Brooklyn BUZZ: Pianos provide key to summer music

June 23, 2011 Heather Chin
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The painted mustard-yellow piano sits prominently in the gazeboat 90th Street and Shore Road, emitting a silent Siren call topassersby to play a melody on its 88 keys. And ever since itarrived late last week, as part of a city-wide music and artinstallation called Sing For Hope Pop-Up Pianos 2011, residentshave been doing just that.

I saw the piano [and] I played it. It’s a fun thing. There’s noparticular practice, said local singer/songwriter/actor TonyTravis, who performed a medley of original pop/country songs at thefirst of seven pop-up concerts at the park alongside his wife,Karen, who is an opera singer, friends and neighbors. Travis saidthe decision to join in was easy.

I don’t believe anyone’s ever played a piano in that area. Iknow they have events like tree lightings, but this is the firsttime entertainment like that is there, he said. They should domore of that over there because it actually turns out to be aperfect spot to play. With all the benches, you have a built-inarena.

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The Shore Road concerts are just a few of the thousands beingperformed on 88 pianos – one for each key of a piano – in the fiveboroughs through Saturday, July 2, organized by various communitygroups to encourage residents to come out, mingle and enjoy summer,music, art and each other’s company.

Bay Ridge actually has two pianos this year – the other sits inthe gazebo at John Paul Jones Park – and both were brought inthanks to a joint effort by the Parks Department and the Shore RoadParks Conservancy, which signed up to be temporary caretakers ofthe pianos, aka piano buddies, who cover the instruments in therain and act as caretakers

[We] requested the pianos, then it came down to siteinspections, said June Marcus, the vice-president of theConservancy, who found out about Sing for Hope after its run lastsummer and persuaded conservancy founder Linda Allegretti that itwould be a great idea.

After the first concert, all excitement went up a few notches.Around 150 people attended the first pop-up concert on Saturday,and many of them stayed afterwards to play and sing.

I’d like to attend them all, exclaimed Marcus. We welcomepeople to come and please make use of the pianos. Bring yourfriends, sing, enjoy the parks and enjoy life.

Both pianos will be donated at the end of their run – the one inJohn Paul Jones Park will go to the First Church of the Brethren at358 60th Street in Sunset Park, while the mustard-yellow piano withthe circuit board design will be gifted to the seniors at the ShoreHill senior center.

A third piano, named String Theory by artist Masha Gitin, sitsinside Sunset Park, next to the game tables. It was sponsored bythe Sunset Park Business Improvement District, and the red pianowith swirls of flowers will remain in the park, but indoors, forthe public’s year-round enjoyment.

The idea for the pop-up pianos was inspired by a Londoninstallation by British artist Luke Jerram, and made possible bySing for Hope’s artist peace corps – professional artistvolunteers. The event coincides with Make Music New York, acity-wide and worldwide celebration of music through free concertson the first day of summer – June 21.

For a full list of piano locations, visit For the remaining pop-up concertdates in Bay Ridge, visit

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