Play me, I’m yours – coming to a piano near you

There’s nothing like a bit of early morning piano practice to set you up for the day. Not got a piano? Objections from the family and neighbours? Not a problem. In London, from 27 June until 17 July, wander down to your local public space or railway station, and you may find one parked there for your use, proudly emblazoned:  ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’.

The first of these art installations occured in 2008; since then it has been staged in cities from Cincinnati to Sydney. The creator, Luke Jerram, thought of it as a way to bring communities together, to get people talking. And it does. It acts like a magnet. When someone starts to play the piano, people gather.

The internet extends the reach of the event, with a website for videos, messages and photographs. In 2010, simultaneous installations in New York and London were linked via webcams in Times Square and on the Millennium Bridge.

Last year, I tried a couple of the street pianos, and wrote about the experience in a Forum…

‘Will we see you on the telly?’ I was asked as I bought my train ticket today, when I said that I was going to Liverpool Street Station to play a street piano. Not likely, not at 7.20am on a sunny Saturday in June. Up the escalator – and there it is, a small Steck, keys rather grubby, the top littered with empty cardboard coffee cups, but a neat little piano tucked away behind a pillar, with a piano stool chained to it. So off we go – Chopin Ballade 2, a bit of Gershwin for light relief, then Chopin Scherzo 3. Traffic roars past, station announcements continue, people walk by with suitcases; some stand and watch, and there seems to be a guy wearing a peaked cap keeping an eye on the piano, who is very complimentary.During the Scherzo, I become aware of a presence to my left; pausing, I have a chat with Rohan, an employee at the station.
‘Do you give lessons?’ he asks.
‘Er…I live in Suffolk.’
‘It’s not for me; it’s for my friend who lives in Southend…’
And the Scherzo continues.It’s an exhilarating thing to do; an impromptu recital in an incongruous setting, oblivious to everything. 7.40am – back down the escalator, and off to work. Hmm…which piano next week…

 
 

7.15am yesterday at the Millennium Bridge Welmar piano in St Peter’s Lane – a remarkable location; the beautiful south side of St Paul’s Cathedral to the left, with an occasional passing red double-decker bus; the Tate Modern across the bridge to the right; overhead – a blue sky and a few vapour trails. The live webcast meant that my playing was audible – thanks, family 🙂 – but not visible. Audience – a few cyclists, walkers, a jogger who startled me with a round of applause mid-piece.

Later that day, a pupil mentioned he’d seen someone playing the piano in Times Square NYC last week, and that there seemed to be pianos ‘everywhere’ in NY. Indeed – 60 of them.

The final comment is by a pianist named Louise, who visited the piano near Monument.

Spotted by the piano at the Monument, London – a Very Organized group of young people, complete with their music, instruments, a camera and tripod, and a map, deep in conversation as to where to go next. It must have been a street piano crawl, and the evidence will probably be uploaded in due course.

Once they were out of the way, two little girls wearing pretty dresses climbed onto the piano stool and explored the keyboard, the music stand, the pedals. Their dad had a beer and chatted on his phone, their mum watched, a few people sat around on nearby benches as those two young children and an old piano got acquainted in the afternoon sunshine.
I left them to it, and moved on.

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