by Lorraine Payette, written September 3, 2013
(GANANOQUE, ONTARIO) A sprinkling of notes, an arpeggio, perhaps an embellishment here and there, and the people start drawing in. It seems that no one can resist the painted piano sitting next to the band stand in Gananoque’s Town Park.
“Just having a piano in a public space or park, as opposed to your great-aunt Mildred’s parlour, automatically extends an invite to passers-by,” said Monika Seiler, currently at the Thousand Islands Playhouse with “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”. “The instrument is there. The music is encouraged. Everyone should have fun with it!”
Inspired by the “Play Me I’m Yours” project done by internationally acclaimed London, England, artist Luke Jerram, the gaily painted piano will be available in the park for anyone to play any time they want from August 29 through the end of September.
“Located in public parks, bus shelters and train stations, markets and even ferries the pianos are available for any member of the public to play and enjoy,” says http://www.streetpianos.com of the original project. “Who plays them and how long they remain on the streets is up to each community. Many pianos are personalised and decorated by artists or the local community. By creating a place of exchange ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ invites the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment.”
“We did not have it in the budget to register with ‘Play Me I’m Yours’, but did receive the OK to do a similar project,” said Pam Staples of the Town of Gananoque. “Toronto Pan-Am Games 2015 now own the rights to this project in Ontario.”
On the first day, five or six people came out to play, and more come and go every day. Sometimes people sing along, others gather to chat around the piano.
“I love the idea, I think it’s one of the most fun ideas anyone has had in a long time,” said singer Diane Stapley. “How can you not like a beautiful old piano, painted whimsically and saying ‘PLAY ME’? Just out there for anyone to play? I think it’s brilliant. I hope they put one somewhere else, and I hope they do it every year. There’s something very European about it – kids, classical musicians, people playing Heart and Soul, so much fun. Somebody was playing for a while tonight and people were actually tipping them. Crazy!”
And the project has drawn considerable support.
“We received a grant for this project and several other initiatives,” said Staples.
“When it comes to any project that supports expressing your creative side, I am 100% behind it,” said Seiler. “I first encountered the piano-in-public idea in Montréal, where I promptly sat down at the beckoning piano, played a song, and continued on my way. There’s something welcoming about a piano – it automatically pulls a player towards it. I will often jump at the chance to play the rehearsal hall piano for hours after rehearsal has ended for the day. For those of us who work in theatre and tend to move from city to city, sublet to sublet, it becomes hard for us to keep up with an instrument -especially something that lacks portability, like a piano. Providing pianos in public areas is a great way to promote artistic expression, and most importantly, fun. I think the town of Gananoque has taken a great initiative in opening its outdoor living room to the locals and the tourists. Music is universal. Why not enjoy it together?”
The painted piano was provided by a grant from the Creative Community Prosperity Fund. This money has also been used for funky new artistic bike racks, new way-finding signs, and hand-painted Adirondack chairs by the students of Linklater Public school. The piano will be available for use through Doors Open and Culture Days, running September 28-29.