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Meet the team: cocktail pianist Adam Allinson


Britannia’s resident cocktail pianist and director of the guest choir tells us why his job hits all the right notes

Resident cocktail pianist and guest choir director Adam Allinson

Resident cocktail pianist and guest choir director Adam Allinson

Can you tell us a bit about your role with P&O Cruises?

As the resident cocktail pianist, it would be easy to assume that all I do is play the piano, but in reality the job is so much more varied than that. I could be playing the hymns at the Sunday church service at sea, accompanying the talent show or playing for the captain’s welcome on-board gala reception. Most evenings you’ll find me performing in the piano bar or cocktail bar, taking requests and playing into the wee hours. I also run the guest choir, which is an amazing experience. On a typical cruise, we could be leading a choir of a hundred or more guests to sing out and find their voices on the Headliners stage. Add to this the amazing places I’m fortunate to visit and I really do have the perfect job.


When did your passion for music begin?

Being from a farming family in Yorkshire, music wasn’t very high on the agenda in our house. When I was four years old, my mother bought me a small Bontempi keyboard on a whim. It initially just sat there collecting dust, but not long before my fifth birthday, the tune ‘Tea For Two’ came on the television and I sat down and started to play it by ear. That was the first song I ever played and I was hooked. When I was seven, my mother entered me into a holiday park talent competition where I played a medley of songs from the musical Oliver. After winning the initial competition, I went on to win the UK grand final of Pontin’s Young Entertainer of the Year 1998. Looking back now, it signified a big moment in my life as this was the first time I had performed for a real audience. I knew then that music would always play an important role in my life.


What type of training do you have?

Most people assume I’ve studied music at some sort of conservatoire. The reality is, I haven’t. I had a fantastic music teacher in Yorkshire, who I would visit on a weekly basis, and she was hugely inspiring. Even though I had absolutely no interest in grades, scales or arpeggios, she allowed me to practice the music I wanted to play. I believe this to be key to anyone wanting to learn music – they should be allowed to find and develop their own style and play the music they want. It’s so much more fun this way!


Can you take us through the guest choir experience – how do guests join, how often do they rehearse and what happens at the end of rehearsals?

The process of running the guest choir is fast and exciting. You are essentially producing a show with just a few hours of rehearsal. On a typical two-week cruise, I’ll run a rehearsal every sea day. Guests usually come along on the first sea day, and we will literally start from scratch. Rehearsals usually last from 45 minutes to an hour and during this time we always do a warm-up and will usually get through two or three songs. We always make rehearsals fun and exciting, which is definitely key to the overall success of the choir. We may have 80 people on the first day and then, as word spreads throughout the ship, more and more people join. The most people I’ve seen in the guest choir on Britannia was 130 guests. The end of the rehearsal process culminates in a big performance in the Headliners Theatre, showcasing what they’ve learnt to a full house of their fellow guests. It’s always a proud moment for me.


Do guests need to have previous singing experience to join the choir? Absolutely not! The choir is open to everyone. I think the beauty of the on-board choir is its appeal to all ages, abilities and voices. It doesn’t matter if you can sing like an opera singer or a canary bird – everyone is welcome.


What type of music do you sing with the choir?

Every choir is slightly different, as is the music we sing. Where possible, I try to build the performance and the music around the guests in the choir. I’ll also ask them if they have any suggestions as to what they might like to sing. For most guest choirs I will try and include a piece of music to suit everyone. This is usually made up of a big opening number, a rock and roll piece, a love song, a contemporary or pop song, a West End musical and a grand finale.


What are the rewards of running the guest choir?

The guest choir is such an exciting part of the cruise experience, purely because you never know who’s going to turn up. In the past we’ve had a 21-year-old opera singer, a chorus of Welsh tenors and an eight-year-old child star from the West End. I’ve also met people who have never sung before in their lives. I often hear from people who have returned home from their cruise and continued to sing after joining a choir local to them. Without doubt, the biggest reward is seeing them all come together and sing their hearts out on the stage. Their faces will literally be glowing with happiness. I think that one of the most remarkable things about singing is its ability to uplift and inspire people, and to be able to share this with our guests is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.