Play Me, I’m Yours! Toronto
41 pianos, each one painted by an artist from the participating countries hand decorated each piano, and they were then placed out on the street to be played by passerby’s.
I had deep misgivings about this venture. After all, I had spent my entire career telling people to care for their pianos, keep them in an stable environment, and away from abuse, especially things like fists, and spilled liquids.
However, out on the streets they went. Into parks, and plaza’s, inside subway stations, and outside shops. Played by musicians and non-musicians alike, as well as drunken bar patrons, rambunctious teens, and more than a few residents of the city streets.
For the most part, they stayed playable for the duration of the event. There were a couple of instances of vandalism, easily repaired, and more than a few all-out onslaughts by mother nature.
I learned a few new things through the experience. For example: Pianos are much hardier than I gave them credit for, People are kinder, and more careful with the instruments than I thought they would be, and wherever I went, people were very interested in what I do.
Most surprisingly, the oldest of the pianos seemed to survive better than the newest. Two of the forty-two were over one hundred years old, and although I did have to glue them together a couple of times, they stayed playing, and stayed in tune.
The newest of the pianos were not only the ones that took the most abuse, but, the ones that I had the hardest time to keep operable. Two of them: Panama, and Cayman Islands (A thirty-five year-old Lesage, and a communist era east German spinet) were rendered completely unplayable by the first rainstorm. Two days later, after baking in the hot sun, not only were they playable again, but they were still (relatively) in tune.
Most miraculous of all, I saw what I can only describe as piano-love: Spontaneous jam-sessions in the evening, piano lessons given outside, families making a holiday out of a street piano scavenger hunt, street-people guarding them and covering them when it rained, musicians making You-Tube videos, and one eight year old boy, who blogged about his experiences finding, and playing every one.
Most of these pianos, if not all of them, will not be able to survive being brought off the street, and dried out. Their glue joints will break, the wood will split, the veneers will peel. So, although it was a successful, rewarding, and enlightening adventure, the moral of the story remains the same one that I have been preaching for thirty-five years: Take care of your piano, have it tuned regularly, and keep it off of the streets.
Visit my page documenting the experience, the pianos, and the players.
To see where all these pianos were: