A retired Welsh-teacher has raised hundreds of pounds to buy bicycles for developing world health workers by setting out to play one thousand grand pianos.
And after more than three years, Dai Hawkins, of Nantmel in Radnorshire, Wales, will be playing number 1,000 – the Steinway in the foyer of the Millennium Centre, Cardiff – on Saturday May 17.
Dai’s wife, Siân, died in 2004. She was a keen cyclist and their last holiday together was a cycling trip in Europe. For every £50 he raises in sponsorship he will buy a CAFOD World Gift bicycle in his wife’s memory.
He said: “Early in 2010, I discovered that CAFOD has a scheme where a donation of £50 will buy a mountain bike for a health worker in the third world, and had the idea to raise money for this scheme by being sponsored to play grand pianos. The idea crystallized as the ‘Grandpianothon’, and I set myself the target to play a thousand grand pianos.”
Dai originally thought the quest would take about six months, but he has now been tinkling the ivories for more than three years in England and Wales and also in places as diverse as Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and Brazil. Dai has also played many different grand pianos, including models made by Bechstein, Blüthner, Bösendorfer, Fazioli, Grotrian, Steinway and Yamaha.
But the last stretch of the ‘Grandpianothon’ will take Dai back to home territory in Cardiff on May 17, in the presence of his family, including his two granddaughters.
He said: “My piano technique is limited, but it gives me great pleasure for it to be flattered when I play a good grand piano. At first I intended to achieve this task in six months, but it soon became clear that my initial estimates were far too optimistic, and what I had hoped to do in six months has now just reached three years. In view of my over-optimism, it is appropriate that I began on April Fool’s Day 2010, on a Yamaha in the Gymnasium (Grammar School) in Zwiesel, in the Bavarian Forest, where I played Elgar’s Chanson de Matin, arranged for violin and piano.
“I have tried to keep my own costs down by finding pianos near places that I would have visited already – visits to friends and relatives and so on. I keep a diary that is signed and stamped by the piano owners, and a photo is taken of each piano, and I am very grateful to all those friends who have accompanied me to look after this side of the enterprise. I’m also most grateful to the kind and hospitable owners of all these wonderful instruments, who have generously allowed me to play. These include private owners, schools, hotels, churches, piano shops, universities, stately homes, libraries, and music schools and colleges.”
Dai has now decided that his challenge will not stop at 1,000. He said: “To get maximum publicity for my cause, I may go slightly over the thousand. There are a couple of prestigious locations who are willing in principle to host me but have been unable to fix particular dates so far. I’m in touch with the two Liverpool cathedrals, who have offered to accommodate me in the near future, and have two more possibilities lined up.”