Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sarasota Keys Piano Project

I think I was part of a flash mob yesterday.  I learned last week that the Sarasota Arts and Cultural Alliance is sponsoring an event called the Sarasota Keys project.  Six spinnet pianos were donated by local businesses, painted by local artists, and situated throughout the downtown area.  Each piano has a "host" business that is responsible for bringing the piano in at night. Passersby of all skill levels are welcome to sit down and play.  The theme of the project is "Play.  Explore.  Entertain."  During my stroll through town yesterday, I saw people doing just that.

Jack Dowd's 27 piano
My first piano was Jack Dowd's "27"  in front of Mattison's City Grille on Main Street.  In 2011, Dowd created a series of paintings he calls "27:  The Day the Music Died." The series contains images of ten musicians who died at the age of 27.  When he was tapped to participate in the Sarasota Keys project, it seemed a natural outlet for the continuation of his work.  

Dowd's Morrison and Winehouse
When I approached the piano, there were a few people gathered around, but nobody was playing.  Instead, the group was trying to figure out who the pictured musicians were.  Kurt Colbain, Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Amy Winehouse were easy to identify.  ("Easy" for everyone except me, that is.  I did, however, recognize Jim Morrison.)  More obscure were Rudy Lewis, Pete Ham, Robert Johnson, Alan Wilson, and Brian Jones.  (After the people I was talking to left, I noticed there was a cheat sheet of names on the back of the piano.)   Dowd has also included a suggested list of songs that people might play if they feel so inclined.  My tour was off to a promising start.  

Piano painted by Fulton Ross
My next stop was the piano in front of Main Street Traders. At this point it seems appropriate to comment on what a great idea this project is for the businesses in downtown Sarasota.  I have never actually walked around and explored Sarasota's galleries and shops except in St. Armand's Circle.  Sadly (for my pocketbook), I now know what a wealth of shopportunities exist!  This piano was painted by Fulton Ross, an abstract and figurative artist who has painted portraits of some seriously big names -- Justice Thurgood Marshall, Duke Ellington, and Jackie Robinson to name a few.   The piano was on its lonesome when I first came by, but I ran out of the store to snap this picture when I heard it being played.  By the time I had paid for my purchases, the pianist was gone.  

Stephen Fancher at the keyboard
Then it was on to the piano in front of DiFilippo Kent Gallery on South Palm Avenue.  As I approached, I was thrilled to hear beautiful classical music being played -- by a guy with a baby on his back!  I started chatting with the "audience" and found out that the pianist had asked them the name of their favorite composer.  "Chopin?" one woman had tentatively responded.  "No problem!' he said, as he started to play.  A few moments after I arrived, I got the same question. My mind went blank.  Then I had a brainstorm and said, "Would you happen to know 'Pictures at an Exhibition'?"  As he launched into the first notes of Mussorgsky's original piano composition, I started telling the group about the collaboration between the Charlotte Symphony and the Visual Arts Center.  This is when it got a bit weird. 

The pianist -- whose name I now know is Stephen Fancher -- overheard me and said, "Oh, I know Raffaele Ponti [the CSO's maestro]."  What??!!!  It turns out that Stephen showed Raffaele and his wife Isabelle around Sarasota as a potential new hometown during one of their visits.  (Fingers crossed on that!)  Before he became a broker at Merrill Lynch, Stephen worked in New York as a musician, often as an accompanist for Julliard students. Isabelle is also an accompanist, as well as a vocal coach, so the trio have a fair amount in common. In any event, what are the odds of the universe aligning so that Stephen and I ended up on that street corner at that particular moment and happened to figure out our connection? 

Danielle First at the keyboard
My last piano of the day was located in front of Louies Modern on North Palm Avenue, and it was here that I had my flash mob-esque experience.  When I walked up, a woman was playing some Elton John (quite well) on the piano.  More people kept walking up, and she segued into Don McLean's "American Pie."  She was a real crowd pleaser, leading the group in singing their hearts out.  People were laughing and clapping and taking videos.  (Note to self:  Figure out how to do that!)  I even found myself singing along (something I rarely do, even in the privacy of my car).  As the crowd dispersed, her friend yelled out, "This is Danielle Furst."  I couldn't find much about her online, but she seems to be a real musician based on this YouTube clip.  It was really fun, and the perfect way to end my tour of the Sarasota Keys project.  (I know, I'm two pianos short, but that just leaves something for next time!)  

For a list of the locations of the pianos, click here.  I heard that the project will be running through May, so there's plenty of time to check it out.  And who knows?  Maybe you'll even tickle the ivories yourself.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anyone for an Illusion?

Hoping there will still be some activity by the time the quarantine is over. The Chalk Festival is one of my favorite events of t...