Australia’s Got Talent begins on Sunday and it’s bound to be the most exciting season to date.
Amongst the many talents and prodigies that participate and battle it out for a place in the finals, a Greek Australian man, Paul Kapeleris makes it straight through on his debut appearance on the show, which also happens to be his first ever solo performance on stage.
In one of the teasers released by the Seven Network, the 22-year-old Sydney local receives a standing, crying ovation by 1,300 members of the audience after his amazing performance which caused judge Lucy Durack to hit the gold buzzer.
Kapeleris’ angelic voice and exceptional piano performance are not the only attributes that make his talent special.
He sings with the eyes of his soul as he has only five per cent vision, and that is slowly deteriorating; he also has a hearing impairment.
Neos Kosmos sat down with Kapeleris ahead of the premiere episode of Australia’s Got Talent to talk about the performance that will most likely change his life.
In the teaser, Paul, who is accompanied on the show by his mother, introduces himself by saying that music had given him the confidence and the freedom to truly be himself even though he has been heavily bullied throughout his life.
“Being social is a challenge sometimes and I used to isolate myself a lot,” he admits.
“The main thing for me aside from being in new places that I am not familiar with and getting lost, is talking to people and being able to gauge expressions and understanding the non-verbal communication. Sometimes I say or do things and I’m not sure how they are being received…”
At some point he apologises for not speaking Greek as there were no language options for blind people when he was growing up. But it wasn’t just Greek school that was hard.
“I didn’t want to go to school for a few months and then I started learning karate and it kind of went away after that, as I decided to do nothing. If they wanted to do anything to me that was their decision.
“I’m blind. Mum does all the running around and I just thank and love her for that.”
His mum then embraces him and before he goes up on stage she says: “You may not have your vision but you’ve got everything else. And you’re using it. You know I’m proud.”
A real tear-jerking moment, but still, not enough to prepare the judges and the audience for what comes next.
For Kapeleris, life got a new meaning when he started piano lessons at the age of eight. Having been born with only 15 per cent vision, initially, learning how to play was hard.
“It was very difficult as I couldn’t see the notes. But basically my teacher told me to practice and feel the notes with my eyes closed. The piano has a set structure so I don’t have to look to play the piano anymore. There’s a lot of muscle memory going in!”
Ever since he was little he would watch shows like X Factor and Australian Idol, dreaming of doing that one day and to be as good as the winners of those shows.
“I always wanted to do it but I was very young. Just a few months ago I completed my degree, my undergrad, a Bachelor of Arts majoring in music,” he explains.
“I now have time to do this. I am ready!”
For his debut, he chose a favourite song that has special meaning. The song is quite complex vocally and covers a wide range of notes; climbing quite high and dropping low.
“The song is called rise up by Andra Day. It’s about being brave and keep pushing through even if things are not going your way. Just be the best person you can be.
“It’s a great, powerful song.”
And as such, it did the trick!
“I didn’t realise they hit the golden buzzer or that I got a standing ovation… I was not sure what was happening,” but after a few seconds he sensed the energy in the room.
“The response was so beyond anything I could imagine, beyond my wildest dreams. I just went out there hoping that one of the judges would think that I’m okay. I never expected I would get that crowd response and that the judges would say that. They were hitting the stage with their hands and I could hear the vibrations.
“When 1,300 people in a room are in front of you… you don’t need to see them to feel them.”
To watch Paul Kapeleris’ performance tune in to Seven/GWN7 this Sunday, 28 July at 7.00 pm.