Inspirational one-handed pianist from Tadworth wows the world at Paralympics closing ceremony

Inspirational one-handed pianist wows the world at Paralympics closing ceremony

Nicholas McCarthy, from Tadworth, plays the piano with only a left hand

Nicholas McCarthy, from Tadworth, plays the piano with only a left hand

First published in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief reporter - Epsom

An inspirational one-handed pianist wowed the world by performing with Coldplay at the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games.

Born without a right hand, Nicholas McCarthy, of Whitegate Way in Tadworth, caused a media storm in July when he was the first one-handed pianist to graduate from London’s Royal College of Music.

The 23-year-old performed in Sunday night’s ceremony, watched by hundreds of millions of people, as part of the British Paraorchestra - a group which defines itself by "what you hear, not what you see", founded by conductor Charles Hazlewood six months ago.

Formed of 16 disabled musicians, Mr Hazlewood’s aim was to end the limitations placed on them, not by physical ability, but by lack of opportunity. 

Mr McCarthy said performing with the group was an "amazing experience" which he will never forget.

He said: "There was a wall of sound as we came out - it was immense to be playing with Coldplay and having Chris Martin sitting just a few feet away, and Rihanna swinging down from above us.

"In a performance situation you don’t think of where you are and I wasn’t nervous playing with the orchestra as I usually perform on my own.  Having members around me was nice.

"In rehearsals I was singing along to Coldplay and Chris Martin liked that I knew the words. 

"It’s very rare for core classical artists to be involved in these pop-star events, but the orchestra tied-in beautifully with the Paralympics."

The other members of the orchestra include Baluji Shrivastav, a blind sitar, surbahar and dilruba player; James Risdon, a blind recorder player; Clarence Adoo, a trumpeter paralysed from the shoulders down; and Lyn Levett, who has cerebral palsy but produces music via her computer.

Mr McCarthy added: "Charles wanted to provide a platform for disabled musicians of a high standard, but we are all very different musicians.

"Not everyone is classically trained and we come from different cultures.  It’s a strange, but good mix. 

"We get on very well musically and we all enjoyed the challenge of learning to adapt to each other and the different parts of the orchestra.

"The profile of the Paralympics has been raised this year and hopefully, with the Paraorchestra being featured in the ceremony, it can help change people’s perceptions of what is possible with disability."

For more information on the British Paraorchestra visit

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