The Mental Health Foundation has commissioned the chart-topping pianist-composer RIOPY – saved by music after a traumatic and abusive childhood – to write a new piano piece for Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May) to help people to soothe anxiety. The piece, called Meditation 111, is intended to be so simple that anyone can learn to play it, regardless of musical ability.
Mental Health Awareness Week, established in 2001, brings the UK together to talk about mental health and aims to tackle stigma and help people understand and prioritise their and others’ mental health. This year the focus is on anxiety, one of the most common mental health problems in the UK.
RIOPY, himself a self-taught pianist, discovered the piano as a source of comfort in a traumatic childhood and has long relied on music to manage his anxiety, depression and OCD. He grew up in an oppressive French cult, where secret improvisation sessions on a disused piano provided him with comfort and hope until he escaped aged 18. RIOPY settled in the UK and, following bouts of drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness, eventually earned a scholarship to study music at university. He was later gifted a piano from none other than Coldplay’s Chris Martin. RIOPY has since channelled his troubled past into his music, which now serves as a source of solace to millions around the world.
The Mental Health Foundation has now called upon RIOPY to write a new work to help people tackle their anxiety at home, either by listening to it or learning to play it themselves. The campaign is intended to encourage participants to engage in music-making and creative expression, both of which are widely acknowledged to have mental health benefits.
Meditation 111 is a repetitive, simple composition conceived to inspire a meditative state in the performer. The entire piece can be played with just three fingers and can be learned in one hour, making it accessible for all, even those with no previous musical training. The ‘111’ is intended as a reminder of the NHS 111 helpline, which UK residents can call for urgent mental health support. The motif is derived from ‘Essence of Light’, an ode to serenity inspired by Debussy’s timeless Clair de Lune which featured on RIOPY’s latest album,THRIVE.
RIOPY and Mental Health Foundation will invite audiences to join in via social media, either from pianos at home, or public pianos in schools, churches, malls and train stations. Participants are invited to learn the piece by the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 15-21 May this year, with the help of tutorial videos, lessons and tips from RIOPY himself. RIOPY also calls on participants to reinterpret and improvise over the work and share their creations with him on social media, using the hashtags #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and #ToHelpMyAnxiety, and tagging @riopymusic and @mentalhealthfoundation.
The Meditation 111 music video, with free sheet music download and video tutorials to guide those wishing to learn by ear, has been posted online today [11 May] at https://www.riopymusic.com/
RIOPY said of the commission: “It is an honour to partner with the Mental Health Foundation for Mental Health Awareness Week this year. As someone who has struggled with poor mental health for most of my life, music has been a great source of solace and calm. It is not an exaggeration to say that the piano saved my life. I hope that, by sharing this piece with the world, I can bring the restorative power of music to others who are also suffering.”
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive, said: “We are privileged to have RIOPY supporting us this Mental Health Awareness week by sharing his experiences of anxiety and expressing these feelings through the composition of Meditation 111.
“It is well known that the arts, including music, can be good for our mental health. It offers people the opportunity to explore their feelings and emotions creatively and can have a powerful and lasting effect on a person’s health. It can help to protect against a range of mental health conditions, help us to manage ill health and support recovery.
“Connecting with others helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and we want to encourage as many people as we can to join the Foundation and RIOPY this Mental Health Awareness Week.”
More information on Mental Health Awareness Week and how to get involved can be found at www.mentalhealth.org.uk/