Impressionist Alistair McGowan: why it’s never too late to learn a musical instrument

5 October 2017, 15:48

By Amy MacKenzie

Impressionist Alistair McGowan spoke to Charlotte Green about taking up piano later in life – and how it led to releasing a debut album!

Alistair McGowan is best known for his impressions, stand-up comedy and acting. But after re-discovering his love of the piano he's now in the news for something else entirely: he's just released his debut album. 

On The Piano Album Alistair plays several short classical pieces, all chosen and learned by the actor and impressionist.

Before returning to the piano in earnest aged 49, Alistair could only play two pieces. But after an encounter with a pianist on a cruise ship that all changed. 

“Having started to play a bit, I met a wonderful woman on a cruise ship and she heard me tinkling on the piano one night and she said, ‘you’ve got some talent, you should play!’ 

“I said, ‘it’s too late for me Lucy. I’m 49.’ And she said, ‘I knew someone that was 60 when they started playing and by the time they were 80 they were playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto. I can teach you if you’d like?’ I said, ‘when do we start?!’”

Alistair began practising two hours a day over a nine-month period in his attempt to finally conquer this beautiful instrument, despite already being in his early fifties. 

Alistair’s advice to anyone else taking up an instrument later in life was:

“Just believe that is it possible! Be patient.”He said: “I think we’re luckier to play later in life because when I was 7 or 8 I didn’t know anything about the classical piano world. I wasn’t really that attracted to it. I wish I had carried on because then I would have been a lot better a lot younger. But I think you know by the age of 49 or 50 what you like and you hear presenters like Alan Titchmarsh playing pieces by Handel, Holst and Haydn and you think, ‘I like Handel, Holst and Haydn!’ 

“I don’t have a family or children, so I was also able to play without any other commitments, but I think most people my age have teenagers or children that have gone to university, so they have more time on their hands. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to think ‘here’s something that doesn’t rely on my physical health’ and know you can improve daily. The satisfaction from that is huge!”

Of course, we couldn't let him leave the studio without performing some of our favourite impressions, including Classic FM's very own Alan Titchmarsh:


Hear the full interview this Sunday 8th October at 3pm on Charlotte Green.