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Interesting project: Streetpianos

Discussion in 'Useful resources' started by jim_24601, Apr 6, 2011.

  1. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Anybody come across this before? http://www.streetpianos.com/ They're due to hit London late June ... a couple of them are more or less on my way to and from work, so I'm hoping to be able to have a go.
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Interesting project

    What a fun program - they did that in Tampa, Florida last year I think.
     
  3. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Re: Interesting project

    Well, there are certainly pianos on the streets of London right now. My first exploratory expedition wasn't all that successful, though.

    First I went to Fenchurch Street station, where there was supposed to be a piano but I couldn't find it. Perhaps it was inside the station concourse itself, but there doesn't seem to be a way to get in without a ticket, so I didn't explore.

    Then I went to the Monument. I found the piano there easily enough, and it was unoccupied. I shortly found out why. It isn't really very good weather to be a piano out and about in London at the moment. It's very, very hot and muggy, threatening a thunderstorm of epic proportions which it has so far failed to deliver. The poor piano at the Monument was feeling the heat a bit, in a "start your piece, get a few bars in, stop to lever the keys back up" sort of way. It was, alas, pretty much unplayable, though a couple of people came by and took photos of me while I was doing my best to get some sort of sound out of it.

    Then I went to Bank station. The piano there was in the process of being painted, so though I was assured it was in good working order I wasn't able to test this for myself.

    Then I went to Liverpool Street station. The piano there was in pretty good shape, considering, but there was already a boogie-woogie jam session going on and I was late for choir practice by that point so I didn't try to elbow my way onto it.

    So I wouldn't say I really got to play anything as such, but it's early days yet and there are still many pianos to track down. After work today I might stop off at Canary Wharf and see what the pianos there are like.
     
  4. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    Re: Interesting project

    I had seen pictures before on-line of the street pianos. Also, Schirmer is going to provide a bunch of sheet music to place at the pianos so if you don't know what to play, you can try their stuff.

    Monica, you need to get that started up in Chi-town.

    Scott
     
  5. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Re: Interesting project

    It is thundering and lightening now. I hope all the pianos are covered up!
     
  6. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    Re: Interesting project

    Sounds like a good time to play Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata. Or at least "Stormy Weather" -- ("Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky. Stormy Weather").

    Scott
     
  7. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Re: Interesting project

    Actually it looks from the photos as if one of the Canary Wharf pianos is under cover. If it's still raining I might see if I can print out a copy of the Raindrop prelude and take it along.
     
  8. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    Re: Interesting project

    We had street pianos in Adelaide earlier this year. It was rather fun; I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people played.

    (BTW, "Interesting project" isn't exactly an informative title for this thread. You could have called it "Street pianos" or something descriptive.)
     
  9. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Re: Interesting project

    But it is an interesting project. :p

    Anyway, yesterday's foray into al fresco pianism in London was a bit more successful than Monday's jaunt. The storm had cleared up; I found (after a bit of lost wandering around Docklands in the last case) all three of the Canary Wharf pianos in working order and was able to try them all. None was exactly in tune, but all were more or less playable.

    First and easiest to find was Reuters Plaza, which was also probably the best in terms of tuning and responsiveness. Unfortunately I didn't really hit my stride at this point. Playing outside on an unfamiliar instrument with people going past around you takes a bit of getting used to, it seems. Not that anybody was interested in some weirdo murdering Kapustin outside a pub. It was a bit after 6:30 I reckon, so though it was quite busy everybody was more interested in getting either home or into the pub for their after-work pint.

    A bit more exploration turned up this piano. There were a couple of people investigating it but they didn't stay, and one woman nearby having a smoke and looking very bemused at the piano or the guy playing it or both. I think I was starting to get the hang of it--it helped when I stopped trying for any dynamics and started just playing everything fortissimo, since most of the sound was vanishing into the empty air anyway. I actually managed to limp through a couple of pieces, and a gentleman came up and applauded and asked if I'd been playing Bach. No, Scarlatti. "Oh, I love Scarlatti, but I don't know that one." He hummed a few bits but not of any pieces I know. We had a short chat though.

    I got a bit turned about looking for the third one. I had better hopes for this one; it seemed from the photographs to be the most sheltered of the three, but turned out to be the least well in tune. It got the most interest though; I think I'm in several people's photos, I got a round of applause (actually, while I was trying to work out what bar came next in a piece I don't know very well, so I think it was my presence at the piano rather than my performance that did it) and exchanged a few words with somebody although I was in mid-flow at the time so I doubt I was much of a conversationalist.

    All good clean fun. I'm pleased to report that all the pianos had their plastic covers over them when I found them, and of course I made sure to cover them up again before I left. Tonight I'm planning a bit more exploration down by the Tower to investigate the pianos I've not played round that way.
     
  10. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Interesting project

    Hello Jim,
    I very much enjoyed reading your report here and seeing the photos. Thank you! And you and Scott had some good ideas for that rainy day. Hopefully, it's not raining anymore and you can play sunny/dry pieces like.....(can't think of one right now....)
     
