A new Christmas video featuring the carol "Angels We Have Heard on High," in which four guys used only a piano and their voices to make full-bodied worship to God, went viral this week.
"Glory to God, Glory to God," are the first words in the video, sung quietly by the artists as they play a piano in a most unique fashion. The video, "Angels We Have Heard on High (Christmas w/ 32 fingers and 8 thumbs)," features four musicians grouped around a piano, each playing a different part of the instrument.
In addition to a fascinating combination of talents, the video shows high tech cameras in a classic Christmas atmosphere – complete with a tree, stockings, and an electric train circling the piano. The band members rip a golden wrapping paper off the piano and put cameras on the moving train, stockings, Christmas tree, and even in the hand of a Darth Vader statue and on a mini-drone, buzzing above the scene.
As the music starts, cellist and songwriter Steven Sharp Nelson plays the traditional keys of the piano, while pianist John Schmidt and music producer Al Van Der Beek use horse hair to play the strings on the grand piano like a violin. Producer Paul Anderson begins by directing, but then starts hitting the strings with his fingers. One piano, four guys. Not surprisingly, their band goes by the name "The Piano Guys."
The band quickly shifts, with Van Der Beek using his fist to drum on the piano, while Nelson switches to strings, Schmidt takes the keys, and Anderson touches the strings with his fingers. At one point, Van Der Beek pulls out a snare drum accessory (a piece of paper with a drawing of a drum that he taps on), which adds flare to the percussion.
But in addition to maximizing the possibilities of a piano, the band's members showcase another amazing talent. Toward the end of the song, they start to sing, first without words. Then the music forms "Glory to God," and the classic, drawn-out, beautiful refrain "Gloria, in Excelsis Deo!"
Published on Friday, Nov. 29, the video now has over 3.9 million hits, and 54,000 "likes." At the end of the video, the band promotes its new Christmas album, A Family Christmas, available on iTunes, Amazon, and their website, www.thepianoguys.com.
"Hope you enjoyed the video," Anderson says. "We did put a couple fun things in there, one of them is our 'elf on the shelf,' Simone. See how many times you can spot him!"
The band also has a full tour schedule, available on the website. On Dec. 6, they're performing in Hamburg, Germany, in Dusseldorf on the 7th, and in Berlin on the 9th. Then they hit the United States, with Westbury, N.Y., on the 11th, Boise, Idaho, on the 17th, and Salt Lake City, Utah, on the 21st. Tickets are available online.
Commenters on YouTube praised the band. "Magic fingers!" wrote Robert Manuel. Jared Morgan extolled "another quality production."
Some of their other viral videos include last year's "O Come, Emmanuel," a piano-cello duet featuring Schmidt and Nelson in an ancient-style building vaguely similar to the old Jewish temple in Jerusalem. This advent carol duet garnered over 4.2 million views and 63,000 "likes."
One of their most popular videos is "Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody) Lightsaber Duel," where Nelson duels himself as Jedi and Sith on futuristic cellos with a lightsaber bow. They alternate between themes for the "light" and "dark" sides of the force, until a humorous Darth Vader shows up, playing the accordion and theme from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Hilariously, both cellists then push him back, using the force, and the music erupts into the final themes of Star Wars films. The video attracted more than 15 million views and 310,000 "likes."