GP Mendoza wiped rain off the polka-dotted piano bench before sitting to play a ditty he wrote on the spot.
Passersby on the seawall near the Cambie Bridge paused to catch the impromptu concert on a rainy Thursday morning, bemused by the piano’s unusual placement by the Spyglass ferry dock.
“It could go for a touch-up tune up,” Mendoza joked after his performance, pulling a cover on the instrument donated by a Craigslist user who otherwise would have sent it to the dump.
Stay tuned for more of these mini gigs, Vancouverites. This piano and two others are here to stay until Aug. 24 as part of the inaugural Keys to the Streets program.
Keys to the Streets is all about re-imagining the way “orphaned” space is used in the city, said Mendoza, the project lead.
“We can start being inspired on our every day walks to work by something as simple as a piano,” he said. The other pianos will reside at the Creekside Community Centre and Robson Park, and the Vancouver Public Space Network will truck the polka-dotted piano to Robson Square for its official launch on Tuesday.
Run by City Studio, a collaboration between the city and its six post-secondary institutions, the street pianos emulate the “Play Me, I’m Yours” project started in Britain in 2008. An estimated 140,000 people played the original 15 pianos over three weeks.
The idea spread to dozens of cities across the world, including New York and Barcelona, where most citizens embrace the music. When 41 pianos graced Toronto’s streets in 2012, they only struck the wrong chord with a handful of residents roused by late-night solos.
Of course, there’s a code of conduct based on the honour system that involves covering the piano when finished and respecting noise bylaws, Mendoza said. At a one-day test run at McAuley Park in April, people and businesses alike loved the public piano and were sad to see it go, he said.
Volunteers will act as steward for each piano, including the Creekside Community Centre, the St. George Rainway and the Vancouver Society of Storytelling, and the Odyssey II Program.