  11. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Thank you Monica! I actually printed off a free copy of the Raindrop prelude, but forgot to bring anything to secure it to the piano with, so I didn't end up playing it lest I get 2 bars in and it blow away!

    I didn't have much time last week to wander the streets of London in search of pianos ... to tell you the truth, I didn't have much time to play our own piano last week. But I did manage to track down the Fenchurch Street piano. Turns out that if you follow the signs from Tower Hill you end up at the back entrance to Fenchurch Street; I walked around a bit more and suddenly came upon a little square with the old station frontage along one side and a piano sat in the middle. London can be like that at times ... you walk half a block and you might be in a different city.

    Anyway, this one was in quite good playing order when I got to it. I ended up playing it for about an hour and got several people coming up to talk to me ... admittedly one was asking for directions and one was selling the Big Issue, but still. One very drunk lady approached me: "Do you know the piano's out of tune?" "No; you hum it, I'll play it." "Eh?" "Never mind." :) A gentleman came up and complimented me on my playing but seemed rather reluctant to play himself; when we prevailed upon him to have a go he turned out to be a professional pianist and boogied us all away ... for a few minutes, until he excused himself to go to a gig :eek: I decided that I wasn't about to follow that, besides it was either leave or be made to play the theme from Neighbours again ...!

    Then I went to Old Billingsgate ... found the piano after a little bit of searching, had to wait for a bit because some tourists were busy photographing each other with it, and with good reason; there was a beautiful view across the Thames to Tower Bridge, a marvellous spot for playing. Unfortunately the piano itself had pretty much had it, several black keys had come off and many of the white ones stuck. I mangled my way through a verse or so of (the very appropriate) Waterloo Sunset from the songbook before giving up.

    I believe they have a piano tuner going round doing maintenance on the pianos to try and offset some of the wear from being outside in London, so the condition won't necessarily be the same from one day to the next. Part of the fun I suppose.
     
  12. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Funny joke - one (or one similar) that I've heard a hundred times, but it's still funny. And I'm guessing that Neighbors is an English television show? I don't know it, but I do enjoy reading/learning about other peoples from other countries likes (or dislikes). And a little FYI - I watch a lot of Masterpiece Theater.

    Thanks again for the street piano update, Jim! :)
     
  13. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    It's an Australian export (and not one of our best, IMO).
     
  14. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the information, Alexander. Is that one of those shows with an annoying theme song? Most sitcoms have one (although, admittedly, I don't watch that many....)
     
  15. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    It's not intentionally a sitcom, it's meant to be more soap opera/drama, although if you're cynical enough you can find a sort of comedy in the bad acting and implausible coincidences. I thought the theme song was annoying enough to start with, but they changed it to make it more annoying a couple of years back. At least, people tell me these things. I would never ever watch such a show myself ;-)

    Hmm, we've somehow wandered off topic here, I hope the forum moderators don't get cross with us.
     
  16. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oh, yes we have annoying soap operas too that I never watch either... :wink: :lol:
    Don't worry, if a certain moderator says anything about off-topic, there will be hell to pay! Besides, I think I saw a street piano on the one time that I accidentally stumbled upon one of those soap operas.... :p
     
  17. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    Indeed, one might almost suspect the Aussies of exporting their crappiest soap operas and their nastiest beer on purpose to keep us Poms away :) It worked on me for many years ... then when I finally did visit I found that it wasn't at all like Neighbours, and that the beer was, in fact, excellent. (We were discussing Neighbours at one point when I was over there. I said how much I hated it, then realised I was on a tram in Melbourne surrounded by Australians, so added a hasty "No offence" ... and got back a resounding "None taken, mate" from the locals.)

    Hey, it's my topic, I can wander off it if I want.

    But if I may mention pianos briefly :) I found a moment on my way to choir rehearsal on Monday to drop by Paternoster Square, in the shadow of St Paul's, and try out the piano there. This one at least turned out to be easy to find, standing right in front of you as you go into the square from the Tube station, next to another of London's ubiquitous monuments. (You can see the dome of St Paul's from Paternoster Square, but not, unfortunately, while you're at the piano, since it's facing the other way.) I found the piano unoccupied and played it for a while. It was a bit honky-tonk in places and the sustain a little on the dodgy side, but most of the keys worked. Although I did tend to stumble over the stuck ones when I tried to play "proper" pieces, so eventually I found an octave that mostly worked and resorted to random noodling. Nobody came up to talk to me, but from the looks I got from the people sat at the monument the noodling seemed to go over better. Until I tried to modulate into the wrong key and came up bang against a chord with only one working note in it :roll: Maybe I should learn to improv ...
     
  18. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I see that all the pianos are 'decorated' for the occasion. I can't tell from the photos, are they painted? This one has birds on it; you should have played 'Feed the Birds' from Mary Poppins. :)
     

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