Finding the right key: Kelowna’s Pianos in Parks project a smash hit

Festivals Kelowna’s Pianos in the Park program has been running for around two weeks the delight of many.

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I was lucky enough to stumble upon these two gentlemen playing a fun tune! #PianosInParks

Posted by Pianos in Parks on Friday, 19 June 2015



When Robin Jarman tickled the ivories of one of the five pianos planted around Kelowna’s waterfront last week, he didn’t know he was about to become a bit of an Internet sensation.

Thousands have now seen a brief video of Jarman and his twin brother, who was visiting from Australia, offer an impromptu performance at the mouth of City Park and the reviews have been grand.

“We were just fooling around —we weren’t even aware that we were being recorded,” Jarman said of the clip, pointing out it’s really the pianos that should be getting the attention.

“I think the whole piano program is really exciting. It’s a wonderful attraction to have. I’m downtown quite a lot, because I live downtown, and it’s amazing how much they’re being played.”

Festivals Kelowna’s Pianos in Parks program has been running for around two weeks and, like Jarman, the vast majority of those who have had the opportunity to see it in action have been thrilled by what it’s doing for the community.

“It’s a great opportunity to play,” said Kylie Petite, 13.

Petite, who on Thursday was joined by friend Ally Rosman, 12, has been to the piano adjacent to Jim Stuart Park four times in the last two weeks, singing and playing by the water’s edge.

The aspiring performer pointed out that it’s a great opportunity to show off her chops and practice her Chopin.

“Usually it’s people with guitars who get to play in public, because they’re portable,” she said. “So this is really great.”

The idea to plant cheerfully painted pianos on a stretch running from City Park to the Rotary Centre for the Arts, has been in the works for awhile, explained Renata Mills, with Festivals Kelowna.

The idea came to Festivals Kelowna workers courtesy of performer Leila Neverland.

“She did some of the research and found out there was a warehouse stacked with pianos nobody can use,” Mills said.

With that in mind, Festivals Kelowna reached out to one of the people at Keystone Music, and pianos started to appear.

“(Keystone) would get calls from people saying, ‘I have this upright, what do I do with it?’” she said. “Then next thing we knew, we had all these big uprights in our front lobby.”

Moving the project along was an ongoing, behind-the-scenes, conversation with the people at Disney Studios, in Kelowna.

Disney was looking to contribute to a community program that would offer an opportunity for its professionals to be engaged.

Their two aims, they soon discovered, dovetailed perfectly.

“They came over and painted the pianos,” said Mills, noting there’s a video of the project on the Pianos in Parks Facebook page. “They were smiling, happy and so proud of themselves. It was wonderful.”

Fans of the program have been notably cheered by the sight and sound of the pianos, which are in their test year. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few blips.

One person marked up a piano, but in a strange twist of vandalism left their name on their work so they were easily tracked down and discouraged from future forays into public destruction.

Another late night player is, from time to time, keeping up residents of an adjacent apartment building by plonking on the keys.

All in all, it’s relatively little to worry about. “This is still our learning year,” said Mills. “We may still have some things to work out. But so far it’s been great.”

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