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Play the Painted Piano…

"There is a piano in the park.", said one grandchild. “Honestly, a real piano,” said the second and from the third came, “Someone is actually playing it.” So, I parked the car; we got out and met a Gananoque tourist who had discovered a real piano, with “Play Me,” written on its side.

That was three years ago and I mentioned it in our October 2013 issue. This month a new piano, donated by Gananoque’s Jane and John Taylor, will join the “orchestra.” How and why, was my question.

Pam Staples, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Town of Gananoque, provided the background material and a series of videos - all demonstrating how intriguing and successful this project is for the Town.

"Our project was inspired by “Play me I’m yours” created in 2012, by internationally acclaimed London, England, artist Luke Jerram. Since then over 500 pianos have been installed in public parks, bus shelters, train stations even on ferries, around the world."

"I loved the concept of the project .. so simple, and since Gananoque is an amazing creative community, it seemed a perfect fit. There is something wonderful about seeing so many hidden musicians come out of the woodwork, or offering a chance for those who don't have regular access to a piano. But best of all, it gives everyone an opportunity to share their creativity. " said Pam. "I contacted the artist and received permission to do a similar project. Ours began with a grant from Ontario’s Creative Community Prosperity Fund.

The first piano was donated by Shannon Treanor, from the Socialist Pig, and the second came from the Helen Henderson Care Centre, in Kingston.

The logistics of placing a piano in the Park is not simple. First, the piano needs painting – bright colours - so it can be easily seen. Volunteers assisted and the large “Play Me” signs gave the go-ahead for all to sit right down and play.

Pam called a piano tuner from Kingston, Owen Greyling. He politely told her that putting a piano outside was impossible and it would never work. “It will never keep a tune, and children will ruin it.” he said. After some persuasion, the tuner did his magic and by the end of the tuning session he, too, was excited about the project and remains a fan!

The tuner’s advice was heeded and large covers were made. These are installed each evening and in-a-hurry if the weather turns bad. Volunteers came forward and throughout the summer the pianos are cared for.

“This will be our third summer,” said Pam. “We were worried, as the original pianos needed replacing, and that was when the Taylors came forward with this year’s new edition. Our new piano is ready to go and will be installed this month, in the Gananoque Town Park.”

Play the Painted Piano courtesy Town of Gananoque, ON

“My favourite time is early morning when school is in session.” says Pam with a smile. “Children walking through the Park, on their way to school, will stop and play for a few minutes.

Over the summer we have had concert pianists, church organists, piano enthusiasts, with many playing the well-recognized “Chop Sticks.” One gentleman collected sheet music, while others took photographs and videos of players - all of which leads to the simple fact that town-folk and tourists alike take pride in "Play Me".

By Susan W. Smith,

Editor, TI Life

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Nancy bond
Comment by: Nancy bond
Left at: 7:35 AM Sunday, May 17, 2015
what a wonderful thing to have a piano just sitting there for anyone to try their talents! There is something about a piano that temps the young and old to just sit down and see if they can make music!
My parents lost their home to a house fire just before I was born and someone donated a huge old battered grand piano. My Mother loved to play for the neighborhood children so, eyesore or not, it was given a place of honor in our living room. Every child in the neighborhood was welcome to play it. About the only rules were "not too loud". And "not while Daddy is reading his paper". Just the look on a child's face when they made any kind of music was reward enough. And just imagine the joy of a beautiful, brightly painted piano, just sitting in a park inviting anyone to "play me!"
W. McGowan
Comment by: W. McGowan
Left at: 4:06 PM Sunday, May 17, 2015
In our town this spring there are several outdoor pianos, in parks, by the visitor center, at the arts & crafts guild... and it is fun to see how they are decorated and the video above gives some flavor of how they are played. Will have to look for the one in Gananoque when we come up this summer.
Comment by: Jane
Left at: 9:25 AM Saturday, May 23, 2015
Wow! What a super idea!
Comment by: Chris
Left at: 4:49 PM Thursday, June 11, 2015
We live overseas, but return to the 1000 Islands every summer. Last year we stumbled across the piano in the park with a very musical friend of ours. It was a lot of fun trying to figure out what it was all about and then listening to him play. More of this Gan!

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