World record broken by piano-playing Perse pupils
24 Sep 2019
Three Year 8 pupils hit the right note to help break a world record for the largest number of people to play a piano at once.
Elspeth Owen, Smera Sachin and Yining Lan were among the 88 pianists – one person for each key on the instrument – who set the record on a specially-adapted keyboard at the opening ceremony of the General Assembly of the International Academy of Production Engineering (CIRP) in Birmingham.
The fittingly-named 88 Pianists project was the brainchild of Professor Julian Allwood from University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering as a way of marking the 500th anniversary of the death of inventor, engineer and artist Leonardo da Vinci.
In collaboration with engineers and musicians from universities across the country, the project eventually became a reality. However, they needed a little help from primary school children who designed the weird and wonderful contraptions which allowed the keys to be struck by each pianist.
The previous world record stood at 21 and this was initially broken by a group of 30 youngsters, including Elspeth and Yining, who played a solo, when they congregated around a standard upright piano to play a specially written piece by Martin Riley entitled Leonardo’s Dream at the International Convention Centre.
However just 10 minutes later, all three Perse pupils helped smash the record again as part of the 88-strong collective as they performed another Riley composition entitled Leomortal.
They were all thrilled to have played their part in setting the record and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
On the specially-adapted piano, Elspeth said: “It was amazing and so beautiful and colourful, with all these contraptions that looked like things such as dolphins, pizzas and caterpillars that hit the keys in different ways through an adaptor. It meant there could be a delayed sound but with the way the piece was written, it was supposed to resemble Da Vinci’s workshop and it worked really well.”
Yining said: “It was pretty cool that we got to break a world record. I had to pull a washing line to hit my key and I’m glad it didn’t go wrong!
Smera, who also studies piano within the Royal College of Music’s junior department, added: “We didn’t know we had broken the record at first. All the notes had to have been played, so if one note was missed it wouldn’t have counted. I was really happy when we found out we’d done it.”