Play Me, I’m Yours

What’s that I hear, a piano? Scattered all over the public spaces of the world’s cities are elaborately decorated pianos, just sitting there waiting to be played. Let me back up for a second.

When my old house was new, back when dinosaurs walked the earth and the year was 1915, everybody had a piano. Or at least one in every 248 American families. Today it’s closer to one in every 9,000 American homes. We not only played the piano, we listened to it as the primary source of entertainment in the home. Times have changed, haven’t they?

If I look at my friends who fall into the “une femme d’un certain age” category, I can count on a few fingers those that don’t play. But sitting for an hour a day to practice piano after school is just not happening today for lots of reasons. Many an old upright is gathering dust in the parlor and piano distributorships are closing right and left, at least those that haven’t captured the electronic keyboard market.

Enter artist Luke Jerram. He’s been awfully busy these past few years relieving people of their old pianos and creating something quite magical really.

DSCF2184

It’s called Play Me, I’m Yours! 

The idea for Play Me, I’m Yours came from visiting my local launderette. I saw the same people there each weekend and yet no one talked to one another. I suddenly realised that within a city, there must be hundreds of these invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence. Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space.’
Luke Jerram, International artist and creator of ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’

In a nutshell, cities arrange through Luke’s organization to place pianos in their public spaces. Local artists are commissioned to paint or otherwise festoon the piano and then the game is on.

Friends-singing

A crowd gathers in Barcelona.

 

The reception has been tremendous. Young and old, timid and bold, it doesn’t matter. People are sitting down and tinkling the ivories all over this world. And the music is just incredible.

Have a listen:

And of course Paris. Who knows whether this man is French or not. But here he sits in Paris joyfully playing “Rhapsody in Blue,” the iconic soundtrack of New York City written by one Jacob Gershovitz, the son of Russian Jews. We know him better as George Gershwin.

Can art save us? I don’t know but it gives me hope.

Thanks for reading,

Barbara

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. Blogging about whatever happens to catch my fancy - sometimes nonsense, occasionally not.
This entry was posted in Art, Music, Random Ruminations and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

94 Responses to Play Me, I’m Yours

  1. la_lasciata says:

    Oh, ME TOO !!! I used to play the piano, once, a lifetime ago. I loved it. My younger sister is taking lessons again, the lucky thing ! This is simply … simply …
    I love it.

    Like

  2. Is there video footage of people just having a go on these pianos? Like, non-virtuoso types? While I love that these give people an opportunity to listen to someone playing the piano, I would very much hope that it also gives others an opportunity to play a piano. Particularly people who don’t ordinarily have access to one. All the videos I see are of people who clearly own a piano and are very, very good. I can’t help thinking it would discourage non-piano-owners from having a play. I am a pianist and I think I would be too intimidated. Unless it was at an hour when virtually no one is about.
    Sorry to sound so cynical but one of the reasons people don’t play music any more is that there is too much promotion of the highly skilled and child prodigies and the like and so people think it’s not for them. Everyone should have a chance to experience playing an instrument whatever the standard.

    Like

    • Oh no, fair question, Heather. Yes, indeedy, if you go to the actual “Play Me, I’m Yours” site which I think I linked to, you’ll see that each individual city which has participated in the art installation has created their own webpage and posted dozens and dozens of videos of players. Melbourne too! You’ll see lots of variety in terms of skill. And you don’t sound cynical at all. I like it when you get fired up!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Barbara. I do have a tendency to get fired up, especially about anything that conflicts with my egalitarian, Libran, over-developed need for fairness and equality. 😀
        I went and watched the Arts Centre video that was on the website and I feel a lot better about it. And I found a video of someone teaching their child to play Chopsticks. That’s what I was looking for! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Phew! I wanted you to like this concept! Getting fired up is good. I much prefer it to flat-liner apathy.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. rixlibris says:

    Thanks for the memory. Once, many years ago, I found myself walking through a residential area in Nancy, France. The houses were all out of sight, tucked beyond walled courtyards. As I passed one set of gates I heard the piano. Someone on the other side of the stone and wooden barrier was playing a tune that, although I didn’t recognize it, held me spellbound for the next fifteen or twenty minutes. It was one of life’s peak moments and your post brought it back again.

