Angela Hewitt is calling it a painful first.   

After falling down some stairs about an hour and a half before a show at Oxford's St. John the Evangelist Church last week, the renowned Ottawa pianist took the stage in a wheelchair — and performed through the pain.

"I knew right away it was a bad one, because I couldn't put any weight on [my left foot]," Hewitt told CBC Radio's All in a Day​ following the concert.

"I still can't put any weight on that leg at all."

'Mentally I was able to play'

Hewitt was in Oxford to perform a prelude from Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier as part of her Bach Odyssey series. 

She had been filming her rehearsal earlier in the day, and was on her way back to her room — dressed in her ball gown and heels, her arms full of bags — when she took her tumble.

But Hewitt is not, in her own words, a pianist who cancels easily.

I couldn't disappoint the 450 people who turned up. - Pianist Angela Hewitt

"I've performed when I've had a fever of 104, and through stomach bugs when I haven't eaten anything," she said.  

"I knew that mentally I was able to play. And the audience was arriving already, and I couldn't disappoint the 450 people who turned up."

So ice was put on her foot, someone found a wheelchair, and two large men lifted her on stage. 

The audience gasped, she said, when they saw her.  

"I explained that I wanted to play for them, but if the pain got to be too much that I would stop," Hewitt said.  

Dr. Theatre

Hewitt told All in a Day she couldn't pedal with her left foot, and that after playing for two hours the pain was getting to be a bit much.    

She credited something actors call "Dr. Theatre" for giving her what she needed to power on.     

"You know, when the adrenaline gets going, a lot of the pain goes away. Somehow the adrenaline of performance gets you through, and then it's afterwards that you feel it," Hewitt said.

"If I were a world famous author or a film star, you know, you have ten people around you all the time [carrying your bags]. But us classical musicians are always expected to do things ourselves, and I'm a bit fed up!" she added, laughing..

Angela Hewitt

Hewitt told CBC Radio's All in a Day that she knew right away the fall was a bad one — but she also didn't want to disappoint her 450 or so fans. (Lorenzo Dogana)

Hewitt said she has no plans to change the performance because of her injury, except for the fact that the wheelchair may be joining her on stage for her next concert at Wigmore Hall.  

She plans to get the foot X-rayed to make sure it isn't broken, and she's currently on crutches and spending time in bed. 

Hewitt said she never considered cancelling, and in fact performed the same program 10 years ago on the day her mother died — and that was probably even harder.  

"So when you have done that, you can do this," she said.