Jan Preston: A Class Act

Listening to her makes you feel good to be alive. Dean Harrison

 Great entertainment in the village

By Roger Childs

Jan preston in NelsonOver 100 people packed into St Peter’s Hall in Paekakariki to hear the versatile pianist Jan Preston. The show was billed as Boogie Woogie up the Coast, but she incorporated jazz, blues, film music and classical as well. This mix went down a treat, as did her vocal numbers such as Housework Blues, She Walked Right In and You are my Sunshine.

Jan is an accomplished performer and has great rapport with her audience. She told plenty of interesting stories, filled in background on her life and even included a slide show of musical elements in her household. She was ably accompanied by Patrick Bleakly on double bass and her husband, Mike Pullman, on drums and washboard.

The Paekakariki connection

Jan has played in the village before and in the advanced publicity said  I love the Wellington area and am very excited to be playing again in Paekakariki…

Jan Preston 2013 Portrait-27Close rapport with the enthusiastic audience was established from the start and throughout the show Jan told jokes, ask questions and recounted stories. One of the later was about the day in Sydney when she took her son’s much loved dog for walk and after picking up a deposit proceeded to lose both her car keys and the dog. Fortunately there was a happy ending!

Originally from the West Coast, Jan also spent time in Napier. She now lives in Sydney and when she discovered one Australian in the audience, quipped how did you get in?

Jan is the sister of well known film director and producer Gaylene Preston. Her award winning 1995 documentary War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us (1995) included Paekakariki women talking about relationships with Marines in the nearby camps.

An entertaining and versatile artist

No-one will pay me for playing classical music these days. Jan Preston

Jan was brought up playing classical music. Her mother use to say she was born with her fingers outstretched looking for a piano. In Sunday’s concert she demonstrated that she stills plays classical pieces very well and in the concert included excerpts from

  • Fur Elise by Beethoven
  • Fantasie Impromptu by Chopin

and the full version of the classic jazzed up setting of  Rimsky-Korsakov’s  Flight of the Bumblebee: Bumble Boogie.

Winifred AtwellMost of the items were boogie woogie jazz and the audience toe tapped and hand clapped to well known tunes such as Black and White Rag, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, In the Mood and her own compositions: The Housework Blues and Cool Boogie Woogie.

Jan also paid tribute to Winifred Atwell, “Queen of the Ivories”, and her faithful renditions of Atwell’s compositions Five Finger Boogie and Black and White Rag were much appreciated.

In recent years she has been composing film scores. These include background music for a Sam Neill documentary and the music for her sister’s recent film Home by Christmas. Some examples of these compositions also featured in the programme.

A rollicking good concert

Jan Preston’s syncopated rhythms captivated the audience at St Peter’s Hall. The combination of  boogie woogie and blues with touches of classical and film music along with the sparkling repartee made for a fine Sunday afternoon’s entertainment.

Jan promises to return to the village, possibly with her acclaimed show My Life as a Piano. Not to be missed!