"WE’VE been getting lots of emails and phone calls from people to thank us,” says Jamie McLaren. “So many have phoned to open their heart up, and they’ve almost been in tears. We’ve changed a little part of their lives, coming in and out of the station on their way to and from work, and they’re just so grateful for it.”

The cause of such gratitude is a piano that stands on the concourse at Glasgow's Central Station. Resplendent in highly polished mahogany, it was made in one of the best Chinese piano factories. Around 100,000 commuters visit the station each day and an untold number have tried their hand at the piano. Many regulars play their signature pieces; one of the most-played offerings, apparently, is the theme song to Game of Thrones.

The piano stands in a neat little “garden”, and one of those who have played it is Christopher Scamp, a 30-year-old amateur musician from Liverpool. A video of him playing a selection of uptempo songs on it (at one point he was even kicking the piano, to mimic a drum beat) has had more than 113,000 views on social media. Such impromptu gigs on public pianos have made Scamp something of a cult hero; another video of him, playing a piano outside a Manchester music store, has had more than 1.2 million Facebook views. Britain’s Got Talent saw the video and approached him a few weeks ago.

Another video available online shows a group of Slovakian football fans, in town to see their national team take on Scotland at Hampden, having a singalong around the Glasgow piano.

The piano was donated, on permanent loan, by McLaren’s, a piano store in the city, in response to a request from the station itself. “Over the years we’ve put pianos in restaurants and hotels and in Braehead shopping centre, and got our name on it, just as a marketing trick,” Jamie says. “I think someone at the station saw the piano at Braehead, and they approached us and said they were keen to have a piano on the concourse. I said, ‘Look, we’ll give you a piano for free if we get our advertising’. We said we’ll look after it all year round for ever, keep it tuned and repair it. It’s getting played every day, so we’re always around, maintaining it. They couldn’t believe it, and they went for it.”


Music groups returning by train to London, having glimpsed the piano, have been known to get out their own instruments for a song or two around it. “It’s these moments,” says McLaren, “that have been captured that have never been planned.”

A few lunchtimes ago, a 20-year-old musician by the name of Kit Smith sat down at the piano and began to play a stylish piece of his own invention, called Bringin’ You Down. He’s in a band called called Easy, who are supporting Paisley’s The Vegan Leather at King Tut’s on Hogmanay.

“My background, musically,” says Smith, who lives in Cambuslang, “is I used to play bagpipes for a good eight years or so and then I dropped off and started to play guitar. I mainly play guitar in my own band, which is like jazz, funk and soul stuff.

“With piano I’m finding what sounds nice. I had one or two [piano] lessons in school. I’ve had a few lessons, guitar-wise, so in terms of music theory I’ve managed to gain a little bit of knowledge.

“I study commercial music up at the University of the West of Scotland at the Ayr campus. So I guess music is pretty much all I do, apart from working. My ambition I think is to continue performing. My preferred career would be to continue performing in and even session work, that kind of thing. But I also know that’s not guaranteed to happen, so I also dabble in things like sound engineering and a little bit of music promotion.”

He’s fluent on the piano. He has played it before, too. “I come here quite often. It’s a nice piano – it’s good that they keep it regularly maintained. For a while, from this B [note] here to the F”, he said pressing a couple of keys, “whenever you hit any of these you weren’t getting a note out of it, but I think someone mentioned it to them and it was fixed.”

Has he had any comments from passers-by or staff? “I had someone give me a twenty quid note once. I was completely shocked. I said to him ‘no’ but he ran off.” He laughs. “I’m not going to run after him.

“I’ve always thought when we’re passing by [the station] that there should be a piano here. It allows musicians to show their creativity to other people.”

“He’s terrific, he sounds really, really good,” says Eileen McNicol, who happens to be passing by with her sister, Marion Adams, en route to the shops. “We’re most impressed. Just to see something like that in Central Station, I think it’s a great idea. We were passing by and heard him play and thought, that’s very unusual, we’ll go and have a look and see what that is.”

“He’s wonderful,” Marion chips in. “And I was surprised when he said he’s not actually studying piano – it’s guitar that he plays. The piano has such a beautiful tone. It’s a lovely instrument. It’s so nice to have somebody sitting down playing live music. Oh, I would love to be able to do that!”

Be our guest, we say. She declines, firmly but politely.

“Even last year, I said to my husband, I’d love to be able to play the piano. Well, he says, why don’t you go and take lessons? I said, we don’t even have a piano any more. We used to have one. And he said, well, we can buy a keyboard.”

“You should do it,” observes Eileen. “I should put that on my bucket list,” says Marion. Okay, we say – this time next year, we’ll see you here, playing the piano. “Next year, I’ll be here,” Marion says, but then she adds as an afterthought, “Don’t hold me to that!”

Within five minutes Smith’s place at the piano stool is taken by a young boy of 15. His name is Corey Stables, a pupil at Clydeview Academy in Gourock. The song he begins to play is The Girl from Ipanema. “I think this is a great idea, actually,” says his stepfather, Paul Baird. Corey is the youngest of three brothers, who are all very musical. The eldest is a teacher of music and music technology; the middle one is studying sound technology at UWS Paisley. “So we’re a music-mad family,” says Baird. “This is quite a new development,” he adds with a nod towards Corey, who is playing with noticeable confidence. “Not long ago he would be too shy to do something like this. I’m very happy.”

“I enjoy playing in public,” Corey himself says, “because you get a reaction, whereas, playing in the house, it’s just you enjoying yourself. But you’re pleasing other people, out here. That’s a big thing for young performers.” Asked about his own ambitions, he says: “I really like jazz piano, and I think that would be cool to pick up.”

He says he’s more into jazz than classical. “I’m a big fan of Jacob Collier; he’s a young jazz artist from London [Collier, a talented multi-instrumentalist, is well worth checking out on YouTube, incidentally]. And I like Frank Sinatra. He has that jazzy style.”

A ScotRail Alliance spokesperson said yesterday: “We introduced pianos at Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley this summer. They’ve proven hugely popular with both regular travellers and tourists since and some of the players have been impressively talented.”

Says Jamie McLaren: “We’ve had a few people saying they’ve always wanted to do something like The X Factor or such shows, and would never, ever consider doing it, and they feel the piano has been their opportunity, and they’ve been playing it at the station, and crowds have been gathering. It’s incredible. It has opened up a new atmosphere at the station.”

McLaren’s has installed pianos at Haymarket and Waverley in Edinburgh, with Glasgow’s Queen Street to follow once the renovation work there has been done. “All the staff in Edinburgh had said your pianos won’t last one night, they’ll get ruined, and it hasn’t happened,” McLaren says. “There’s not even been any case of damage. The general public has been really good with it.” The only recorded damage to the Glasgow piano, it turns out, came not from a passerby - but from a careless pigeon, circling overhead.