Life

Talented young pianist Rowel's on the rise

Rowel Friers (13) is already an accomplished musician and is delighted that his hands have risen to the task

THIRTEEN-year-old Rowel Friers has shot up in height in the past 12 months but what has delighted him most of all is that his hands have doubled in span.

As a pianist, this is important and he’s delighted that he can now reach so many more notes with ease. His cousin calls him an octopus because he can now reach up and down the piano keys to seeming impossible lengths.

I’ve been a follower of young Rowel for some time – since he was a toddler really, lying on the floor of his grandparents kitchen surrounded by paper and colouring pencils. He grew up in a household bursting with talent, his artist-cartoonist grandfather the late Rowel Friers, his father a photographer, uncle a painter but it was music that claimed this member of the Friers family from an early age.

Today he’s making waves in the world of professional musicians and opinion has it that he is destined to be special.

In September Rowel was in Manchester at Chelthams, the internationally acclaimed school of music; this was part of his prize when he won the National Finals in March. Murray McLachlan, concert pianist and head of keyboards at Chethams personally mentored Rowel on the course. He is so impressed with the young man’s musical abilities that he wants Rowel to leave his present school, Sullivan Upper in Holywood, and attend Chetham’s where he would get used to the rigorous disciplines of practice that are required to become a concert pianist.

Rowel’s father Jeremy tells me that if this happens, the school of music will give him a full scholarship of around £30,000 a year.

Juggling his education with his music commitments provides a full diary. He has pipe organ studies with his newly acquired Down, Dromore and Connor Organ Scholarship, school exams looming and he’ll be taking his piano practical, which is the final grade exam in the ABRSM syllabus.

At the same time he’s working toward his DipLCM and ACTL on completion of this Grade 8 examination. On Thursday Rowel is scheduled to perform in the Great Hall in Stormont for the Assisi Animal Sanctuary’s Musical Evening sponsored by MLA Stephen Agnew.

Whether it’s playing for the vice-principal of his school on his retirement, donning tails for a wedding performance or picking up a distinction in his violin exams, or maybe even studying guitar, there seem to be no limits. Watch this space.

THE MAGICAL GIFT OF LANGUAGE

We have a fairy thorn tree at the bottom of the garden and we pay it respect, talk to it when it needs a trim – explaining that it’s to keep it healthy – greet it every time we pass.

But thanks to Jane Talbot I’ve had a glance at what goes on at the root of this magical tree and it’s a bit scary. The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories is her first book and it’s a cracker. Not a children’s book of fairy stories but for adults and in the true tradition there’s love and hate, gentleness and brutality and a language to gladden your soul.

The opening paragraph hooks the reader: "A silvery cartwheel of plump harvest moons ago, in the large mossy space between a tick and a tock, there lived a farmer called Man Donaghy. He was one of the Big People, all black-haired and broad and handsome-strong, with the dark, urgent eyes of a hungry dog." Beautiful and evocative.

He and Wife Donaghy ached for a child without success so he became cold and cruel towards her and went looking for a younger replacement. And what of his wife? He offered her to the Little People who lived hidden beneath the Faerie Thorn.

What happened next is a lesson to men like Man Donaghy who became "deep-ditch desperate" as the ghastly trolls transform him into a bone-ghost while the first Wife Donaghy thrived.

Only last year Jane took a notion to learn about tree lore. Originally from Wiltshire, she fell in love with a man from Northern Ireland and moved to live on his farm and there found a faerie thorn. Although not a believer in the little people, she visited the tree morning and evening and after an early twilight visit she went back to bed for a while.

“And when I woke up I was astonished to find that a fully formed story about the faerie thorn was in my head.” And so began her adventure around the north Antrim coast discovering and researching hidden stories.

“One year on I have a sense that I’m living in a place that is full of stories waiting to be told. I feel at home – and I may actually believe in faeries too.”

I think she might because once her book was finished she took an offering of Bushmills whiskey and cream for the underground dwellers: “They took the whiskey and left the cream!”

HEALING POWERS

A query regarding a recent item on Radio Ulster.

Dear Anne,

A lady called Rebecca Hamilton was interviewed on Radio Ulster. She has healing powers for a skin infection called shingles. Would it be possible for you to get me a contact address or telephone for her? I would be very grateful if you could.

Dympna

No problem, Dympna.

You can reach Rebecca at 00 353 7491 48205.

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