In the middle of a whirlwind weekend touring exhibitions in London’s museums—including the Light Show at the Hayward Gallery and Man Ray at the National Portrait Gallery— Katerina and I had the opportunity to catch up with classical pianist Panos Karan over coffee. He has played formal shows in many awesome venues including Carnegie Hall, but his passion is taking classical music to the Amazon, Africa, and Japan through his Keys of Change organization.
In particular, the stories he told of playing for survivors of the 2011 Tōhuku earthquake and tsunami were amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. For instance, he told us about playing at a shelter and seeing a man in the back row who was hunched over. The man stayed that way the entire concert and didn’t visually respond to the performance. Afterwards, however, he came up to Panos and thanked him—thanked him for coming to Japan. A bit later, one of the workers at the shelter told Panos that the man had lost quite a bit of his family and that was the first time he had been seen speaking to anyone after the disaster.
During the conversation, I kept thinking I’d love to see Robert Gupta and him get together and compare notes. They’re definitely both coming from the same place looking at how classical music can be part of the world at large and isn’t just reserved for hallowed halls.