Outdoor pianos are certainly popular these days. This trend is largely thanks to Luke Jerram, a British artist who created the project, Play Me, I’m Yours. Since 2008, Play Me, I'm Yours has installed over 1500 pianos in more than fifty cities around the world. Jerram says of his project, "Questioning the rules and ownership of public space Play Me, I'm Yours is a provocation, inviting the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment."
It certainly transforms a space. Thisshort film reveals what happens to a particular space with the introduction of the “People’s Piano.” What I find most moving in this film is the smiles that Giles describes, the introduction of unexpected, magical moments into everyday life, in a setting like this – a subway entrance – where the magical and musical doesn’t typically occur.
This magical quality is one of the reasons sound designer and vocalist Viviane Houle chose to incorporate outdoor pianos into the upcoming Only Animal Theatre production of Tinkers in Roberts Creek, BC.
From their website:
Tinkers is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Paul Harding. This new transcendentalist work features an intimate and dazzling relationship with the natural world, woven into a story of family karma. Through an intergenerational story we meet a young boy and his search for his long-lost father Howard, the epileptic peddler with donkey and wagon, estranged from his family, and ever-ecstatic in his relationship with nature. Tinkers asks us how we collect together all the pieces of a relationship that has come apart, and tinker, tinker to bring it together again.
With a growing set crafted by German environmental art star, Cornelia Konrads, an off-grid sound score and puppets made from found materials, Tinkers looks at how people creating in nature exemplify the transcendent possibilities of Human Nature.
Literally set in the woods, this “roving forest immersion” features a completely off-the-grid sound design. This is no easy task. Without the use of any recorded sound, amplification, electricity or batteries, how would you create the sound of car tires on a gravel road? How about the sound of the motor?
One of my challenges in connection with the show is going to be tuning the piano later this week. In an outdoor environment, it’s not possible for a piano to stay in tune very long – consider the humidity during an afternoon rainshower compared to that during a cool, clear summer night. My goal will be the same as always: make the piano sound the best it can.
The People’s Piano had the good fortune of being on one piano technician’s route to work. This guy couldn’t help but stop and offer it a little TLC now and then. But despite how out of tune it may be, people are compelled to play or drawn to listen. For many, an out of tune piano simply sounds like an old piano, and this is evocative – haunting, even magical.
Regardless of your sound associations, I’m certain Tinkers will be a magical theatre experience!
Tinkers runs from July 25 to August 7, 2016. Learn more by visiting http://www.theonlyanimal.com/show/tinkers.
And to see more super-cool outdoor pianos, courtesy of Play Me, I'm Yours, check out this list!
On Sunday, March 13, the Pender Harbour Music Society presented a concert with Musica Intima, an a capella group with a reputation as Canada's most exciting vocal ensemble. As a singer, I'm a little biased, but there is something special about the sound of the human voice -- its incredible versatility and the variety of sound produced. After all, no two voices are exactly alike because no two people are exactly alike. For a singer, their whole body is the instrument. Not only vocal chords but the bone structure of a singer's face factor into the character of sound. I've explored classical singing as well as jazz, pop, weird improvised layered things I made with GarageBand, which I, mercifully, no longer have access to. I've tried overtone singing, been to plenty of workshops with singers flailing arms or rolling around the floor and vocalizing to match our movements. I've been told to "sing from my vagina," and have also basically passed on that same advice to a student or two.
Musica Intima did not disappoint. Their sets ranged in style from 16th century French song to contemporary Canadian soundscapes evoking cellphones and automated messages. Sometimes playful (as when imitating bird song, one of the sopranos comically tilting her head like a bird who's just had his morning coffee), and sometimes heart-wrenching. I went to the concert with Ken who, I learned, is that person in the audience that can't help saying "Wow" when moved at the end of a piece. I had to second that emotion, and by the end of the concert, was wiping some tears away, feeling a little too emotional to schmooze, something I'm not very good at anyway. I did manage to speak briefly with tenor Taka Shimojima. I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated his voice, and how I would have loved to hear him sing the lead on all of "Con Toda Palabra," by Lhasa. If you're not familiar with the late, great Canadian vocalist and songwriter Lhasa de Sela, I'd recommend tracking down some albums. She sings with a fado style, mixed with a sensual latin sensibility. Her voice is low, perpetually in mourning -- or more like devastated. Shimojima's voice, on the other hand, has a gentle, feminine quality -- something I really love in a male voice, and find it so fantastic to hear male voices singing songs we typically hear female voices do. And vice versa for that matter.
But my favourite piece was "Ecce Homo," by Jeffrey Ryan. This piece reminds me of the work of one of my all time favourite composers, Arvo Part. Musica Intima performed this piece in a circle, their backs to the outside of the ring. The sopranos had their backs directly to the audience, and something magical happened to the sound of their voices when singing to the back of the room -- to me, they transformed into Chinese violins (Er Hu), which are two-stringed violins. Rather than explain the composition, I'll just recommend Jeffrey Ryan's website, where he has a sample track: http://jeffreyryan.com/works/choral/ecce-homo-choral-version/
You can learn more about the Pender Harbour Music Society's fantastic series online.
Well, this wasn't really a "review." This really was a rambling blog post, something I'm not used to doing ...
And now, just so my rank in search engines benefits from this post, I should probably say thanks for reading, people on the Sunshine Coast of BC. And if you need your piano tuned, drop me a line! (Search engines like key phrases like "Sunshine Coast BC piano tuning." That should do it!)