Elena Piras: “Music, My Lifesaver & Inspiration”

Last night I was chatting with a Scottish friend of mine via Facebook and she told me she would like to get me introduced to a friend of hers. My dear friend said I would really, really fancy her because: a) she was from Sardinia, b) she was 35 and c) she plays guitar and sings very well.

I did some research on the Internet and, thanks Google, Facebook and some ability to filter information, I ended up finding some Elena Piras and I think that’s the girl my friend was talking about. Well, I’ll say no more. I just leave you with the text you can find yourself on Elena Piras web page.

“Music is one of the main things that has kept me going – my lifesaver and inspiration.’ From an article in the Sunday Herald Magazine.

BLIND since birth, ELENA PIRAS IS A FOLK, OPERA and JAZZ SINGER from Sassari in Sardinia who moved to England aged 18. She went on to work at the Royal Scottish Academy of Art in Edinburgh, and now lives in Glasgow.

Picture taken from Elena Piras oficial web page

Picture taken from Elena Piras oficial web page

“When I get up in the morning, I don’t really know what I look like. I’ve been blind since birth and had a hard time in childhood. Lack of tolerance is a problem in Italy, where the general attitude is that the shortcut to anywhere is the best approach.

Yet being blind hasn’t stopped me from spotting many things around me, things that surprise other people as they don’t expect it. I had to grow up quite quickly, because I needed to learn some things before anyone else. I had to choose the subjects I wanted to do at school very much in advance of the other pupils. For example, there was no room for changing my mind as the books had to be prepared for me in Braille from an early stage.

I lived in Edinburgh for a year, after moving from London. Whilst there I used to listen to Radio 4 to find out what was going on the world. I don’t know what I’d do without my digital radio – it is my one contact with the outside world as I don’t watch much television. Television only gives you one point of view, and isolates you to an extent. Lots of information is now on the Internet, which can be difficult for me to access.

When I stayed in Edinburgh I was working as a research assistant at the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and through this I began to network with people and get to know a lot about the musical events happening in Scotland. It was at events such as the opening of the annual exhibition in Edinburgh that I met people, including art gallery owners and people in the music business. All I had to do was stand there, and people would come up and speak to me, and one conversation led to another.

Although I have been doing temporary jobs such as voluntary work for the RNIB and even waitressing at Dans le Noir – the new London restaurant where people eat in the dark – my real goal is to sing professionally. I love music. It is one of the main things that has kept me going – my lifesaver and my inspiration. My father used to sing in the village choir in Sardinia and was passionate about folk music, which I was introduced to from an early age. People say folk music is easy, but it is actually one of the hardest types of music as it evokes the culture and enthusiasm of a whole country, embodied within a song. But I also have classical music ingrained in me and I love to sing opera – no doubt influenced partly by my Italian roots. It is a field that truly doesn’t make any distinctions between people. Puccini, for me, is the most inspiring, and the most challenging to sing.

I joined the church choir at the age of seven and by the time I was 10, I was appearing on a local Italian TV station every Saturday afternoon. A t 14, I joined a professional choir. I decided to go to Hereford, in England, to attend the Royal National College for the Blind, because I wanted to learn how to use a white cane, and there was only one school in Italy which taught this. A lady who volunteered there got in touch with me in London a few years later to ask if I was interested in forming a Bulgarian choir with her. We set up the London Bulgarian Choir and I went on tour with them in Bulgaria. I still sing with them, and it is actually doing very well – making it to the final of the Choir of the Year competition in Cardiff a couple of years back.

Despite such public performances, my visual impairment still prevents me from doing a lot of things. People find it amusing I have no problems getting on a train from London all the way to Glasgow, where I now live, yet I still have to muster the courage to walk into a bar alone, although this is something most ladies have difficulty with! I have performed various gigs at numerous bars, clubs and theatres in Scotland. I have also recently performed at a number of festivals around the country such as the Perthshire Amber and Girvan folk festivals. I am currently attending Stow College in Glasgow, where I am a student of ‘Scottish Traditional Music’.

I would love to show that people are people and they don’t need to be treated a different way because of how they appear. I couldn’t count how many times people talk to me as though I were an idiot, and yet, when people ask if I need help, I always say yes, because to be honest, I do.

Before I go to bed at night, I try to read. Which takes me months. I have contact lenses, which allow me to see to an extent, as long as I have the page stuck to my nose! Or I listen to Book of the Week on the radio. In these respects, I am just like any ordinary person.”

This article is from August 2006, so some information may not be updated. However, I wish someday I get to know Elena Piras in person.

If you wish to know a little bit more about Elena Piras, please visit her web page and Youtube Channel:

Michael Thallium

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