What Could Be More Fun Than Pianos on the Street? ~ by Lee Nourse
Ever wonder what you’d do if you were to fall asleep on a skytrain headed from Van-couver to Metrotown, and woke up in Surrey? Sound like your worst nightmare? Most Vancouverites wouldn’t venture beyond any Surrey skytrain station. Is Surrey all that bad, really?
I admit I was a bit apprehensive about spending a half day June 30th in Surrey Central. But I boarded Skytrain bound for Scott Road. What was waiting when I got there made it so worthwhile.
Each site of Pianos on the Street is uniquely designed; the Surrey Central Site, themed ‘duelling pianos’, is installed under the skytrain tracks.
When you exit the station go straight ahead, toward the SFU tower. You’ll spot what looks like skateboard ramps, but too perpendicular. Each of the twin aqua blue props, about 10-feet high, stands behind a piano.
I arrived to the melodic sounds of piano - and for a moment forgot I was in Surrey Cen-tral. Under a bridge. Who would have guessed such a transformation were possible? I wondered how this understated community initiative came about. So I set out to get some answers.
I caught up with Sean Pacey of Pacey’s Pianos and Piano Teachers’ Federation, who founded Pianos on the Street. Offered throughout the summer in conjunction with the City of Surrey’s PARKit program (the city’s pop-up park program), a piano just might show up on a street that you happen to walk down anywhere in Metro Vancouver. It might even be delightfully painted, like the one that Sean had delivered to Canuck Place Hospice for the children to paint. (It’s now at River Market in New Westminster.)
“The essence of this program is about connecting with the people”, said Sean. He con-tinued that the program facilitates a connecting which takes place in each of four prongs, as follows:
1. The quality of the pianos
2. The identity of the location
3. The special community group who paints the piano
4. The musicians who play the pianos
Each location has a vision, each art group was selected for a reason. Each group or individual who performs at the launch helps develop the roots of the location.
Sitting side by side at a piano were Ilya Takser and Daria Fedorova, a piano duo (part-ners in business and life) originally from Moscow. They had effectively transformed the space into Carnegie Hall.
Accomplished musicians, the couple met while doing undergrad studies at the Moscow State Conservatory of P. Tchaikovsky. They have since earned graduate degrees at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montreal and moved to Vancouver, where they teach from two of their studios - one in Richmond; the other in Olympic Village.
The pair - still out of breath from their high-octane performance - told me like proud par-ents that this year they had prepared 7 of their students for competition; 7 finished with prizes.
Meanwhile, a 5-piece jazz band The Square Peggs were already in an infectious swing. Leader Dave Ayton (Vibes), his wife Pegg (piano), and three others on trumpet, trom-bone, and drums swung with tunes like Count Basie’s ‘Squeeze Me’ and the standard ‘It Ain’t Worth A thing If you Ain’t Got That Swing’.
“This is an old, 1930’s tune”, Ayton’s eyes sparkled as he told the audience, “but it still works for me”.
This brand of awe-inspiring community activity is playing out all over the lower mainland this summer. Come out and see the sampling of local talent who have generously do-nated their time and energy to help Sean reach his goal of bringing community together.
To enhance Pianos on the Street this year an exciting new contest has been added. Now you have the opportunity to record a video of yourselves playing a piano on the street, and upload it to supportpiano.com. You could win a $400 cash prize!
Lee Nourse is a Vancouver-based copywriter. Check out more of her writing or just drop in to say hello at leenoursecopywriting.com