Play Me

by gringojenny

Picture this: a casual Sunday evening game of Scattergories – you’ve got 10 seconds left to think of 'Things found in the City of London'.

Blackberry: yes. Suit: yes. Piano…yes!

For the second year running, the City of London Festival began with an installation of 21 second-hand pianos all over London – from Hampstead Heath to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Each piano comes with a sight-specific song book including the likes of 'London Bridge is Falling Down', as well as the odd Beatles Medley thrown in for good measure.

The project aims to encourage social interaction and connection through music, and from my experiences, it does just that.

My first encounter with the street pianos came last year when I decided to tickle the old ivories myself on an otherwise dull Tuesday afternoon. After stumbling my way through a few precarious renditions of 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Humpty-Dumpty' I was approached by a sheepish looking tourist who requested I play 'Happy Birthday' for his girlfriend. Soon enough, we had the whole street involved, in was what was perhaps not the most tuneful version I have ever heard, but certainly the most enjoyable. Since then, my day is always made that much better whenever I spot complete strangers squeezed onto a piano stool, arguing over who gets to play the chorus of 'Hey Jude'.

Like public renditions of 'God Save the Queen' played on second-hand pianos, personal experiences are so much better shared, and I urge you to let me know about some of your experiences of the London street pianos, or indeed any similar musical encounter.

GringoJenny doing her part to improve her capital's ambience

(London, 2010)

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