The Piano: The Final


Channel 4 and catch-up on All4

HOW do you get from Glasgow Central Station to the Royal Festival Hall? Practice.

The old Carnegie Hall gag came to mind as Channel 4’s The Piano, described by one fan as “the most uplifting TV talent show ever”, reached its finale.

Made by Love Productions, the firm behind The Great British Bake Off, the series invited amateur players of all ages to perform on “street pianos” in Glasgow Central, London St Pancras, Leeds and Birmingham stations.

READ MORE: Pure dead brilliance on show at Glasgow Central

Unknown to them, the performances were being judged by world-renowned classical pianist Lang Lang, and platinum-selling pop star Mika.

The winners of the four heats, including Sean Logan, 27, from Edinburgh, were chosen to perform at the Royal Festival Hall in London before a sold-out audience of 2000-plus.

Reality hit as host Claudia Winkleman led the four through the artists’ entrance of the Southbank Centre venue.



Each had a story to tell about why the piano meant so much. Sean was diagnosed as neurodivergent at age four. For him, the piano was a way of "expressing my internal world". Self-taught, his style was described as “brilliant anarchy” by Mika.

Lucy, 13, from West Yorkshire is neurodivergent and blind. She had played Chopin in the Leeds heat and chose Debussy for the final –a harder piece, thought Lang Lang.

Viewers watched Sean, Lucy, Jay (St Pancras winner), and Danny (Birmingham) having mentoring sessions with the judges.

Finally, the big night arrived. First on stage was Jay, 25, a labourer from the Isle of Wight. The piano had been part of his recovery from a rocky teenage spell.

Playing his own song, A Heart That’s Cold, and accompanied by a string quartet, the rapper was nervous initially but grew in confidence with each note.

Lucy was next, accompanied by her teacher, Daniel. Waiting backstage was her mum and the three lads who by now had assumed full big brother status.

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As she walked to the piano, Lucy asked for Sean and the others, and her mum. It was her way of reassuring herself, part of a pre-performance ritual. Seated at the piano she was at home, perfectly relaxed. A stirring three minutes later, Lang Lang was leading the audience in a standing ovation. Number of dry eyes in the house? Zero.

Sean had the hard task of following that. He began with a short speech to the audience. Like Lucy, he said, he was on the autism spectrum. “There’s a lot of people that have our condition. You are able to see us because we are able to make a noise, but there is a lot of us that don’t."



He got down to business at the piano, playing his own composition, Meet Machine. As at Glasgow Central, he blew the roof off and gave the windows a rattle for good measure.

“Masterful,” said Lang Lang.

In what was otherwise a note-perfect programme, someone had the bad idea of seating the judges in the audience. Their remarks to each other, informed as they were, were just as irritating as anyone else's chatter would have been. A firm "Shush!" was in order but none came.

Danny, 26, from Manchester was the final performer, his song dedicated to the father he had lost to suicide.

READ MORE: Scots star on why music means so much

Winkleman, on cheerleading duty throughout, announced it was time for the judges to review the performances. “I can’t cry with this much eyeliner on,” she joked as they ran through the highlights. It had been that kind of evening. There was to be no winner or first prize, but the judges chose a performance of the night. The honour went to Lucy.

Reality shows, complete with contestants’ backstories, have become one of television’s cliches. Peter Kay affectionately lampooned the format in his 2008 TV movie, Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice.

When it was first announced, The Piano seemed like it could be just another talent show. The X-Factor with Beethoven instead of power ballads.



But it soon proved to be something different. There was the soaring level of genuine talent on display, enough to stop commuters in their tracks. Add to this Winkleman’s way of putting people at their ease, and Channel 4 was on its way to a hit, with audiences of close to two million on the night.

The judges have played their part too. If a panellist on Britain’s Got Talent panel says you are brilliant it’s nice but hardly the first time they’ve doled out the compliment. If Lang Lang calls you a genius, as he did with Lucy, it matters.

There was one last surprise for the finalists – a piano each, delivered to their homes. Bravo to Channel 4's very own fab four.