Hills are alive with the sound of music

Robert Richmond playing the piano 300 metres up
Robert Richmond playing the piano 300 metres up
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A musician helped carry a grand piano 300 metres up to a ruined Lakeland folly for a poignant memorial concert.

Helped by a group of climbers Robert Richmond hauled the instrument up to the Claife Heights Viewing Station above Windermere to help raise cash for Mountain Rescue.

The event – entitled ‘An April Folly’ was the brainchild of Robert, of Knott End. a well-known classical musician.

Robert was head of music at Baines High in Poulton and Blackpool Sixth Form College.

He contacted the National Trust with his idea for an al fresco recital and Claife Viewing Station near Windermere was suggested as a suitable venue for the unusual event.

He said: “The location was magnificent and the acoustics were just perfect.”

But the eccentric Springtime stunt was born from tragedy.

Robert’s son, Michael, is a keen climber who lost two good friends, Tim Newton, 27, and Rachel Slater, 24, who were killed in an avalanche on Ben Nevis on Valentine’s Day 2016.

Michael initially planned a sponsored walk to raise funds for Lochaber Mountain Rescue, who spent five weeks searching for the young climber’s bodies and counselled their grieving parents.

But Robert offered to put on an open air recital instead- providing Michael could persuade some of the climbing community to help him carry the piano.

Luckily, there was no shortage of volunteers, despite less than perfect weather in the morning.

Tim’s dad, who lives in Leicester but was unable to make the concert as he is a carer for his wife, said: “I wish to sincerely thank everyone involved for the event and wish you every success.”

Rachel’s parents, Nigel and Rosemary Slater, who live in Canada, described it as “a wonderful idea and a beautiful way to honour Rachel and Tim”.

The piano arrived by the Bowness ‘rope ferry’ in torrential rain. As the weather eased off the instrument was carried on its specially designed frame up to the viewing station by the team. Members of the Coniston Mountain Rescue team helped move the additional sound and vision equipment needed to set up the event.

Sheltering under the protective gazebo, the grand piano received expert attention from the team’s extreme tuner, Marianne Bailey of Out Rawcliffe.

She said; “What a challenge for a piano technician. I’ve been working with pianos for over 30 years but this is definitely a first– and probably the last! The main reasons pianos go out of tune is changes in humidity and being moved. Guess what? Here we had both!”

But Marianne was able to ensure the instrument was in peak condition for the afternoon performance.

She added: “What a brilliant effort – I couldn’t believe it when it arrived at the top of the hill cocooned in bubble wrap.

“What a lovely memorial- and a great way to raise awareness of Mountain Rescue.”

The programme included Robert’s own arrangements of pieces by Ravel and Shostakovitch, plus Rachmaninoff’s popular Piano Concerto No. 2 ( which features the famous love theme from ‘Brief Encounter’).

Other performances included ‘Venus’ by Gustav Holst and Ennio Morricone’s ‘Cinema Paradiso’.

Members of Coniston Mountain Rescue were collecting on the day and profits will be shared with their Scottish counterparts who searched for the tragic couple.

More than £800 was raised on the day and recordings wehave gone on sale online with Robert hoping to raise £5,000.

Michael Richmond said: “We need to do even more to raise awareness of the vital service provided by Mountain Rescue.

“Rachel was always the first to volunteer for things- and these guys are all volunteers”.

The entire Coniston Mountain Rescue Team had to quickly leave mid-concert to attend to a mountain bike accident in nearby Grizedale Forest.

But they were back to catch the finale.