The light, soothing (although generally tear-inducing) artwork of making fabulous muffins and biscuits has for a few years drawn big audiences to The Great British Bake Off. Now its creators hope to do the identical with one other calming and infrequently genteel pastime: piano enjoying.
This seek for undiscovered ivory-tinkling expertise might be documented weekly in The Piano, which can observe beginner pianists all the way in which to a finale live performance at London’s Royal Competition Corridor. It goals to faucet into the “avenue piano” phenomenon, which has spawned viral movies of individuals enjoying in public, and is the brainchild of Richard McKerrow, co-founder and inventive director of Love Productions, which additionally makes The Nice Pottery Throw Down and The Nice British Stitching Bee.
The brand new collection, as a consequence of air subsequent yr, grew out of a dialog with Channel 4’s chief content material officer, Ian Katz. “4 years in the past, we have been each studying the piano and mentioned how exceptional these public pianos have been,” says McKerrow. “We handed the one in St Pancras station [in London] every single day on our commutes. Ian requested: ‘May you make a present about it?’ I jumped on the likelihood.”
What began out as a heartwarming one-off documentary quickly advanced into one thing greater. Opening rounds have been filmed at 4 mainline stations across the UK – St Pancras, Leeds, Glasgow Central and Birmingham New Avenue – with 20 beginner pianists acting at every. Subsequent comes a significant twist.
“Immediately we had a brainwave,” says McKerrow. “What if it’s a contest however they don’t realize it? The pianists assume they’re in a documentary, then we inform them it’s a contest too. I can’t consider one other present that’s ever carried out that.” The most effective contestants undergo to play within the grand finale live performance at London’s Royal Competition Corridor.
The Piano might be hosted by Claudia Winkleman. Hopefuls might be evaluated by two “maestros” in Chinese language classical virtuoso Lang Lang, and Lebanese-born British pop star Mika, final seen co-hosting Eurovision.
“We by no means dreamed we’d get such massive names,” says McKerrow. “They agreed to do it for not a lot cash as a result of they liked the concept and are passionate concerning the instrument. Lang Lang and Mika are from totally different worlds, classical and pop, however their bromance is fantastic. It jogs my memory of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry when Bake Off started – the high-end skilled and the house baker, bringing their experience collectively.”
Contestants are drawn from a large cross-section of society. “Even by Bake Off’s broad requirements, the casting is numerous,” says McKerrow. “They span from six-year-olds to 95-year-olds. There are autistic, blind and disabled pianists. For a lot of of them, the piano is their escape. It’s magical and emotional. The music is eclectic too, starting from hip-hop to jazz to classical. It’s the same artform to Bake Off in some methods. Pianists and bakers practise their talent for themselves however the outcomes are shared with others. Meals and music are worldwide languages.”
The newest collection of Bake Off launched last week. Channel 4 determined to go forward with its broadcast regardless of widespread TV schedule adjustments after the Queen’s dying. “It was an odd time to be touchdown however felt by some means acceptable,” says McKerrow. “At a time of nationwide mourning, Bake Off is therapeutic. It brings folks collectively.”
The thirteenth run of the hit cake-making contest represents a homecoming. The manufacturing is again at Welford Park, Berkshire, after two years of filming in a Covid-safe bubble at Down Corridor Lodge, Essex. “Welford is our non secular dwelling, so it’s nice to be again,” says McKerrow. He teases shock to return this collection, together with a fancy-dressed theme week and a no-recipe technical problem.
The UK judges are additionally working collectively on the US version for the primary time. Hollywood was already a decide on The Nice American Baking Present. Prue Leith now joins him because the collection returns after a three-year hiatus as a consequence of lockdown. What many viewers don’t realise is that The Nice American Baking Present is filmed at Pinewood Studios, with the bakers introduced over to the UK in the course of the competition.
“We’ve now bought two British judges and we’re taking pictures it right here,” laughs McKerrow. “It’s getting extra British annually.”
It has been a tough two years for Love Productions, whose inventory in commerce is factual codecs with massive casts and crews. Throughout lockdown, it targeted on discovering methods to make its current collection safely in bubbles – each to maintain its groups employed and audiences entertained.
This meant new tasks have been placed on maintain. Now McKerrow and co are firing on all cylinders once more. Subsequent to hit our screens is The Big Blow Out, a hairstyling contest coming to E4 in a fortnight.
In the meantime, Bake Off: The Musical premiered at Cheltenham’s Everyman theatre in the summertime and is in talks to switch to London subsequent yr. “Fingers crossed,” says McKerrow. “It’s an thrilling time.”