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Spontaneous Composition

By Aaron Blevins, 3/29/2012

Here’s Your Chance to be The Piano Man

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If you encounter a random piano at a Los Angeles County intersection in coming weeks, feel free to have a seat and tickle the ivories — it is, in fact, yours.

Luke Jerram performed on a piano in New York City’s Times Square during a previous installment of the program. (photo courtesy of Play Me, I’m Yours)

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) will be presenting “Play Me, I’m Yours” from April 12 to May 3, when organizers will place 30 pianos at 30 locations in the county to be used by anyone who stumbles upon them at any time.

“I think it’s going to be tremendously fun,” LACO executive director Rachel Fine said.

She said the three-week event, which was licensed through artist Luke Jerram, will be a first for South California, though it has been presented in other areas. LACO opted to bring the program to L.A. as a community engagement project to celebrate music director Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th anniversary with the orchestra.

“We wanted to do something more meaningful within our community,” Fine said, adding that Kahane is a world-renowned pianist. “I think it will be a tremendously good and exciting thing for the city.”

She said the pianos will be placed in three types of locations: areas near LACO performances, iconic Los Angeles County spots and in communities with little access to such musical instruments.

“Those were clear priorities for us from the outset,” Fine added.

Each piano will be decorated by a professional artist or a local art organization. Each instrument will also have a buddy to watch over it, though Fine said LACO hopes that the various communities will take ownership of their respective pianos.

She said residents are free to plan performances around the pianos; however, there is a spontaneous element to it. At Times Square in New York City, one performer played a Whitney Houston song, and moments later, a crowd had gathered and was singing along, Fine said.

“There was a spontaneous choir that emerged,” she said. “Spontaneity is a huge component of it.”

Locations include Bunker Hill, Union Station, Chinatown, the Music Center, L.A. City Hall, Old Pasadena, Pasadena’s Playhouse District and the Santa Monica Pier. Locally, pianos will be placed at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood; the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in the 4700 block of West Washington Boulevard; the William Grant Still Arts Center near West Adams Boulevard and South La Brea Avenue; and the Variety building at 5900 Wilshire Blvd.

Fine said the event involved a year of planning, as organizers secured 90 partners to sponsor and house the pianos. In Los Angeles, LACO organized the donation of the 30 upright pianos from individuals and organizations facilitated by the Hollywood Piano Company.

“It’s a great thing because it’s going to promote the idea of pianos and playing pianos,” Hollywood Piano Company owner Glenn Treibitz said. “It’ll really put a spotlight on that. That’s fantastic for the industry and in general, because there’s so little music education in the schools these days. We’re really excited about it.”

Fine said she hopes the event will spur the creativity of residents or allow a person to play a piano for the first time.

“It’s all worth it,” she said. “It’s important what we’re doing.”

The three-week jam session will launch with a free countywide event at noon on April 12. On all 30 pianos, local music students and professional musicians such as Kahane will perform the preludes from Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1” and a selection of pieces of their choosing.

The pianos will be fitted with a plastic cover in case of rain, and they will be tuned during the three-week event. Additionally, a website, www.street-pianos.com/la2012, has been created so residents can upload their photos or seek more information.

Fine invited residents to partake, saying that LACO will probably only host the event one time.

“I’m expecting this to be a once-in-a-lifetime [event] for the orchestra,” she added.

 

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