Playing the piano to a professional standard is impressive enough, but performing a full concert thousands of feet in the air at sub-zero temperatures is almost unbelievable.

But that’s just what pianist Evelina De Lain (UK) did when she ascended 4,946 m (16,227 ft) up the Himalayas to hold the highest altitude grand piano performance.

Evelina was moved to perform the aptly named "concert in the clouds" due to a culmination of different factors.


One of Evelina’s motivations was the sudden and tragic loss of her mother in January 2017, which left her "numb with grief".

A few months later in May, she met piano enthusiast Desmond Gentle who loved her style and suggested the idea of the highest ever piano concert.

Evelina thought this would be a fitting tribute to her mother, who was a music teacher and encouraged Evelina to pursue her passion for piano.

This was enhanced when Desmond suggested playing primarily Frédéric Chopin’s music, a pianist from the 19th century.

Frédéric Chopin

"I used to specialise in Chopin during my college years," explained Evelina, "and under the guidance of my mum, I won one of the prizes in a state Chopin competition at 16 years old."

Chopin was selected as the key musician for the concert as it was believed he had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.

Desmond and Evelina practising for the attempt in London

Desmond was committed to creating awareness and raising funds for those living with the disorder.

"He offered me to go with him to Himalayas to play the concert in the clouds in honour of Chopin and to help out Cystic Fibrosis sufferers," Evelina said.


"He always said that breathing difficulties at and above 5000m were slightly akin to what Cystic Fibrosis sufferers deal with on a daily basis."

"We also decided I would perform some of my pieces from my album 'Soul Journey' – the title echoing the trip itself; it indeed became my true soul journey."

A little over a year after their initial meeting, Evelina, Desmond, and their team of helpers were ready to climb the Himalayas.


The piano was flown to Delhi, India by cargo plane and survived with some repairable damage. It was then driven to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, India, on the back of a jeep.

Evelina met the piano in Leh, and spent a few days acclimatising to the altitude of 3500m.


Then it was time for their record-breaking journey to begin.

The two-car convoy drove all the way to Singge La Pass (also known as Singela, Sengge La or Lion's pass). It took them over seven hours to get to the final destination on a very rocky road.


However, with a few minutes of their arrival the weather changed dramatically, it started snowing and then hailing - and at that altitude it's hard to escape the extreme wind chill.

"For a few minutes we were completely panicked as to how to protect the piano (and me) from the elements," Evelina remembered.

Luckily for the team the weather dramatically changed again and they were able to set up again, but unfortunately for Evelina, the wind increased.


"The wind chill was extreme and everybody thought I would only last about ten minutes."

However, Evelina surprised everyone, even herself, by continuing her performance for over an hour.

She performed a number of pieces at altitude, including Polonaise by Alex Stobbs, someone diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Raindrop Prelude no15, and Chopin’s nocturnes (Eb major and C# minor). She also performed her own compositions; Norwegian Fjords, Pavana and Dark Angel.


"The piano sounded quite amazing at the extreme altitude which came as a huge surprise because it didn't sound good at 3500m. It was also violently shaken for over seven hours on the back of the track."

"There was an incredible crisp quality to the sound, probably due to thin air and sound reflection off the mountains."

Once Evelina couldn't play anymore – the cold caused her hands and feet to seize up - and they packed up and began their decent.


Tragically, just days after he returned to London, Desmond suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.

"Passing away at the age of 69, echoing the passing of my mum, brought a sense of tragedy and grandeur to our mission," said Evelina.

"It's as if he sacrificed his life for this project."

 Desmond in the Himalayas

The concert raised £7,500 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, the charity which Desmond held so dear to his heart.

The record-breaking experience has inspired Evelina to continue with what she calls her “extreme music”.

"I do plan to do two more challenges worthy of world records, I'm just opening inquiries into sponsorship! Hopefully I'll do at least one in 2019."

We can’t wait to see what Evelina is planning on doing next – and how she’s going to fit in another record-breaking expedition while also writing her book Extreme music and continuing to raise money and awareness for various charities.

"I'm planning to use all the recent publicity to raise awareness of the importance of music in our lives, specifically music education for children which I believe should be as universal as language, literature and science."