How We Met: Dominic West & Lucy Parham

‘Her face doesn’t lock in one of those rictuses, unlike me when I play guitar’

Lucy Parham, 46

One of Britain's finest pianists, Parham came to public attention after winning the 1984 BBC Young Musician of the Year, aged 16. She now performs as a concerto soloist with leading orchestras including the London Philharmonic and BBC Philharmonic. She lives in east London.

I knew of Dominic in the mid-1990s, as we were at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama together. The actors and musicians didn't cross paths, though. Instead I used to look longingly and adoringly at the actors, in their cafeteria. I was just a humble musician who was in awe of them.

A few years after graduating, I became a huge fan of The Wire. If you hadn't known Dominic was a classically trained English actor, you would have thought he was a native speaker from Baltimore, and seeing him perform in that series, well, I forgot it was him.

We were finally properly introduced 18 months ago by a mutual friend, [the actress] Joanna David, and I asked him whether he'd perform the narrative for my [touring] Debussy show. There was a real chemistry between us.

He helped bring alive the script I'd written – and he was very funny backstage. I get nervous before performing, but to have Dominic with you, telling jokes and doing impressions 10 seconds before, diffuses the tension.

I was delighted when he bought a piano; I hope our work together inspired him. As for lessons, I couldn't be more delighted to give Dominic a few pointers.

Is there truth in Dominic saying that pianists are a bit mad? Yes, it's a very solitary profession. I sometimes say, "If I am showing the mad gene, please give me a quick slap." My colleagues would probably kill me for saying this, but it takes a certain type of person to become one and that's why I do these [collaborative] shows [with Dominic], as I don't like spending all my time on my own – I've been doing that for 20 years.

It was also out of all that solitude, and not wanting to become [mad] that my love of theatre developed. We've met at the theatre a few times, as I love going; I prefer it to seeing a concert, as I'm playing the piano all day. We went to see The Winslow Boy most recently. And I can't wait to see Dominic up in Sheffield performing in My Fair Lady.

Dominic West, 43

After graduating from drama school in the early 1990s, West got his big break playing swaggering Baltimore detective Jimmy McNulty in acclaimed HBO drama series 'The Wire'. He has since appeared on TV as Oliver Cromwell in 'The Devil's Whore', Hector Madden in 'The Hour' and Fred West in 'Appropriate Adult'. He lives in west London.

I remember as a teen watching the Young Musician of the Year on TV in the 1980s, and I saw Lucy win in 1984. After that I was actually at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with her. At Guildhall, musicians tend to be defined by their instruments; people who play brass tend to be sporty lads, and the weirdest people were always the pianists, and as they spend about nine hours a day practising, they're all schizophrenic – except for a few, such as Lucy.

She got in touch with my agent a few years go and when I heard that she wanted me to work with her, I was intrigued. I always felt musicians were the ultimate artists and pianists the ultimate musicians, so I was delighted, even though I don't know anything about Debussy, and we fixed up a date to do a first performance in Salisbury.

Now we meet up in towns around Britain and doing the show for me is a pleasure; I get to say a few words and then sit right next to the piano and receive the full force of her performance.

I've heard a few different Debussy concerts and they've shown me how exceptional Lucy is. Her face isn't locked in one of those dreadful rictuses that can put you off, either, unlike me when I play the guitar [at home]; she looks inspired.

I have a jealousy about her, almost like a lover, as she also works with other actors, such as Alex Jennings. I regard them like rivals, and it's one of the things I have to deal with.

She's a kind person, and I was touched how, as a favour, she performed for one night in Sheffield, my home town, for a charity called Helen's Trust, which helped my mum before she died. Hearing her playing "Clair de Lune" in this beautiful chapel in Sheffield transported me. The piece sounds deceptively simple, but it's not; I tried to get her to show me how to do it but I got lost very quickly. I've since tried to convince her to give me lessons, but she's very politely said no. It's like asking Norman Foster for lessons in drawing.

Lucy Parham performs 'Rêverie: the Life and Loves of Claude Debussy' with Dominic West at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Surrey, on 25 November, and Wigmore Hall, London W1, on 30 December (lucyparham.com)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy