A new TV series is to profile the best amateur pianists playing at UK train stations. Dubbed as the ‘Bake Off for pianos’, The Piano , which will start on Wednesday February 15th on Channel 4, will see host Claudia Winkleman inviting amateur pianists to play at four different UK train stations: London St Pancras, Birmingham New Street, Leeds and Glasgow Central. All the pianists – whose ages range from 6 to 95 – are unaware of the programme’s major plot twist: they are secretly being judged by the Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang and French-Lebanese popstar Mika, who will select the four best of them – one from each train station – to play in a concert at the Royal Festival Hall in front of an audience of thousands.
Speaking to The Guardian, Lang Lang said: ‘Whether it’s a little kid or an octogenarian, I want to feel their soul and learn their story. Many pianists play very well technically but it’s mechanical.’ While Mika commented that ‘Amateurs bring honesty. They wear their heart on their sleeve in a way professionals just aren’t able to do.’
All the contestants from different walks of life and play different music, including jazz, pop, classical, boogie woogie and hip hop. Winkleman, Lang Lang and Mika all have their personal favourites. For Winkleman, it was Jared, a 21-year-old mechanic. ‘He came along to St Pancras in oil-stained denim shorts on his break from fixing trucks,’ she told The Guardian. ‘He put his spanner down on top of the piano, started playing and the whole place exploded.”
Meanwhile Mika ‘was fascinated by a guy called Sean. He was 26, on the autistic spectrum and the opposite of Jared in many ways: prickly, unapproachable, with huge mood swings. But when he plays piano, it melts your heart.’ As for Lang Lang: ‘Mine was this amazing girl named Lucy. She’s blind and developmentally delayed but music has changed her life. She can’t hold a conversation but communicates through the piano. When she plays, you see the whole universe within her.’
The Piano starts at 9pm on February 15th and airs for five weeks.