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One-handed pianist set to stun audience at The Woodville, Gravesend

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 July 2019

One-handed pianist Nicholas McCarthy has played for the best in the world - now be prepared to be stunned at The Woodville. Picture: Paul Marc Mitchell

One-handed pianist Nicholas McCarthy has played for the best in the world - now be prepared to be stunned at The Woodville. Picture: Paul Marc Mitchell

© Paul Marc Mitchell

A one-handed pianist is set to astound audiences at The Woodville on Thursday, July 25.

Nicholas McCarthy grew up with little focus on music in his life but when he was 14 he watched transfixed as a fellow pupil performed Beethoven in a school assembly.

This moment was life changing and set young Nicholas on a difficult but ultimately rewarding path that would see him hit highs and lows, disappointment, discouragement and success.

Now at just 30, the star pianist has performed all over the world and to rave reviews and is set to return to The Woodville at 1pm. Yet he is a very different pianist.

He was born without his right hand and has become one of the few disabled artists in the industry boasting an impressive repertoire of solo performances.

However it could have been so different.

He said: "I began with a cheap Argos keyboard, my mum and dad weren't sure how I would get on."

But just months later the young maestro was not only playing by ear, but had even taught himself how to read music. It was time to bring in a teacher, a bright young woman who immediately spotted the budding pianist's potential and urged him to seek a place at a music school.

This was to mark Nicholas's first brush with serious disappointment.

Having called the headmistress of a music school and having divulged his disability, he was advised that there wouldn't be an opportunity to see him as he wouldn't be able to play scales.

Nicholas said: "I replied I didn't want to play scales, I wanted to perform music and with that she hung up the phone."

Feeling defeated and that he had lost his only opportunity of developing his talent, Nicholas struggled to decide what to do next.

He said: "I couldn't allow one person to decide my fate, especially without having seen me perform."

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So he took to the internet to research other music schools for young musicians and came across The Junior Guildhall of Music and decided to withhold information about his disability until he won a place. Next he set his sights on the lofty Royal College of Music.

His 2012 graduation made history as the first one-handed pianist to graduate in the college's 135-year history.

Nicholas was "proud" to play to an audience of half a billion at the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony in London, alongside the British Para Orchestra and Coldplay.

He has since toured South Africa, South Korea, China and Japan before making his US debut at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC and later addressing the Royal Albert Hall in a TED Talk as part of their Albertopolis celebration.

Nicholas, who now lives in Essex, said: "I really owe my career to a pianist named Paul Wittgenstein who lost his arm in the First World War.

"He commissioned so many leading composers of the day and left a wealth of music for left hand behind. Paul Wittgenstein had just made his debut late in 1913, by 1914 a bullet resulted in the amputation of his right arm.

"He wouldn't give up on his love of the piano and found a way to play with just one hand.

"I feel a responsibility to develop his legacy in the 21st century.

"Music is for everyone and hopefully this lunchtime concert provides an opportunity to try something new.

"The Woodville is a great venue and it holds a special place in my heart as one of the first professional stages that I made my debut.

"There is a lovely buzz around the lunchtime series."

In March 2018 Nicholas was awarded honorary membership to the Royal College of Music by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.

Tickets for Nicholas's concert at The Woodville are available from the box office on 01474 337 500 or at

https://www.woodville.co.uk/events/ltc-nicholas-mccarthy

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