Pianos have a way of gathering people around them – and this summer those gatherings happened on the streets of downtown Guelph. As part of the “Happy Making Pianos” project, eight donated pianos were placed in downtown Guelph for anyone to play. Ian Findlay (Ward 2 councillor) started the project with one piano and then put a call out for others to be donated.
The idea of pianos in public places has been catching on. “Keys to the Streets” is the initiative that placed 4 pianos in Vancouver this summer. “Play Me I’m Yours” was started by Luke Jerram in 2008 and has seen 1000 pianos placed in over 41 cities around the world.
Street pianos have been credited with building community, improving people’s moods, bringing musicians out of the woodwork by giving access to instruments, and providing a public place for self-expression and shared music.
We took advantage of the last weekend the pianos would be on the streets of Guelph by gathering to do some singing with our fearless leader and pianist, Sue Smith. We got smiles from strangers, people joining in on the chorus, a toddler who climbed up on the piano bench to play along, and even an impromptu dance interpretation – happy making pianos, indeed.
The pianos are scheduled to be put into storage September 30th. Given their positive influence, what we will do when the pianos are gone? In the Ontarion, Jessica Avolio asks, and then answers, this question: “As residents of the community, we should seize the opportunity to create improvisational music on our own in the streets of Guelph, because as demonstrated by this project, the happiness is infectious.”
[Look for pianos on the streets of Guelph next summer!]