Channel 4’s ‘The Piano’

Lanng Lang, Claudia Winkelman & Mike smiling in the foreground, with pianist playing an acoustic upright in the background.

Channel 4’s ‘The Piano’ is a heartwarming competition that showcases amateur pianists from all walks of life. What sets this show apart from other talent competitions is that it takes place at train stations across the UK, showcasing the diverse stories of each pianist.

The show follows a simple format – each episode features a handful of pianists who perform on a public piano located in a train station. The pianists are of all different ages, from 10 right up to 90 years of age! They have all been selected through an audition process and have unique backgrounds, each with a different reason for taking up the piano. However, they all have one thing in common – a love for playing the piano.

One Intermediate Summer School participant above actually took part in ″The Piano″!

As the pianists perform, they are judged by Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang and singer-songwriter Mika, who provide feedback on their musicality and performance in secret. All of the performances on the show are impromptu, with crowds gathering around the pianist to listen. At the end of each episode, the judges are revealed to the participants and one person is selected to perform in a final concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London.

Lanng Lang, Claudia Winkelman & Mike smiling in the foreground, with pianist playing an acoustic upright in the background.

One of the unique features of this TV show is that it showcases a wide range of musical styles, from classical to jazz to pop, even singer-pianists too. This allows the contestants to demonstrate their versatility as pianists and showcase their individual style. The music also varies in difficulty, from easy to advanced pieces.

Man playing Steinway piano with tutor in background playing saxophone.

The most inspiring aspects of the show are the personal stories of the pianists. Some have overcome physical or mental health challenges to pursue their passion for music, while others have used music as a way to heal from emotional trauma. Viewers get to learn about the personal stories of the contestants, including their backgrounds, motivations, and struggles. In one episode, we meet Danny who has written his own composition having gone through the grief of losing his father to suicide.

Performance class in the recital room with Jenny smiling at the Steinway in the foreground and William Westney smiling in the background

This competition is without the elitism you would often find in competitions – it’s all about the journey of the contestants. Like Finchcocks, it aims to provide an encouraging platform for pianists to showcase their talents and inspire others to pursue their musical passions. The show has also helped to break down stereotypes about classical music and demonstrate that the piano is an instrument that can be enjoyed by anyone. ‘The Piano’ is not only a celebration of amateur musicianship but also a celebration of the diversity and resilience of the human spirit. It shows us that music is a universal language that has the power to heal, inspire, and bring people together. In a world where we are often divided by our differences, ‘The Piano’ reminds us that we can find common ground in the things that bring us joy.

by Finchcocks Course Host Ophelia Gordon