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On July 10, Toronto becomes latest city to join 'Play Me, I'm Yours' street piano phenomenon

By John Terauds on July 4, 2012

Artist Karen Miranda Augustine’s painted piano, representing Dominica, will join 40 other instruments on the streets of Toronto on July 10 (John Terauds photo).

On July 10, Toronto gets a taste of street piano culture in honour of the Pan Am Games, which the city will host in 2015.

The day includes a big flag-raising and celebration at noon, featuring the cultures of all 41 participant countries at Nathan Phillips Square. That evening, at David Pecaut Square, outside the former Metro Hall on King St W., CBC Radio’s Andrew Craig hosts a big concert that will, in its wake, unleash 41 pianos onto Toronto streets, parks, squares and, if things go according to plan, the ferry to Centre Island.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Anyone walking past one of these pianos — painted by an artist with ties to one of the 41 countries — will be able to stop and play something, for as long as they feel like it. A sign on each piano will say “Play Me, I’m Yours.”

Musician and producer Don Shipley, executive director of arts and culture for the 2015 Pan Am Games, was looking for something fun and interactive with which to pique the city’s imagination. He found just the thing in the brainchild of British artist Luke Jerram, who has a long history of mixing media and genres.

Shipley, who lives in Stratford, first encountered Jerram’s work a few years ago at Stratford Summer Music, when the Briton set free a flotilla of balloons over the town, each equipped with a speaker playing classical music.

Jerram introduced the idea of painted street pianos with the “Play Me, I’m Yours” sign in Birmingham, four years ago. Since then, hundreds of pianos assembled for his installations have captured the attention of visitors in many big cities around the world. Among the installation’s next stops is Hangzhou, China, in October.

As the organizers put it, “Disrupting people’s negotiation of their city, the pianos are aimed to provoke people into engaging, activating and claiming ownership of their urban landscape. Like Facebook, the pianos, together with this website, provide an interconnected resource for the public to express themselves.”

If the playing is anywhere as inspired as the the artwork itself, it should be a great month for street music in Toronto.

For all the details on the events of July 10, click here.

For more about Jerram’s street-piano project, click here.

Here are some more pictures of pianos in various states of readiness for their July 10 unveiling. All of them were first prepared by technicians before being turned over to visual artists in the upstairs workshops at Robert Lowrey’s Piano Experts, in Leaside:

(All photos by John Terauds)

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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