1 June 2024

The Piano: Celebrating people's gifts and talents

Ivan Radford

A photo shows people gathered around a piano in a busy train station.

Ivan Radford celebrates the harmony of passion and purpose in Channel 4’s The Piano.

Hands up if you play the piano (but not, of course, with your hands up). Even if you don’t, you’re still likely among the millions of people tuning in to The Piano on Channel 4, which continues at 9pm on Sunday (2 June).

Presented by Claudia Winkleman, it’s a showcase for amateur piano players, with two music icons gently judging the entries: classical pianist extraordinaire Lang Lang and singer-songwriter Mika. The series has an irresistible hook, as it invites people to play pianos at train stations. Each time, an appreciative crowd gathers.

The growing proliferation of railway pianos in recent years has been a bright spot in many commutes, because people love to see someone using their gifts. The Piano understands that: it’s not about competing to win and be famous, but about celebrating and encouraging talent.

How many times have you seen someone do something and thought, ‘Oh, I could do that’? Both Lang Lang and Mika could think it as they observe each pianist tinkling the ivories. But they don’t boot the person off the stool to show them how they think it should be done. They’re generous and empathetic.

‘You have to be so willing to leave behind your ego and get better,’ observes Mika about how musicians develop and progress. That lack of ego, that passion for growth, are just part of what motivates each participant and The Piano’s strength lies in the personal stories that accompany the performances. For so many, the instrument is a form of expression without needing words. Some play to reconnect with a loved one living with dementia. Some play for their own comfort or joy.

For them all, no matter their age or the genre, there’s a sense of fulfilment – and one of the beautiful things about finding fulfilment in life is that the notes involved are unique to each person. In Japan, there’s a lovely word, ikigai, which describes the feeling of purpose found when someone can bring together their passion, vocation, mission and profession. As Christians, perhaps the word for that harmony between what God wants us to be and do is ‘calling’ – putting aside your own ego and plans and listening to the combination of notes God has imagined for your life, a chord that even the most gifted pianist couldn’t compose on their own.

You might still be searching for your God-given chord – and that chord will evolve and add on grace notes with every new movement in your life. But perhaps the real reason The Piano resonates with viewers is that it also highlights the happiness found in helping others to find their calling. One of the best moments in this season is when Mika and Lang Lang invite a woman back to play a second piece. As she does, Lang Lang silently turns the page for her. It’s a beautiful moment of encouragement that’s totally lacking in ego – and a reminder that one of the most fulfilling things for any part of the body of Christ is helping someone else to discover and use their gifts. After all, a piano isn’t a piano if it doesn’t have all the keys on it.

Reflect and respond

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A photo of Ivan Radford.

Ivan Radford

Managing Editor

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