Sam Piha – Postcards from Crouch End

Postcards from Crouch End front cover
Postcards from Crouch End back cover

People sometimes laugh or smile benignly when I talk proudly about Crouch End. They give me a certain look that says, ‘are you for real?!’

I know what they are thinking; of all the places I have travelled around the world, of all the wonderful cities I have seen and people I have met, the stages I have performed on, ‘What’s so special about Crouch End?’

The music on this album aims to answer that question to some degree.

The track Piha Beach captures the isolation and wilderness of a remote part of New Zealand’s South Island. Another track evokes memories of a fantastic train journey in Japan. All this is in contrast to the stimulating, bustling, engaging and also enchanting part of London known as Crouch End.

Enjoy the music with a tantalising coffee or an elegant wine, Crouch End style.

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All tracks are written by Sam Piha, with the exception of track 9, written with Thea Daum and tracks 10, 11 and 12, written with Philip Bennett. All tracks performed on guitar by Sam Piha.

  1. Crouch End Waltz
  2. Crouch End Broadway
  3. Crouch Hill
  4. Shinkansen
  5. Piha Beach
  6. Why Grimsby? Flute Louise Garner
  7. Parkland Walk
  8. The Cold Wild Wood  Flute Louise Garner
  9. Tachi-ai  (Sam Piha & Thea Daum) Guitars Sam Piha & Thea Daum
  10. Undertow  (Sam Piha & Philip Bennett) Guitar Sam Piha, Violin Philip Bennett
  11. The Return  (Sam Piha & Philip Bennett) Guitar Sam Piha, Violin Philip Bennett
  12. Past and Present  (Sam Piha & Philip Bennett) Guitar Sam Piha, Violin Philip Bennett

Bonus tracks

  • Crouch End Waltz (solo guitar version)
  • Tachi-ai (Guitar and Flute version) Flute Louise Garner
  • Piha Beach (Alternative version)

Musicians: Sam Piha (Guitars) Louise Garner (Flute) Philip Bennett (Violin) Thea Daum (Guitar)

All tracks recorded at The Church Studios Crouch End apart from ‘The Return’ and ‘Past and Present’ recorded at Rooster Studios West London and ‘Undertow’ recorded at home in Crouch End.

Engineer: Aeron Z Jones

Song inspirations

Crouch End Waltz

This is the first of the Crouch End pieces that I wrote. I was at home alone for a couple of days and just wandered down to Crouch End to pick up some shopping. Everyone was strolling round the shops in a kind of dance, the name came in to my head and it just seemed to write itself.

This is Broadway in the afternoon. The middle section represents bustling around the shops, Dunns the Bakers, Morleys the butcher, Walter Purkis the fishmonger and of course Waitrose and the Co-op. The theme returns and is slightly more wistful and melancholic with the sound of the Clock Tower in to the distance.

This idea originally came to me as I cycled down Crouch Hill. Not much of the original idea is still there apart from the consistent note cascade and the piece is quite a bit longer than the bike ride!

Sampling Japanese whiskies in a bar at the top of a hotel, Louise and I saw the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) snaking into Tokyo and we wanted to take a ride. When we bought our tickets the next day the Japanese ticket seller was amused when we said. “We don’t mind where we go, anywhere so long as it is at high speed.” Two hours later, after our high-speed experience, I had most of this piece clear in my head.

This was inspired by a beautiful surfers’ beach we visited in New Zealand. The whole area is called Piha, so you have Piha fire station, Piha café. Piha bowls club.  It is a most lovely part of the world, still wild and unspoiled, and the track reflects this.

I wrote this as incidental music for a play called ‘Why Grimsby?’ written by Ruben Ruiz-Daum. I wanted a piece that a couple of guitars and a flute could play live at the start of the play and to use little bits of between scenes. The play is about a family of Columbian origin, living in the UK, hence the theme is more Latin than Grimsby!

This track was going to be called Funchal, because we were on holiday in Madeira when it came into my head. But I was thinking of home and in particular the old railway line, now a nature reserve, running from Finsbury Park to Highgate, through Crouch End. We often walk all the way to Highgate woods and on to Muswell Hill.

This was written as incidental music for a stage production of ‘The Wind in the Willows’. It’s the part where Ratty and Moley are in the woods, looking for Badger’s house. It portrays their journey through a cold, dark and frightening world, not knowing if they will survive or find safety. The resolution at the end reflects their safe arrival.

This was written with my very good friend and wonderful guitarist, Thea Daum. She had the original idea and one sunny afternoon in her flat in West London, I started playing over it until the two parts seemed to fall into place. It has hardly changed since that day. The title comes from a sumo wrestling term and it translates as “rising with one breath”. I think this is a lovely image and is reflected in the piece; with two instruments working, breathing and blending together.

This started life with Phil and I creating sound effects from the sea and we used those ideas in the opening sequence. The melody was developed from a guitar sequence I had been working on and after hours of frustration we produced the final version. There is definitely something special about performing this live that takes us away in to the ebb and flow of the music.

Phil and I wrote this in a small flat on the Muswell Hill Road. We used to get together every Thursday to rehearse and write new material. One afternoon I came up with the idea for the guitar part and Phil started improvising over it. During the next couple of hours we gradually picked out the bits we liked until we had a settled version.

This is one of several original pieces written with my good friend and long-time collaborator Philip Bennett. This piece was written specifically for a BBC world service programme called Past and Present, about children who had gone into the same line of work as their parents. This programme reflected on how things had changed; we have portrayed this by having the opening sequence on acoustic instruments, with the later parts played on electric guitars and fiddle.

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