    Like

  4. reocochran says:

    It gives me hope and smiles, Barb. I loved this idea of putting a piano in a public space and allowing creative playing, while there may be a future famous musician, there is always someone to entertain for a few moments… Wonderful post with a fantastic idea that you wrote and shared with us all, Barb!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Victo Dolore says:

    Oh, I love this! I hated playing piano as a kid but I am so glad now.

    Like

  6. John says:

    These are great videos, thanks for sharing. I totally agree that it’s unfortunate people don’t play much of anything today. No time, or lack of cash flow. This guy has a great idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a fantastic idea! And like MOSY, I hope non-virtuoso types have a go as well.

    Like

  8. What an exciting post! The piano is undoubtedly my favorite instrument. The huge mansions being built today are surprisingly not built to contain a piano, no matter its size. I guess the designers feel a larger kitchen and bathroom are more important. Our hospital has a piano in its lobby which though electrified, is also capable of individual expression. The grand piano we once had is now resident in a niece’s home.

    The small child sitting on his father’s lap in Luxumbourg is amusingly uninvolved!

    Like

    • Hello Kayti! I know exactly what you mean about McMansions and the giant master bedrooms and kitchens. I sold real estate for many years in a prior life and would sometimes have to smile at the vast amount of square footage devoted to kitchens in which very little ever seemed to be prepared. Ahhh, a grand piano. I hope your niece cherishes it.

      Like

  9. When I was in France last there was a piano in the Paris Austerlitz station concourse.. a young man was playing what i think was Bach. I had no idea that it was part of a ‘movement’….
    This year there was another in the town near our house in Spain…in a square beside the market building. Nobody playing, but plenty of people eyeing it curiously.
    Art may not be able to save us…but it can certainly lift our lives.

    Like

  10. When I was in France last there was a piano in the Paris Austerlitz station concourse.. a young man was playing what i think was Bach. I had no idea that it was part of a ‘movement’….
    This year there was another in the town near our house in Spain…in a square beside the market building. Nobody playing, but plenty of people eyeing it curiously.
    Art may not be able to save us…but it can certainly lift our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dianna says:

    What a wonderful idea!! I, too, had an old upright piano; it’s still at the home of my ex-husband and son. It’s still officially mine, but I really have no space for it at this time. But I do miss playing…

    Like

  12. bkpyett says:

    What a lovely idea! I wonder too, if there might be the odd pianola placed for those who can’t play? I loved playing when I was young, but haven’t had a piano since I left my parent’s house.
    This is such a positive, I just hope people respect the pianos and enjoy them. It reminds me a little of the opera performed in shopping centres in different cities around the world. That always brings warmth and excitement to those who experience it.

    Like

  13. These pianos are available to anybody and everybody regardless of skill, Barbara. From what I’ve read there has been some destruction and vandalism but nowhere near as much as organizers were anticipating. It seems music tames even the savage city-dweller.

    Like

  14. dorothy says:

    This blog was a wake up call for me as I have played since second grade (the dark ages I might add) and my piano has been idle most of this past year. It is one of the most relaxing and theraputic things that I know of. I will test my skills this very weekend. Barb, you need to add piano lessons to your to do list. Never too late. Love the post.

    Like

    • One of my fondest memories is all of us gathered around your piano singing Christmas songs that long ago evening. Don’t let it get away from you, Dorothy, it’s such a rare talent and getting rarer by the day.

      Like

  15. Kentucky Angel says:

    Oh, if only. I would love to be able to play more than one finger at a time. Or just do one chord at a time when I’m very lucky. I can read music, I can play guitar, rather I could before I tore both shoulders up, but I could never play the piano. Except one finger piano. And I love piano so much.

    Like

  16. What a wonderful post about an absolutely lovely idea! The videos are pure inspiration 🙂 Oh how I wish I had continued piano lessons beyond early grade school…and not fought my parents tooth and nail about practicing!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Jodi says:

    I saw these on exhibition near Cleveland, OH a couple years ago when visiting my BFF’s daughter at Case Western University. I’ve also seen cows and dinosaurs decorated around Chicago and Pittsburgh, but the piano idea is especially intriguing as it is repurposing something into art as opposed to creating something. I tried my hand at the piano and took lessons for a while when I was young and was with my grandma, but then had to move with my parents and we didn’t have a piano. 😦 I’ve always wanted to be able to play, but don’t have much (okay ZERO!) musical talent…. Fortunately my oldest son was blessed with musical talent and can play ANY instrument. He majored in music in college and has blessed us in so many ways with Jazz sax concerts, Marching band solos, and “private” performances. Music is such a wonderful expression of emotions.

