'Piano Man' tuned out, except when playing hospital's grand


LONDON -- His suit and tie were dripping wet, and he wouldn't say a word despite his agitation. But when hospital staff showed the mysterious man a piano, he started playing -- and wouldn't stop for two hours.

The man was found wandering the streets in a coastal town in southeast England over a month ago, and he has refused to communicate ever since, except through music.

"I cannot get within a yard of him without him becoming very anxious," said Michael Camp, the social worker assigned to the tall blond man dubbed the "Piano Man" by hospital staff. "Yet at the piano he comes alive."

Staff at Medway Maritime Hospital launched a search yesterday for anyone who knows the man, who is in his 20s or early 30s and was found April 7 in the coastal town of Sheerness. He is being treated at a psychiatric unit in nearby Dartford.

"Someone, somewhere must be missing him," said Camp. "At the moment, we only have six weeks of history of this man to work on, which makes it very hard."

The British press has likened the case to the Oscar-winning 1996 movie "Shine," about acclaimed pianist David Helfgott, who suffered a nervous breakdown. But there appears to be little question that the man is any more than an accomplished amateur.

The Rev. Steve Spencer, the hospital chaplain, said the man "is not the virtuoso that he has been portrayed in the press. He knows a small number of tunes and plays them over and over -- I recognized some John Lennon and a snippet from Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake.'

"When he plays, he is totally focused -- he cuts out everything else, and it makes him calmer."

Hospital staff discovered the man's musical ability after they gave him paper and pencils, and he produced a detailed sketch of a grand piano. They showed him to a piano in the hospital's chapel, and he played classical pieces and other music for two hours.

"When we took him to the chapel piano, it really was amazing. He has not spoken since the day we picked him up. He does not make any sounds, but I think I can communicate with him through tiny nods," Camp said.

Authorities have released a photograph of the man, who has cropped hair that may have been dyed blonde. They have also released his piano drawing. Relatives or anyone else who recognizes him are being urged to call a national missing persons help line.

Agencias: Associated Press
Autor: Sue Leeman
Medio: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Fecha: Martes 17 de mayo de 2005
Notas: Copyright ©1997-2005 PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.
ID: 1950 Editar

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