Have you ever seen someone sky diving with a cello? Have you ever seen someone playing a piano or cello while sitting atop a mesa in the middle of a desert or while sitting in the surf at the edge of the ocean? If you haven’t, then it’s time for you to meet “The Piano Guys.”
“The Piano Guys” are an American musical group consisting of four men (sometimes five): Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, Paul Anderson, and Al van der Beek. Basically they perform piano and cello renditions of all kinds of music: classical pieces, popular songs, and their own original compositions. “The Piano Guys”started out by making music videos and posting them each week on Youtube. Soon their postings went viral. A few had over 20 million views! In 2012 they decided to release their first album called simply The Piano Guys.
Why do I like “The Piano Guys”? First I like their music—which I find amazingly diverse. Their piece “Rock Meets Rachmaninoff,” for example, is really a modern version of Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C# Minor.” The “Cello Wars” video is a spoof of the Star Wars soundtrack and films–complete with an appearance by Darth Vader. They even take One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and perform a unique rendition using ten hands on one piano. Their music is eclectic. They do Mozart and Beethoven as well as Elvis and Adele.
Another reason I like these guys is because of their creativity. Some would say they’re really more than creative. They’re “off the wall”! Some of their works, for example, feature the piano. But they don’t play just the keyboard of the piano as most performers do. No, they play the entire piano. They remove the lid of a baby grand and pluck and strum the strings inside. They play other parts of the piano as if it were a drum or a violin. By doing so they elicit new and unusual sounds from the piano. “The Piano Guys” also take their music everywhere: concert halls, beaches, deserts, forests, the Roman Colosseum, and even atop the Great Wall of China. One of my favorite videos features them playing a “Charlie Brown Medley” in an assisted living facility. It is heartwarming to watch the elderly residents come alive with their music.
A third reason I enjoy “The Piano Guys” is because they seem to be having so much fun doing what they do. One of their videos on YouTube is called “Skydiving with a Cello and More.” It consists of clips from behind the scenes of their filming and “out takes.” It makes me laugh every time I watch it. These men really enjoy their work. Now, I know they have their challenges and “bad days” (just as we all do), but their love for what they do always comes shining through. I ask myself, how much do I enjoy what I’m doing—whether it’s giving a talk or writing this blog? Do I have fun with my work? Do I have fun with my life? (On another level, I thought: If we could make living the Gospel look this enjoyable, this life-giving, and this much fun, we’d have no problem with evangelization!)
Let me conclude this post with two music videos by “The Piano Guys” on YouTube. The first one is their blending of two songs: the theme from the movie The Mission and the traditional Hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The Mission is a 1986 British film that tells the story of an 18th Century Jesuit missionary (Jeremy Irons) and his work among the native people in South America. The music video was filmed at the magnificent Iguazu Falls that border Argentina and Brazil and at the colossal Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
The second video is One Direction’s “What Makes You So Beautiful.” It’s the one played on one piano by ten hands. Each video takes only about 4 minutes.
I’d love to hear what you think of “The Piano Guys.” And, as usual, thank you for reading my blog!