5 July 2015
A homeless musician has inspired a campaign to find him somewhere to live after reducing strangers to tears with his renditions of Beethoven.
When Alan Donaldson first sat down at the public piano in Newcastle’s Central Station, while wrapped in a dirty sleeping bag, he was derided by members of a hen party and even asked to leave by police officers.
But eyewitnesses told how strangers – including members of the hen party – were soon moved to tears of emotion when the 26-year-old began performing a flawless rendition of the stirring piano solo, Fur Elise.
With many commuters stunned into silence, the 26-year-old carried on with his impromptu performance, later reciting Moonlight Sonata, as well as number of other famous classical pieces.
Unbeknown to Mr Donaldson, one of those gathered in the station forecourt had recorded the pianist’s performance on his mobile phone.
When he uploaded the footage to Facebook, it was viewed tens of thousands of times.
Amazingly, one of those who watched the video was a former schoolmate of Mr Donaldson. He was so affected by what he saw that he set up a GoFundMe page in a bid to try and find Mr Robertson a home.
Today, Mr Donaldson told how his brief time playing on the piano is a temporary reprieve from the hassle he receives while on the street.
He said: ‘I get told to move on all the time, it is difficult for me to rest. People accuse me of begging. But when I am at the piano nobody tends to bother me. I can sit down and relax.
‘I would like to get myself sorted and forge a career as a pianist. I would like to get lessons – it would be great if anyone could help.
‘I can’t play that many things. I am sick of playing the same pieces over and over. I want to learn new pieces.’
The page was set up by 26-year-old Leo John Robertson, from Fenham, Newcastle.
He told how Mr Robertson had been a ‘really good lad’ and one of the last people you would expect to have ended up on the streets.
He said: ‘He wasn’t a trouble maker or anything like that. He was the last person you would have thought would have fallen on such hard times. He was just an ordinary kid.
‘It was the first I had heard of him being homeless. I felt really emotional when I saw the video of him on Facebook. I thought: ‘I just have to do something to help’ – and so I have set up the page.
‘He is so talented, and it is such a waste.’
Mr Robertson, who attended Westgate Community College, has not revealed the reasons behind why he ended up homeless.
But he told how his musical ability just ‘came back to him’ when he saw the piano.
‘I don’t think I had played the piano for a few years before it appeared at the station, but it seemed to just come back to me quite easily. It is the only piano there is for me to play,’ he said.
‘I learnt when I was at school, from the ages of ten to 14, and it has just never left me. The reaction from the public has been great. They say they are amazed by how well I can play.’
The video was uploaded Michael Kinnison, 24, of Newcastle, on Sunday.
Along with the video he posted: ‘A homeless man came through the station doors and headed for the piano situated in the corner. A piano for any member of public to play.
‘At first a policeman tried to stop him and told the homeless man to leave, but, eventually he let him sit at the piano.
‘People, including the policeman, were stood by laughing to themselves as they watched the homeless man sit at the piano.
‘However their mocking turned to shock as the man burst into a beautiful rendition of “Für Elise”.
‘He then played a variety of other classical pieces over the next half an hour, each time flawless. A lady with a hen party, who originally were laughing at him, started to cry.
‘I went to buy the man some food from Sainsbury’s but when I came back he was gone. A member of staff at Cafe Nero had gave him some cakes and croissants, and the homeless man had immediately ran off to eat them.
‘Apparently the man comes to Central station most days to play the piano, so if anyone does have the chance to see him, take a little time out of your day to give him something as he is a beautiful, talented man.
Remember people, you can’t judge a book by its cover.’
The video has so far been viewed 65,500 times and shared 1,500 times.
The piano was installed at the station earlier this year by Newcastle’s Rotary Club and is free for members of the public to use.