Tamara Konstantin, an executive in an oil firm, was on holiday with her husband in Canada when they both attended an organ recital in the local cathedral. They enjoyed works by Bach and Saint-Sëans, but then they heard a short contemporary piece which Konstantin thought so awful that she turned to her husband and said, jokingly, ‘I could do better than that!’ He replied, ‘Well, go on then. Do it.’
‘I really was joking,’ she says. ‘I’d never written a bar of music in my life. But this challenge unleashed something in me, so I decided to have a go. And then I couldn’t stop.’
The genie was out of the bottle, and the result is this delightful collection of short piano and chamber pieces, full of flowing melodies and unpretentious charm. ‘Some modern composers are more inclined to structural complexity rather than melody, which is fine, of course, but it’s not for me. I love melody, and that’s what I have to write. I simply want to compose melodies which give pleasure.’
Konstantin’s music has now received glowing reviews in Classic FM, Classical Music, The Lady and elsewhere – and it has all flowed from the dam of creativity which burst open that day in Canada.
That’s the media-friendly, Cinderella-like version of events, but it does something of a disservice to Konstantin’s disciplined upbringing as a serious musician. For in truth, she was very far from starting her musical career from scratch when she began composing. She had learned the piano during her childhood in Georgia, attending a special music school for gifted children, and then went on to complete her studies at Tbilisi Music Academy. There she performed with the State Symphony Orchestra of Georgia, and gave many solo recitals.
After graduation, she felt she had reached a crossroads in her musical life, and decided to try something else. ‘I knew music would always be a part of me , part of my existence, but I had to see what else I could do. So I stopped practising eight hours a day, and looked around for new opportunities.’
Tamara’s career took a different turn after she completed her degree at Tbilisi State University when she was offered a job as the first female Political Commentator on Georgian Television. She married an Englishman who brought her to England in 1990. Already having fluent English, she found a job with an oil company, and re-invented herself once again. She stayed in the oil industry for 23 years, helping companies negotiate their strategies in the former Soviet Union and Central Asia, and eventually rose to become Vice President of Businesses Development.
The work involved long hours and lots of travel, but music was still always in the background. She still played for her own pleasure, and performed many times for charity events. It was at this point in her life that Konstantin attended the fateful recital in Canada, and rediscovered her compositional creativity. ‘I still can’t quite believe it,’ she says . ‘But I feel inspired all the time: I simply have to compose.’
A great part of her inspiration stems from her deep love for her adopted country – and more particularly, for her home county of Dorset . ‘I love this country, and I am very proud to be British,’ she says. ‘Britain gave me the opportunity to achieve my dreams and goals. In the former Soviet Union, you had to know someone to get ahead. Here you are given a chance on your own merits. People sometimes take that for granted – they don’t realise how extraordinary that is.’