TV Review: The Piano shows how music can bring happiness, despite difficulties a person faces in life

The Channel 4 show is presented by Claudia Winkleman and features singer Mika and concert pianist Lang Lang

Claudia Winkleman, pop star Mika, and Chinese pianist Lang Lang will appear in the second series of The Piano
Claudia Winkleman, pop star Mika, and Chinese pianist Lang Lang feature in the second series of The Piano (Channel 4/PA)

The Piano, Channel 4, Sundays

In recent weeks there has been a steady increase in the frequency of the piano playing echoing from the front room of my house.

Recitals of ‘River Flows in You’ and ‘Teardrop’ appear to be on repeat - there must surely be a summer school exam pending.

So amid my son’s focus of getting the right dynamics, harmony or melody for his exam pieces, I stumbled upon a talent/reality show that featured others in their quest for musical glory.

The Piano (no time spent there on coming up with a catchy title it would seem) is presented by Claudia Winkleman and features judges, singer Mika and concert pianist Lang Lang.

I clearly completely missed any mention of the first series of this Channel 4 show, so here it is returning for a second run in the hope of finding the best amateur pianist.

Claudia herself though has reservations about a second series.

“I don’t want you to take this wrong way, but when we we did this the first time I thought, ‘We’re done’,” she tells Mika and Lang Lang.

During the first episode, each contestant performs at Manchester Piccadilly train station, watched by the two judges who are hidden away in an upstairs staff room.

With varying degrees of musical skills and a different, at times moving, back story on how they came to learn the piano, each contestant takes their place in front of the piano in the station.

In each episode, after everyone has performed, Mika and Lang Lang will select one person to play at a special finale concert.

Everyone has a varying level and taste in music. First to take to the piano keys is boxer Ellis, who is a prime example of never judging a book by its cover.

Hailing from a council estate where he says there’s a “high crime rate but we’ve got a Costa, so it’s all good”, he learnt to play from a young age on a keyboard his mum had saved up to buy from Argos.

He tells of how he received lessons through council-funded schemes.

Playing Chopin’s Ballade No 4, he not only impresses the assembled audience in the train station, but also the celebrity judges.

“Do you think he’s aware of how difficult this piece really is?” asks Mika.

Talented nine-year-old Ethan is next. Not only is he already sitting his GCSEs, but his piano playing leaves the station in awe.

His father revealed that playing the piano allowed Ethan to express his emotions through music, more so following the death of his uncle.

During Ethan’s performance, Mika said: “It’s totally breaking all the rules in every single way. The rhythm is being thrown into the air, but...”

“... But it’s beautiful,” Lang Lang finishes.

Gap-year student Fred’s performance of Labrinth’s ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ impresses, but it’s dementia sufferer Duncan (80) who steals the show for me.

The retired solicitor plays, from memory, a piece he wrote for his wife Fran, describing how it “gives me such total feeling about the girl I found and the girl I married, the girl I love and always will”.

While Lang Lang says it’s “beautiful... very romantic”, it clearly touched Claudia who marches up to the judges hide-out after the performance and declares: “He is going to the concert, it is not a debate.”

She adds: “It is important to have somebody like that and the fact he can speak through the piano.”

Was it the best performance to secure his place in the finale? Probably not.

But it pulled on the heart strings and shows us how music can bring happiness, despite the difficulties a person is facing in life.