    Like

    • Ahhh yes, and in Richmond we had giant painted fish for a while. I remember those cows in Chicago – they were there for my one and only visit, not counting a billion layovers at O’Hare! OK, which one, Jake or Nick? And is the other son musically inclined at all? As to my musical talent, I can sing. Just ask Max!!

      Like

  18. Fascinating! With ideas like these, there is hope for us all.

    Like

  19. Gennie says:

    Ive heard of this! How beautiful! I wish I learned how to play the piano when I was young. In my hospital there are a few pianos In the lobbies and I love when I can hear people playing them. Art does make the wirld a better place!

    Like

    • I’ve visited hospitals too where pianos are playing. That alone makes it less terrifying, I think. A hospital I visit quite frequently with my daughter has walls filled with art, really good art, and I just love that somebody thought to do it. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Gennie.

      Like

  20. nrhatch says:

    How fun! I had a piano until our last move. We sold it with the house. I miss it sometimes and would definitely stop to listen/play on a Play Me I’m Yours.

    Thanks, Barbara!

    Like

  21. Just brilliant. Pianos should be available everywhere. Can you imagine poker machines being replaced by musical instrument? A war plane dropping musical notes above cities?

    Like

    • YES!!! Why does the world not conform to our ideals, I ask you, Gerard? It would be such a better place. I’m going to retire now with the lovely image of floating musical notes in my head. Thank you!

      Like

  22. suzicate says:

    What an incredible idea! Music is the balm of the soul. I never learned to play piano, but I sure enjoy hearing others. Listened to a Mozart CD today, how soothing.

    Like

  23. dorannrule says:

    What an incredible story to begin the New Year! An injection of hope and a whole lot of smiles.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Eliza Waters says:

    What a great project. Talk about one person making a big difference – inspirational! Thanks for sharing this, Barbara.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. markbialczak says:

    How cool. How very, very cool. A piano for all of us in the world one corner at a time. Thanks for sharing this project with us, Barbara.

    Like

  26. More so than art, Barbara, I believe it is hope and what emanates from hopeful expressions and actions that will save and rejuvenate us. 🙂

    Like

  27. Parnassus says:

    Hello Barbara, I managed to keep our old family piano, a beautiful vintage mahogany baby grand, while I was living in Ohio through several moves. When my brother finally had to get rid of it, we kept the matching bench, because its needlepoint cover had been made by our grandmother.

    I hate to seem like a grouch, but I’m not so sure that outdoor public pianos are such a good idea. The sound tends to carry, and I am sure that most residents of the area dislike them, especially when some people simply bang on them. I am all for art and culture, but not when it becomes invasive.
    –Jim

    Like

    • Needlepoint is enjoying such a revival, Jim, which makes me happy. A friend has shared some of her needlepoint designs with me and they are truly breathtaking. It’s wonderful you and your brother were able to keep the bench which must be such a treasure. And I appreciate your sensible point of view because it would be a nightmare to live in hearing distance of a piano being banged-upon 24-7. I hope they really are placed in spots public enough to not intrude on personal spaces.

      Like

  28. ritaroberts says:

    Well here I am again and looks like the last to comment “Sorry”. As you know I come from Birmingham U.K. But now living in Crete, so I was not aware of this going on I must speak to my Sister-in Law .she must know because she lives right in the heart of Birmingham. I love the piano and did way back, have a few lessons however , other things got in the way and I did not progress very far. I also like the mouth organ and still have a go playing that now and again. Love this post Barbara because it brings back other memories of my late husband and his family, and myself .Saturday evenings we would go for a few drinks and sing-along to all the old war time songs being played on the piano. Most public houses had a piano there to be played by anyone who wished to do so. Thanks again for this wonderful post. You always choose interesting subjects.

    Like

    • Funny what jogs our memories and music is so often the catalyst for exactly that. I can hear an old Elton John song and immediately be transported to Minnesota and high school. I love the image of you and your husband and family singing in the pub over an old piano. Thank you!

      Like

  29. KerryCan says:

    This is all so cool. I’ve seen these pianos around and love that people have the gumption to sit down and play. Have you seen the old ads for pianos that say, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but then when I started to play . . .”? I wonder how much those ads had to do with the popularity of pianos and the lessons so many of us had to take when we were kids . . .

