I was first introduced to the music of The Piano Guys thanks to the power of adverts. I don’t know if you remember it but there was a travel agent advert on TV where a man begins the story as an ogre and as his family holiday starts and progresses he sheds his ogre exterior to reveal the man underneath. Every single time it came on the music pulled at my heart and one day I turned to my husband and told him that I needed to know what it was. He agreed and had said he loved it too… so over to Google we went and soon discovered the sheer talent that we had been missing out on. The song was Beethoven’s 5 secrets and here if you haven’t heard it before here it is:
This quickly became my go-to song to get Jake to nap during the day so it now holds a very special place in my heart.
We soon began to search through more of their amazing videos on YouTube and their clever mix of classical music with modern music had us both hooked. I mean who would imagine you could mix Winter from Vivaldi’s 4 seasons with Let it go?! Or Adele with Mozart? Well, these guys could and they did. They have ingeniously brought classical music to the listener’s lives and have gained a huge fan base and following by doing so.
When I heard they were adding another show in London after selling out so fast on the first one I was straight on the phone to my husband and he was busy booking it as we spoke. Two dreams were going to fulfilled for me, to visit the Royal Albert Hall which has always been a must and to watch and listen to The Piano Guys in real life… excited didn’t even cover it!
As I arrived at the stunning building I wasn’t disappointed and then when I stepped inside the grand hall I was just speechless. Our seats were amazing, the view was great and the atmosphere was buzzing. I loved the diversity of the audience and was so impressed to see children there which just goes to show how classical music is being enjoyed by people of all ages.
The Piano Guys are a group made up of 4 ‘dorky Dads’ (their words, not mine!) who all have a passion and an ear for music… and before you start saying but hang on, that video above is of a guy playing a Cello and not a piano let me reveal all! The Piano Guys was a piano store in Utah, USA which was owned by Paul Anderson. He had the vision of increasing sales by creating YouTube videos with his piano’s in different locations. In walks pianist Jon Schimdt who needed a place to practise for his show that night. On hearing his talent, Paul asked Jon if he would perform in the video which would not only promote the store but also Jon as a musician. Jon knew Steven Sharp Nelson from years ago and having performed together before he knew that a collaboration from him would also be beneficial. Then by complete chance Al van der Beek moved into Steven’s street and knocked on his door to discuss creating music together in his home studio. The four came together and began to create stunning pieces with stunning videos to match. With Jon on piano, Steven on the cello, Paul as the producer and videographer and Al as the music producer they discovered the perfect chemistry for bringing their ideas to life.
When I opened the programme and read that three of my favourite songs were going to be played I was over the moon… and they did not disappoint. From the moment they stepped out onto the stage they had the audience laughing, cheering, crying, screaming and joining in with added vocals. They told their stories of how they came together, how they came up with some of their ideas, how blessed they were to have got this far and spent all the time praising others for this instead of just themselves. They feel as though they have struck gold and are so humble with it that you just felt inspired with every word they said.
We were wowed by Jon’s piano playing from being upside down on his stool, by Steven’s clever gadgets on his cello which allowed him to add layers to a song and to even make the 70’s come to life with his cello mouth organ- I’m sure it has a technical name but so much was going on that I cannot remember. And then we were lucky enough to be graced by all four Piano Guys on stage to play with every part of the piano you can imagine. Plucking strings, hitting strings, 3 guys playing the keys at once, using the top as a drum and so on. Their timings and movements around the piano and stage were unbelievable and I just didn’t know how they remembered all of it!
The entire show completely blew me away. I don’t think I have been to any gig where I have been laughing one minute and moved to tears the next. Steven’s account of losing his Mother after an 18 year battle with Cancer to then go on and lose a ‘second Mum’ to Cancer hit home with me. We were watching this amazing show on what would have been my Mum’s 62nd birthday if Cancer hadn’t taken her 13 years previoulsy and I felt every word he said. Yet, he still carried on and he still managed to perform and he credits his attitude to his Father who continued to smile and live his life despite the heartbreak he had endured and why was this? Because he said sometimes you have to turn to grace and even though I am not religious myself I am a true believer that you need to take whatever steps you need to cope with grief and that may be through prayer, passions or love from your family. Whichever it is you need to find that desire to carry on. The story led the guys to play their final piece, a mash-up of Amazing Grace and Fight Song which I will never listen to in the same way again. They couldn’t end the night and not mention the latest devastation in Manchester and also made this song their vigil to those who had lost their lives just 2 weeks before. I have never felt so emotional listening to a piece of music and I am not ashamed to say that my eyes were filling up and my bottom lip was trembling all the way through. The audience were on their feet, screaming and clapping so loudly at the end and none of us stopped until we got that encore!
All four guys returned to give us another fun piece to end the show on such an amazing high. True showmen, true musicians, true gentlemen and 4 true dorky Dads! Thank you Piano Guys for the most memorable show I have ever had the opportunity to attend. Here’s to many more mash-ups and fabulous collaborations!
I couldn’t end this piece without acknowledging the tragic events that took place later that night. My thoughts and love goes out to all of those affected on London Bridge and in Borough Market.
*Featured image courtesy of The Piano Guys Programme