PUBLISHED: 09:37 28 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:46 28 August 2020
foto: Marko Delbello Ocepek // www.instagram.com/delbello69
From playing piano at the local pub to travelling the world and two years as a TV judge on one of the famous Got Talent Shows in Europe, Lucienne Loncina, formerly as Lu Hamer, talks to the Resident about her journey from Portishead schoolgirl to world acclaimed musician.
Did you grow up in Portishead?
“I certainly did, we lived in Redcliffe Bay. I was born at the maternity hospital in Clevedon 1965 and my brother Sam was born at home in 1967.
Me and my brother Sam went to Highdown School (Mrs Reece and Mrs Reid) and then Gordano (Kendrick House). I have fond memories of Portishead as a lovely, friendly village with plenty of interesting characters. Walking up to Legges Bakery on Queens Road for fresh bread on a Saturday and I remember the shops Simpers and Sportoy, Careys, Vowles and Whites, the Gateway supermarket, hearing the Nash (Nautical School) marching band twice daily from our house, swimming in Portishead Open Air Pool in the summer, going to youth club in Harbour Road and jumping on the 358 or 359 bus to get home from the ‘village’!
Dad was a lock gateman at Portishead Dock so I remember Albright & Wilson and seeing all the ships coming in to dock. This was before the power station got taken down.”
When did you first become interested in music?
“I started showing interest on a tiny piano given to me for my fourth birthday, making my own tunes with the numbers on the keys. That’s when my parents decided to organise piano lessons for me. Nobody was really musical in our family except my nan. She had perfect pitch too and always sang in the church choir at Easton-in-Gordano, giving them their intonation note!
I got a job at 14 playing the piano for Judy Butlers Ballet School twice a week after school and played at the Albion on a Friday for a fiver! I was musically active as a teenager singing in the Madrigal Ensemble and Mike Langley’s choir from school, plus doing odd gigs in the evenings.”
What were your favourite subjects at school?
“Music and languages were my absolute favourites. I never really liked maths or the sciences. I still love languages today and speak seven. I tend to hear languages more as a melody in my head like music, which is why I pick them up quickly, I guess.”
Did you study music?
“I always had classical piano tuition and several great teachers, especially Grace Goldsworthy from Clevedon, Edward Fry and finally Mark Randall, who got me through the London College of Music (LCM) Associate. I’d passed most of the LCM exams whilst in sixth form and was already performing and earning quite well, so university didn’t really have any meaning for me.”
When did you start composing?
“When I was 14-15 I used to write and put together songs on my piano at home but I only had them in my head or occasionally on cassette tape, with some lyrics and chords scrawled down on sheets of paper. A top manager offered to pay for me to record my songs and took me over to the Dave Edmunds Rockfield Studio and I remember I recorded six in one afternoon. Finally, I had a demo to show.
At the time I was playing with different bands at pubs and clubs around the area. I had gigs with Pat Small and a regular spot playing at the Hawthorns Hotel in Bristol, solo and with a local singer Christine alias ‘Sammy Brown’ from Sweet Substitute, with whom I performed as a duo. She was the one who taught me the old jazz standards, how to sing interesting harmonies and make nice song arrangements. This was the other side of music they never taught you about at school. Christine really got me into gigging and performing live as much as possible all over and I learnt so much with her. We did gigs all over Bristol and the South West.”
So how did you get from gigging in Bristol to travelling the world?
“After returning from playing in Ibiza one summer, I got a visit out of the blue from a big London agent who had heard about me performing solo at the Hawthorns in Clifton. I suppose you have to have a bit of luck in your life and for me that was it. He listened to me playing and later introduced himself asking me if I ‘d ever considered going abroad. After that, I went to London and signed for three months in Scandinavia and from then on I never looked back. I played cruise ships and really exclusive hotels, casinos and disco clubs with bands all over the world. I was basically on the road for years, coming back to Portishead for holidays to see my parents and brother.
When I met my husband, who is also a keyboard player, we toured Europe length and breadth with our own band for another five years and then decided it was time for a family. Having grown up in Redcliffe Bay I couldn’t imagine living without a great sea view, so we found a plot overlooking the coast and built our house on the Adriatic near Trieste and have lived there ever since. I find it incredibly similar to the Bristol Channel, just bluer!
We founded our own company, a successful entertainment agency booking big concerts with a variety shows and top artists in the northern Mediterranean and exporting European bands and musicians to Germany, Austria, Scandinavia and Switzerland. We had two children, Kim and Sascha, who grew up in Slovenia visiting mum and dad in the summer holidays.
I got back into playing piano again after a 10 year break and quickly found myself doing corporate gigs at top hotels in Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Again, sometimes it’s being in the right place at the right time and one day, out of the blue I got a call from a TV station asking me to be a judge on their new Got Talent show in Slovenia. For two years the show had the highest viewing ratings in the country. It was stressful but a really memorable experience for me doing live TV every weekend, especially having to speak in a foreign language and seeing how things run on stage and behind the scenes. The great thing about TV is that overnight everyone knows you – which boosts your popularity as a musician and increases your gigs.”
Do you still visit Portishead?
“My parents are still going strong in Portishead. Dad is 90 and mum 87. I visit every year to see them and other family members who live in Clevedon.
I love Portishead but I miss Portishead past. I miss all the quaint things Portishead stood for…. the one without all the cars and the charity shops! Portishead has really filled up since I left, yet it still lacks the transportation system considered normal in Europe like electric trains and trams.
I miss England and the simple things that British people probably take for granted; like general chit chat with ordinary people you meet on the street, and how friendly and polite most people still are, the beautiful stone churches, mushy peas with fish and chips, and the cosy pub atmosphere, driving on the left...! But most of all I miss the music... the latest stuff on the radio, concerts, creativity, new bands - on UK radio you always get to hear the latest hits, which in Europe is a rarity.”
Do you have any advice for budding musicians?
“Keep your options open. Play all kinds of music and genres, absorb and grow. Keep your goals high and if one door closes, look for another that might open. However, be realistic and of course, you need to have the talent to start with.”
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