    Like

  30. Phil Taylor says:

    What a great idea. I can only play a tune or two but I still love to find an unattended piano.

    Like

  31. I certainly love the idea of it! Before we moved away from St. Louis in 2001, most of the frou-frou malls had pianos near the escalators and if it was a lucky day there was a person “tickling the ivories” while you shopped… I loved it!!!!!!!!!!! As far as my piano playing… my Mom took me kicking and screaming for piano lessons when I was around 7 or 8 because all her friend’s kids were taking piano lessons. After a month of frustrating one hour sessions for me and the poor lady that taught piano, the teacher suggested that it might be better if I found something I liked much better and that came more natural to me. The next week I was taking English riding lessons… score!

    Like

  32. kristieinbc says:

    Three of my children played piano, and I miss hearing the sound of their music. The only thing I felt sad about getting rid of when we downsized and moved to our cottage was the piano. It just about broke my heart. Have you seen this story about the homeless man in Edmonton playing a street piano? http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/edmonton-s-homeless-piano-man-reveals-rough-life-behind-his-music-1.2819057

    Like

    • No, Kristie, I hadn’t seen this video. He is probably among the ranks of so many homeless people -suffering from mental illness. It’s good to see that in spite of everything that has happened to him, his love of music endures. Thanks for sharing this with us.

      Like

  33. I can’t play the piano, can’t read a note. Never had the opportunity to learn. Pianos cost money and so did lessons and, well, money went into the farm when I was a girl, not into the arts.

    That said, I possess a deep appreciation for the arts like this public piano project you are showcasing.

    This summer I discovered a public piano on a mall in Mason City Iowa: http://mnprairieroots.com/2014/10/09/play-me-a-tune-in-mason-city/

    Like

    • I can so relate, Audrey, coming from a family with five kids and very little discretionary funds. I’m not sure how my parents managed to scrounge up a piano, but they did. I am amazed at how similar the Mason City project is to the Play Me, I’m Yours model. Right down to painting the pianos.

      Like

  34. Lovely post Barbara. My family also has a dusty piano sitting in the living room. It’s so sad that it’s rarely played now. My children love to bang on it, but they balk at the thought of lessons.

    Caroline

    Like

  35. Sue Mayo says:

    I love my piano. I don’t play it as much as I should. My old fingers are getting rusty.

    Like

  36. joannesisco says:

    I love this! I’ve read articles about pianos that are going unwanted … people couldn’t even give them away. It’s nice to hear that a perfectly good piano can get a chance at another life 🙂

    Like

  37. Happy New Year Barbara! What a delightful project. I certainly fall into the “category” and took lessons once a week for several years (but never practiced but 5 minutes before). However I do love music and the piano. Our daughter had more interest in dogs and horses than piano so I didn’t insist. Hoewever, I inadvertantly purchased my neighbor’s spinet and daughter’s cousin played carols that Christmas!

    Like

  38. Carrie Rubin says:

    I LOVE this idea! I grew up playing the piano–was probably the only kid who loved practicing. I still have one in my home, but I don’t touch it nearly enough. But it’s funny how your mind remembers what to do. A few weeks ago I sat down to play some Christmas music. Hadn’t touched my piano in two years, and yet the notes still played. My fingers remembered where to go. It wasn’t pretty–especially at first–but at least I still remember how to play.

    Thanks for visiting my site. Much appreciated. 🙂

    Like

  39. You can find talent in unexpected places. I saw a video of a man, who appeared homeless, who played one of those pianos beautifully. I had a piano for several years when I was young, and again when our girls were young. I wish that I had learned to play it. That, and the guitar. 😉

    Like

  40. loisajay says:

    what a wonderful post! Growing up, my best friend had weekly piano lesson (much to her dismay) but she taught me the right hand of ‘Heart and Soul’ (much to my delight). In my little town, we have two pianos downtown in two different locations for anyone to play–yes, they are outside. I have never mustered the courage to play my little piece. Oh, how I wish I could play!

    Like

    • Oh yes, I remember “Heart and Soul”, now that you mention it!! How funny! I want you to please go find one of those pianos and bang away at Heart and Soul or Chopsticks or whatever. You may cause somebody else to gain the courage then. Wonderful!

      Like

  41. Thank you Barbara! Happy new year, too. My piano sits forlornly in the corner of my home. Time to say hello to an old friend.

    Like

I welcome your comments:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s