The 2009 Sydney Festival began only today, I’ve yet to venture into the city, and already I have discovered its highlight. I will look no further for something that has inspired and amused me and warmed the cockles of my heart, while drawing me in as a participant.
This morning took me on an errand to Parramatta [to collect my first ever pair of sunglasses – another story]. As I left the station on the less busy and relatively undeveloped north side I spotted a piano on the footpath, a chair conveniently chained to the leg.
“Play Me, I’m Yours.” Well, I was always very good at following instructions – no need to ask twice. Unfortunately three years without an instrument to hand meant that the only thing I could retrieve from my muscle memory was the rondeau and first couplet from Couperin’s Baricades mistérieuses. So this received an airing, with only one uninterested passerby to make me feel self-conscious.
A URL on the front of the case leads to more information about this festival project. It’s been done before (Birmingham) and Luke Jerram is the artist behind the idea.
And it’s a good one. Or at least, it’s an idea that I like a lot. I felt the tiniest twinge at the element of “vandalism” involved (and apparently we’re invited to decorate the pianos as well) and, later, some concern over the condition of these street instruments as the weeks progress. But for the most part my reaction was complete and utter delight. Here was a piano for the playing! It wasn’t locked; it didn’t have a politely printed Do Not Touch notice on it; it wasn’t occupied by a hired cocktail pianist.
Only the other night, while listening to neighbours two doors down sing what might have been Turkish folk songs to the accompaniment of some mandolin-like instrument, I was musing on how sad it was that so few people nowadays sing and make their own music in informal and social situations. This sort of artistic project, which encourages precisely that kind of musical behaviour, makes me think that perhaps all is not lost.
Moving on… near Parramatta Town Hall I spotted another piano – this one with two kiddies playing and smiling. Evidently, if I’d had the time, I could have found eight more. On Monday I intend to seek out the one at Circular Quay, the one in front of the MCA, and maybe the one at Sydney Hospital. About 20 pianos have been installed in and around the CBD; placing one somewhere at the Sydney Opera House seems both redundant and beautifully subversive.
Note to self: must get a piano.