“Play Me, I’m Yours”: 60 Public Pianos Throughout New York City Launched Today, Huge Hit with New Yorkers (video)
Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on June 21, 2010
I am enchanted by this idea.
Sixty public pianos throughout the five boroughs of New York City, part of the not-for-profit, arts education “Sing for Hope” piano plan, launched today. All public sidewalk pianos were donated and/or refurbished by volunteers. Waste not, want not, spread the music… brilliant concept.
Play me, I’m yours.
Geez, this makes me smile.
CBS News: The “Sing for Hope” Piano Plan… Play Me, I’m Yours
From My Way News, Bach and beyond: NYers plink on public pianos:
NEW YORK (AP) – Amid an urban orchestra of honking cabs, sirens and jackhammers, piano lovers plinked out tunes from Bach’s “Minuet in G” to Elton John’s “Rocket Man” on the first day dozens of public pianos were placed at New York City landmarks and parks for a public art project.
In bustling Times Square, on a traffic triangle in the East Village and at a park with the Statue of Liberty in the background, players flocked to the 60 pianos Monday as audiences applauded from taxicabs and sidewalks.
“This is the first time I’ve ever touched a piano,” said Lynette Morris, a 52-year-old hospital maintenance worker from the Bronx. She had just sat down at one of the instruments in the East Village, situated at the top of subway stairs.
“I can’t play but I’m going to try,” Morris said.
Moments later, as construction trucks beeped and traffic roared by, a more experienced player got his chance on the bench. New Yorkers, who don’t stop for much, halted in their tracks to listen as he ran through classics like Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy,” otherwise known as the “Peanuts” theme.
During his final number, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, a guy manning a nearby coffee cart stuck his head out and belted out part of the chorus.
“It’s amazing how a piano, in the middle of total urban chaos, will make everyone stop to hear the notes,” said Dana Mozie, who was visiting from Washington.
The two-week project, devised by British artist Luke Jerram, is making its first U.S. stop in New York. The instruments are open for public play from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in most locations. Each has a tarp in case of rain and has its own caretaker to unlock the keyboard each morning.
A few glitches were reported as the project started Monday. One piano had to be removed from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx because several of its keys were damaged by eager children, organizers said.
Other instruments had a few keys that didn’t work, and one spot in Brooklyn did not open at the promised 9 a.m., disappointing some would-be players who arrived on time.
From CBS News, Sing for Hope Wants New Yorkers Playing Piano All Summer:
Sometimes a story idea is just a natural for TV and the email from my opera singer sister a few weeks ago seemed to fit the bill. A not-for-profit called Sing For Hope, an arts education and outreach organization, planned to put 60 pianos in New York City on sidewalks and in parks for two weeks in the early summer. Its aim was to get New Yorkers of all kinds to step up to the keys and play and to give music a special place in the crowded city.
Called “Play Me I’m Yours,” similar projects had been successful in cities around Europe. It was time to bring it to Broadway – and many other streets in the city’s five boroughs. The pianos were all donations, lugged out of basements and church halls and refurbished by volunteers who called it a “MASH unit for pianos.”
Professional artists volunteered their time to paint the pianos. The idea was to call attention to the instruments and get people to play. One of the artists, Sophie Matisse, is the great granddaughter of Henri Matisse. She says she “put all she had into it,” knowing that her finished artwork, four pianos, would be on the grand stage at Lincoln Center. Well, not exactly on the stage, more like on the promenade. She even painted the keys – turning the ivory and ebony into brilliant yellow and rich brown.
The painted pianos were loaded onto trucks and dropped off in more than 50 spots from Coney Island to Central Park, anchored to cinder blocks or lampposts, and locked and covered with plastic tarp. Project coordinator and co-founder of Sing for Hope Camille Zamora arrived at Times Square to unlock a brightly colored, checkered piano at the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue.
“We’re hoping people who have never touched a piano in their lives will play,” she told us. A year of planning was about to pay off and Zamora felt her heart grow big with joy even before a note was played. Once the plastic tarp was unfurled, people ventured over: a young girl from Detroit played “Let it Be.” A nightclub musician entertained with sultry jazz and 16-year-old Sing for Hope student Jaela Cheeks-Lomas pounded out Irving Berlin.
Photo below was taken in November 2009 during the UK’s “Play Me, I’m Yours” public program… great accompanying article at Brain Pickings, Play Me, I’m Yours: Reclaiming Public Space.