As a young teenage boy, Richard Thornett, a humourous and exceedingly British 27-year-old now, was obliged to follow his parents and move from his childhood home in London to the Isle of Wight, a small island south of the city. More than ever, this time in someone’s life and in Thornett’s life, is a time of self-discovery and realization.
As Thornett entered his new home on the island, he opened the door and in front of him in an empty room stood a single object that would become ever so prominent in his life; a simple piano. “When we turned up I just sat on it and just started playing a song. It was a really simple tune but I just started playing something,” Thornett admirably reflects.
He could feel the music within him and thought of it for more than it seemed to be on the surface. Thornett sees music as more than just sounds, but as pieces that fit together in harmony. It is a language that can only be spoken and understood suitably by a portion of the world. Yes, we all enjoy it, but do we really understand it? That day, in his new home, Thornett began to understand the world that is music. In that house, in the Isle of Wight, Thornett found a piano and then through it, he found himself.
Thornett has taken his piano playing all around the world. From gigs in London, to travelling on ferries through the U.K., and on cruise ships in Asia, he finds himself in Southern Ontario on a break from his job visiting and travelling with his girlfriend, Lisa Christmas. Before I interviewed Thornett, he offered me a cup of Yorkshire tea and asked if he had time for a “quick fag” – Tell me what is more British than that. He wore a light blue button up shirt and mentioned that he had dressed up for my arrival and for the photo I told him I would be taking.
With a collection of unique and truly eye catching socks, he wore an electric blue pair with multiple tiny clown fish on them. If you’re wondering, he finds most of his socks on Amazon. I asked him to state and spell his name for the record. He snorts and replies, “Oh Jesus, I should’ve heard the questions before!” He laughs and takes a sip of his tea before he begins, sitting at an individual keyboard piano.
Despite his immediate family of his mother, father, and brother not having much interest in music, his curiosity grew and grew as a child. “I remember asking my mum ‘If you knew all the notes, what notes sounded like, could you play anything you wanted?’ And she sort of said something like, ‘Oh not now, I’ve got a headache.’ But yeah, I found out that you could really,” Thornett snickers. “We never had music on, it was always the tele. Tele on. Bang. Done,” he recalls.
With not much musical influence in his home, Thornett followed his love for piano playing to university. There he played for three years for a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Practice.
He talks about music as a form of escapism, not only for himself but also for others. At school, Thornett began to realize the power of music and the affect it could have on people’s lives. He recollects a day at school that opened his eyes and made him realize what music could do. It was an ordinary afternoon and Thornett was on break from his classes. He found an empty room with a piano in it, so of course he began to play and practice. About ten or fifteen minutes of playing went by and he snapped out of his immersion with the piano and looked up to see the room filled with people, listening to the music he was creating. He recalls, pondering, “It was weird, it was just like people started coming in and people were outside just listening and I was getting requests and playing them.”
No matter where people were in their lives, it was Thornett’s music that allowed them to escape the day, even for a couple minutes, to enjoy and to become a part of something bigger. “I love that, having an impact on people in a positive way with music. It is one of the best mediums to use to bring people together giving a sense of community and belonging, and also giving people an outlet - escaping 'reality' for a while.” Thornett says.
Thornett is someone who understands music like others understand languages. Because of this, his playing is natural, it is what he is meant to be doing on this earth.
"As long as I can play, I'm happy really."
- Richard Thornett
He combines his passion, his talent and his love for affecting others in a positive way to create something extraordinary. “He never takes his playing too seriously even though he is really great,” Christmas says, which is something that makes his playing so personal. “As long as I can play, I’m happy really,” Thornett says. To others his playing seems effortless.
For now, Thornett is enjoying his time off and he plans to continue learning about music and allowing others to escape their days as they listen to his upbeat rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee, Bumble Boogie, or countless Disney hits and dance and sing their troubles away. Name a song and Thornett will transform it into something you never thought it could be, with his two hands and a simple piano.