Watch: The pianist who plays beautiful versions of Manic Street Preachers songs
I quickly understand how much a fan of the Manic Street Preachers Lorna Borg Debattista is when she sends me an email.
The first half of her address reads ‘lornamsp’.
“I guess it’s pretty obvious who my favourite band is from my email address,” she laughs.
Lorna’s devotion to the Welsh rock legends stretches back 25 years, since her schooldays when she first laid eyes and ears on the band.
“I used to enjoy listening to ‘A Design For Life’ in my Sixth Form days but it was the release of ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ in 1998 that sealed my love for the Manics,” she recalls.
For the schoolteacher, who teaches Spanish in secondary school in Malta, her steadfast devotion to her favourite group has recently manifested itself in a unique way.
She’s built up a sizable following online for her beautiful and exquisitely played piano covers of Manics’ songs.
Learning to play the piano from aged 8, Lorna has a degree in Piano Performing from the Royal Schools of Music.
It was during lockdown that the 42-year-old decided to demonstrate her love for the band by recording herself playing some of the band’s favourite songs.
“I enjoy playing songs I know well by ear,” she says. “During lockdown, I had more time on my hands and I started experimenting more with Manic Street Preachers songs on the piano
“I started recording video clips of myself playing Manics hits and then I began to post them on a Facebook group of fellow Manics fans. Someone in the group asked whether I had a YouTube channel and I said, no. And then I thought, why not? So it all started that way.”
The videos started to gain traction online bringing a whole new perspective to the Manics’ sound.
“I would like to think they serve to mirror the complexity of their work albeit in an admittedly minimalistic sort of way given that piano is the only medium used,” says Lorna.
She’s quickly built up quite a fan base among Manics’ fans who love her lovingly crafted takes on the band’s songs.
“I’ve had pleasantly warm feedback from Manics fans all over the world,” says Lorna. “It’s a very nice feeling to be able to share my versions of songs that are very special to me and it’s equally endearing and encouraging to receive a positive reaction.”
She’s also received positive reaction from the Manics themselves.
“I sent a number of clips to Sean (drummer Sean Moore) when he was on Messenger and he often replied with a thumbs up,” she says. “On another occasion, (Nicky WIre’s brother – the poet) Patrick Jones who collaborated with James on ‘Even in Exile’ told me he was going to pass on my version of ‘Without Knowing the End (Joan’s song)’ to James. I would love to think the Manics enjoy my covers as much as I love playing them.”
Lorna’s most recent video has seen her brilliantly tackling an Abba and Manics mashup.
“A fellow Manics fan wrote a comment on one of my covers on YouTube, saying he would love to see me take on a Manics / Abba mashup, seeing as the Manics latest album ‘The Ultra Vivid Lament’ contains some ABBA influences,” she says.
“He suggested a mashup of ‘The Everlasting’ and ‘S.O.S.’ and then another of ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘Dancing Queen’. I did my best to intertwine these songs together and I was glad to try something different.”
The result is fantastic with many commenting that she should record an album of Manics piano covers.
“Several fellow Manics fans have suggested I record an album” says Lorna. “It’s a stimulating prospect but I’m not sure I’m up for it – just yet anyway.”
Thankfully she’ll continue to record videos of her piano covers – with songs from the band’s new album ‘The Ultra Vivid Lament’ being given the piano treatment.
Her enthusiasm for her favourite band remains undiminished.
“I love how their stimulating lyrics, full to the brim with references, combine with brilliant melodic lines and interesting chord progressions to produce musical masterpieces,” she says. “It’s no easy task.
“I also admire the socio-political commitment which permeates their songs and makes them still so very relevant to the reality of present day.”
Lorna will also be hoping to see the band in concert again, after a memorable live show in London back in 2019 – the only time she had seen the band live, albeit for a very special occasion.
“I saw them once at Shepherd’s Bush on Saturday, 18th of May, 2019,” she says, the date indelibly marked in her mind. “The concert formed part of the 20th anniversary tour of ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ and it was a surprise present from my parents for my 40th birthday.
“That day was truly memorable and I shall cherish it for the rest of my life. The Manics gave it their all, churning out hit after hit with relentless energy. The evening ended with a fantastic interpretation of the classic ‘A Design For Life’.”
As for her favourite songs – there is one song in particular which has a particularly special resonance.
“The one that really stood out for me was ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’,” says Lorna. “I was reading for a degree in Education in that period with the intention of becoming a teacher of Spanish and the references to the Spanish Civil War made me sit up and take notice.
“Needless to say, the melody was sweepingly beautiful, too.”
Follow Lorna on Twitter
View the videos on Lorna’s YouTube page HERE
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