Mysterious homeless pianist who left people in awe at NightChurch in Penzance comes out of shadows


At the beginning of the year, late one particularly rough winter's night, a homeless man walked into a Cornish church and asked, 'Do you have a piano?'. It was a curious but seemingly natural interaction - however that man had actually been going through one of the worst days of his life until that moment.

Finding himself with nowhere to live in January, having lost everything, he was feeling pretty hopeless and wanted to feel something comforting. So he did what he always did in times of crisis - searched for a piano.

Within hours, the mystery man, who sat and seamlessly played the keys on the piano at St Mary's Church in Penzance, had people in awe of him. A video of him in action garnered thousands of views and left everyone asking the same thing - who is he and what is his story?

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Now feeling confident enough to reveal his identity, that talented player has revealed himself as Rhys Wynne-Jones. "It was a very weird time," the 32-year-old tells CornwallLive.

"When I was homeless and on the streets I went into NightChurch Penzance after a really bad night and I just asked if they had a piano to play, just to help. I didn't expect everyone at the church to gather round and watch me play."

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Penzance NightChurch pianist Rhys Wynne-Jones
Rhys has thanked the NightChurch for building his confidence -Credit:Greg Martin / Cornwall Live

That moving interaction was recorded and shared on the volunteer organisation's Facebook page for all to see. "I wasn't aware a video was uploaded at first and I was getting recognised on the streets and people were saying 'you're the piano player' and 'you're really good'. People were lovely and absolutely wonderful."

Having learned piano during his school years, he said: "It was a way I coped with being bullied because I never used to go out in the playground or socialise because I was different from the other kids. I used to hide in the music department."

Due to the roaring success of his impromptu and anonymous performances, he thought it was time to reveal his identity - especially ahead of a charity concert to be held in the church, which offers nighttime shelter to the homeless, in July.

Penzance NightChurch pianist Rhys Wynne-Jones
He's been putting his talents to work -Credit:Greg Martin / Cornwall Live

"Through all the dark times I've had in my life the piano has always been there and it happened again. My adult life took a turn for the worst and I've been homeless for a while and because of the piano I'm slowly getting these job prospects and things are taking a turn."

Now off the streets and living in a shelter thanks to Cornish charity St Petrocs, he said: "I'm on my way to trying to get myself a home and get employment. I'm not there yet but things are moving and wheels are turning."

"When you're in a homeless situation there is a stigma around it and with mental health there is another stigma and suffering both was really horrible, especially the public perception of you. people just want to stay away from you.

Penzance NightChurch pianist Rhys Wynne-Jones
Rhys had a rough start to the year but things are looking up with every new day -Credit:Greg Martin / Cornwall Live

"There are many people from different circumstances and everybody has got their own story and by doing this concert I'm going to do, I want to show that homeless people are not worthless. The stigma is untrue and there are people in this situation who want to get back up on their feet and who want to succeed in life."

On Saturday, July 20, Rhys will perform at a concert inside St Mary's Church in Penzance to raise money for NightChurch. Doors open at 7pm with the concert starting at 7.30pm. There is no ticket price, just donations at the door.

"NightChurch is an extremely brilliant organisation," he added. "They are very open, helpful and friendly and nothing is too much of an ask.

"If you want or need something to make you feel comfortable it is the best place. They have really helped me, my confidence and helped me get out there. Without them, I wouldn't be in this position today."

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