Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The sound of one hand playing

Grand piano at Abbey Road Studios
Travelling and listening on the car radio to a popular music and chat show, the presenter announced the name of someone I'd never heard of as his next guest. But first he said he would play a track from this unknown person's first album. My ears pricked up as the opening phrases of a Gershwin tune were played on a piano, and a spectacular performance of "The man I love" unfolded.

I'm a Gershwin fan, and I also play the piano - but I'll never sound anywhere near as good as this! As I listened I imagined, in my mind's eye, a pair of hands at work on the keyboard. They took in the full range of the notes, sometimes crossing over each other at more complicated sections of the tune. At the end of the track the presenter welcomed the pianist, Nicholas Macarthy, and interviewed him.

Pretty soon into the interview I thought I'd misheard something. The music I'd just heard had been played by a man with only one hand. One hand? How could that be? How could he do it? How amazing was that?! My jaw dropped as the implications of what I heard in the interview began to sink in. 

Nicholas spoke of how he'd been born with one hand - his left -  but had discovered the piano at an early age and wanted to learn to play. He was self-taught until age 14 when he had formal lessons, and found out that music existed which had been specially composed for the left hand. After this there was no stopping him. He was accepted as a student at the Royal College of Music in London, graduated and began to build a solo career for himself.

What impressed me was his attitude towards his disability. He doesn't see himself as having one, and nothing, but nothing, would have stopped him following his dream of becoming an accomplished pianist. I'm reminded of a quote from the book Illusions by Richard Bach:

Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they're yours. 

I take my hat off to Nicholas - you can read more about him here. He knows how to make music and I wish him well in his chosen career.

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