Entertainment

Claudia Winkleman says The Piano is ‘a lovely one-off’ that could not continue

The show will see talented pianists discovered at railway stations across Great Britain.
The show will see talented pianists discovered at railway stations across Great Britain. The show will see talented pianists discovered at railway stations across Great Britain.

Claudia Winkleman has revealed that her latest presenting project is a “lovely one-off” that could not continue in any other form.

The 51-year-old presenter is set to host The Piano, a new show for Channel 4 searching for Great Britain’s most talented undiscovered pianists.

Speaking ahead of the series, which sees Winkleman joined by Chinese pianist Lang Lang and pop star Mika, she said “things are allowed to happen once” and dismissed any prospect of further series of the programme.

Asked if the “gentle” and “charming” show, which discovers pianists as they play for commuters on public pianos in UK railway stations, would return in another form, Winkleman said: “It can’t. The minute you put a piano anywhere, somebody will go, ‘Oi, where’s Mika?’

“Things are allowed to happen once and just be a lovely piece of telly and shine the light on this instrument and these wonderful people.

“It has to be a lovely one-off. And that’s OK. That’s a joy in itself.”

The show will see everyday pianists sit down to play in London St Pancras, Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham stations, unaware that chart-topper Mika and Lang Lang, one of the most famous solo pianists in the world, are secretly watching and assessing their performances.

The final will bring together four pianists, one from each station, at London’s Royal Festival Hall, where they will deliver solo performances in front of an audience.

Lang Lang childrens concert
Lang Lang childrens concert Chinese pianist Lang Lang (John Stillwell/PA)

Despite her involvement in the project, Winkleman admitted she does not have any musical talent of her own, saying: “I can’t eat with chopsticks, let alone play it. I’m redundant as a musician.

“I tried to learn the trumpet as a kid and it lasted about four minutes. I couldn’t get a note out.”

Asked if presenting the show has inspired her to learn to play the piano, she added: “Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t spell chord.”

Contestants on the show are set to include nonagenarians who have been playing for 80 years and 12-year-olds who have never played in public before, as well as a number of people who learned during lockdown.

A player with no sight who has mastered Chopin will also feature.

Winkleman also spoke about the impact of the programme’s locations, saying: “The reaction was fascinating because it also depended on the 12:10 to Manchester.

British Summer Time Hyde Park – London
British Summer Time Hyde Park – London Mika (Yui Mok/PA)

“That’s what was so amazing. It wasn’t a TV studio. The train timetable was in charge. And if somebody’s going to get on the tannoy and tell you there’s a slight delay while they’re getting the train ready, in the middle of a performance, so be it.

“A couple of pianists made people extra late. Somebody was like, ‘I’ve got to catch a train’, and they went, ‘No, I’m just going to stay here’.

“It reminded me of that scene in the film Forrest Gump when he says, ‘Isn’t this your bus?’ and she says, ‘There’ll be another’. But it was an authentic process.”