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Nicholas McCarthy, born 1989, a very unusual musician not because he was born without his right arm, but because he proved that impossibility is indeed nothing. Nicholas began to challenge the world at the age of only 14, when he first started to learn the piano.
During his teenage years Nicholas was brought down by his teachers. According to an interview he had with the BBC news, his teachers told him that he could not possibly become a pianist with one hand. “It was soul crushing because that’s all I wanted to do,” McCarthy said. Apparently this discouragement gave Nicholas more reason to not give up; being a young and headstrong teenager, he successfully found his way.
After only 3 years of practicing the piano with his only hand, McCarthy was awarded a place at the junior department of the Guildhall School Of Music, where he studied music and piano techniques with the concert pianist Lucy Parham for two years. This granted him the annual piano prize before he graduated.
The musically educated or the unmusically educated person can definitely understand what kind of a challenge McCarthy would have faced to be achieved as an acclaimed musician and pianist.
The wonder layes in how can a harmonic instrument be played to its full potential with only one hand instead of two? Nicholas’ theory was practical and simple: knowing that is what he wanted to do, his determination showed him the way.
Obviously most pianists use both hands, but it’s not necessarily a criteria. The left hand is usually used to construct the bass clef for a musical piece, while the right hand will play the melody on the treble clef, which in some cases means the left hand is almost repetitive or often relaxed while playing. But in order for Nicholas to play such musical pieces by elite Composers like Chopin or others, he has to put all the pressure on his only hand, thus playing the bass clef and the treble clef with one hand which requires an extremely high speed, for some pianists a second can hold up to 4 different notes on each hand but for McCarthy it would have to be 8. One can only imagine what kind of speed and focus and precision one would need to achieve such a technique.
Almost a century ago Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, the Chopin-inspired composer, wrote the musical piece “Prelude and Nocturne for the Left Hand, Op. 9.” which is often performed by Nicholas, as if it was written specially to be played by McCarthy. For McCarthy it sure is a piece of cake.
Image Courtesy of Nicholas McCarthy