, cumbersome 100-year-old Bechstein and know it’s going to be hard work! Fortunately, I quite like the Yahama at St Mary’s Church. This is my eighth visit to Horsham since that first show and it always feels great to be back here.’ 

Further information: www.horsham-music-circle.org.uk

Article published in the January 2024 edition of AAH Magazine. Report by Ben Morris, with photography by Alan Wright for AAH.