Kung Fu Piano: Cello Ascends

Yes. That is the Great Wall of China. No. It’s not green screen.

It is difficult to detail each of the many miracles that were stitched together in time turning this dream into actuality. Master Oogway, himself, said, “A destiny is not realized until we let go of the illusion of control.” To say we made this happen of our own accord would be to fall victim to this illusion. An invisible hand guided us, for which we are eternally grateful. This was a life-changing experience for us.

We’d like to thank the main players in this story that made it possible:

Our managers at DSW, David Simone and Winston Simone; Sony Masterworks, and especially to the woman that climbed every wall that stood between us and The Wall: Ivy Song.

When we found out we had been granted a permit to film on The Wall we were intimidated by the prospect of choosing what song to write. A pop song arrangement seemed irreverent! We talked about writing an original tune, but we wanted something more relevant. We’re big fans of the Kung Fu Panda movie series (and we’ve all got kids that love it too.) We had what we call a “chills up” moment as we listened to “Oogway Ascends” from the soundtrack. Steve was inspired to figure out how to create a sound on his custom electric cello (named Bruce Lee) that mimicked the Chinese fiddle (Erhu) and the plucked instrument, Guqin. As we often love to do we wanted to include a classical influence. There are over 30 million piano students in China. That’s more people than the entire population of Australia! It’s probably safe to say the great Polish pianist/composer Frédéric Chopin has more groupies in China than anywhere else. We had been working on an arrangement of his Prelude No. 20 (nicknamed “Chord” or “Funeral” Prelude). It fit the theme and the vibe of Oogway’s “Ascension” AWESOMELY (as Po would say). Between it all we wanted a bridge that sounded like a Kung Fu battle. Once the concept had solidified the song seemed to write itself.

We only had a day to film. Wow. Capture the epicness of the Great Wall in 12 hours or less? Add in the challenges of weather (lighting), limited equipment and crew, and, of course, the people climbing the wall – many were very nice and stayed back as we filmed, but we couldn’t keep everyone off which eliminated a lot of shots. We wished we could have done so much more, but we’re grateful for what we were able to do.

The portion of the Great Wall where we filmed is called “Huangyaguan.” It was originally built in 570 AD and rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). The Great Wall is over 8,000 Kilometers (5,000 miles) long. It can be seen from space. It is arguably the most iconic Wonder of the World. Our newdream is to put a piano and cello on ALL SEVEN WONDERS. Which one should we do next?

If you’ve read to the end of this description then you are unofficially inducted into ThePianoGuys Secret Kung Fu Inner Circle. Skadoosh!



“Oogway Ascends” from the Kung Fu Panda Soundtrack written by Henry Jackman, John Powell & Hans Zimmer

Published by DWA Songs (ASCAP)
ThePianoGuys arrangement produced & written by Al van der Beek, Jon Schmidt & Steven Sharp Nelson

Also based upon & inspired by Frederick Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28 No. 20 in C minor
Performed by
Steven Sharp Nelson: electric, carbon fiber, acoustic & steel cellos; cello-percussion; Asian percussion
Jon Schmidt: Piano

Al van der Beek: Percussion

Additional Tanggu (Taiko) percussion by Gigi Romney
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Al van der Beek at TPG Studios in Utah, U.S.A.
Produced & Filmed by Paul Anderson & Shaye Scott
Edited by Shaye Scott & Paul Anderson

China Crew:
Ivy Song: Event Leader/Coordinator
Alex Xue: Event Consultant
Liu Sheng (Sean Liu): Fashion consultant and on-site coordinator
Zhang Xuewen: General Manager of Huang Yaguan Great Wall
Zhang Mingyu: Deputy General Manager of Huang Yaguan Great Wall
Liu Yanyun: Marketing Director of Huang Yaguan Great Wall
Zhu Mai: Photographer
Hu Guang: Camera Assistant
Peng Shuai: Camera Assistant
Sun Zhenning: Jib Operator
Cai Na: Manager of Yamaha Artist Service Beijing
Wang Weijun: Piano Technician
Jian Xin music Instrument Co: Moving Company
Jamie Keyte

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