On one of my recent trips to the US, for the third time I came across “street pianos” inscribed with the words “Play Me, I’m Yours,” in 2016 in Boston when 60 pianos, colourfully decorated by local artists and community groups, were installed throughout the city’s public spaces, available for anyone to play and enjoy. Of course I couldn’t resist trying out as many as I could.
“Play Me, I’m Yours” is an inspired event that first took off in Birmingham in the U.K in 2008. Fifteen pianos were set up throughout the city for anyone to play. It was a way, according to its creator, international artist Luke Jerram, to bring together “invisible communities”- the people who often gathered in the same places, like their local laundromat, but who never interacted.
More than 1850 pianos have now been installed in over 55 cities the world over – across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, inviting people to play them. The movement has reached more than ten million people worldwide.
I love the idea of taking music to the streets, parks, markets and other public spaces. I look for opportunities to do so whenever I see a special location. I bring my own piano to unique public settings such as Toronto’s Sugar Beach or The Distillery District’s cobbled Victorian square, allowing me to engage with people of all ages and from all walks of life.
There was a time when everyone gathered around the living room piano. I see street pianos as a way of creating outdoor living rooms, of making this kind of bonding and communality possible again. They are a wonderful way to engage people on many levels and create community.
Jerram saw the piano as a catalyst for conversation, bringing together people who otherwise would never speak to each other and in this way, changing the dynamics of a space. This meshes closely with my own artistic focus.
When people come together in an upbeat and open way they discover that they have much in common. New relationships emerge. New beginnings. New possibilities. And that is the musical narrative that best describes my composition Awakening.