Event Review: The Inside-Out Piano Online

On Sunday 29 March, we hosted our first online musical experience during lockdown! Unable to perform live due to restrictions arising from the current COVID-19 crisis, Sarah Nicolls was able to share her wonderful Inside-Out Piano with us on our website. Our young event reviewer Matthew Jones tell us about his experience with it… 

On the 29th of March I attended this Turner Sims Southampton event which was unusual in several ways. Firstly, Turner Sims streamed the performance on their website due to the pandemic which has resulted in the temporarily closure of the venue; and then because the first thing I saw were the strings of a grand piano pointing upwards and nearly touching the ceiling!

Sarah Nicolls began her performance by explaining the difference between a traditional grand and upright piano and the meaning of the word pianoforte. She then went on to explain how she became interested in the inner workings of the hammers and strings. It was this interest that led her to experiment with the instrument and to create her own inside out piano – one where the keyboard is in its original position, but its strings are exposed and set in an upright position.

The concert continued to be unusual by Sarah entertaining us with spooky witch sound effects, the call of an underwater whale, creating the sounds of a glacial landscape and playing a popping dance tune. She showed us how she was able to create this variety of music and effects using pegs, blu tac, a ball, beaters and a piece of slate! At the same time, watching the hammers hit the strings, provided a kind of light show.

And then we had the most unexpected experience of watching the piano swing from side to side while Sarah struck the strings with beaters like a timpani – well the piano is a percussion instrument! But in this performance, Sarah also played it as a string instrument – plucking it like a harp, strumming it like a guitar, and playing harmonics on it like a violin.

Throughout the performance, Sarah’s explanations were aimed not only at younger viewers but also absorbing to adults and those with some musical knowledge. It was fantastic that Turner Sims were able to offer this online concert as an alternative to the originally scheduled live event – I have never seen anything like it before and I very much recommend it as a unique musical experience.

Matthew Jones

The Inside-Out Piano is available to enjoy online until Sunday 4 April here

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