Friday, 26 February 2016

Radio Review: 26 February

The moving story of a blind piano prodigy

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176It’s easy to take the senses for granted. Those of us fortunate enough to have sight avoid walking into walls because we can see them in front of us. Being blind, 10-year-old Ethan Loch from Bonnybridge in Scotland has no such advantage. He is, however, a superb musician. Aged three and a half, he could play the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano.

Being offered a place at St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh should have been the realisation of a dream, but for Ethan and his mother Larinda the whole business was fraught with danger. Ethan has problems with spatial awareness, making it hard for him to get around, and Bonnybridge to Edinburgh is hardly just around the corner.

The answer came in the form of Daniel Kish, a blind American known affectionately as ‘Batman’. Kish, who lost both of his eyes to cancer when just a baby, had, during his childhood, found that by clicking his tongue he could gauge his environment from the reverberation of the sound. Effectively, he was navigating by sonar, like a bat.

Batman And Ethan (Radio 4, still available on iPlayer) traced Kish’s attempts to pass on his revolutionary method to Ethan. All went well at first in the safety of home, with Ethan locating progressively smaller objects held by Kish. Out in the wider world, though, it was different. On his first outing, Ethan walked into a pole, and then, once at school, found an open space near his classroom terribly confusing.

Thankfully, all ended well, and the documentary finished with Ethan performing at a school concert, and declaring that he was no longer blind, merely seeing in a different way. This was a moving half hour of radio, and the thing that sticks with me is that brilliant, undaunted boy’s bright, hopeful voice. 

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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