After a two-year absence due to the pandemic, the “play me, I’m yours” piano is back at Civic Square in front of the Algonquin Theatre. It sits adjacent to the sidewalk, inviting anyone walking by to give the keys a tinkle.
And they do.
“We are excited to have it back,” said Dan Watson, executive director of Huntsville Festival of the Arts (HfA) which sponsors the piano. “It’s something that’s well-used and people look forward to it and I think it serves the community really well.”
Bryan Bobbie, for one, is thrilled that the piano has returned.
He learned the basics when he was a child and although he didn’t get past the grade one level in piano lessons, he learned enough that he can play by ear, picking out the melodies of pop songs he likes and condensing them to a more simple piano line.
“It seems to sound good and it makes me feel good,” he said.
The problem: he doesn’t have a piano at home. So Bobbie, who will be a familiar face to the customers at Metro, settles in at the open-air piano and plays. On this day, his repertoire included songs by Pink Floyd, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, and a mournful tune he’s heard at work but doesn’t know the name of.
“I really appreciate that [they]have brought the piano out, it really means a lot to me,” he said.
Each year, the piano is painted by a local artist. This year’s artist is Natasha Banks, whose design features delicate flowers, including lilies to represent the HfA’s 30th anniversary. “She’s a fantastic young artist,” said Watson.
The piano is typically replaced each year—the constant playing and the elements, even beneath a tent, take a toll. There’s no shortage of pianos, which are donated by community members, though. Watson gets several calls a year from people who are downsizing and are looking for a home for their old piano. This year’s piano came from Club 55, which is relocating to the Active Living Centre.
It was moved into place on June 1 and almost immediately a family gathered around it, kids playing while the adults enjoyed an ice cream. “It’s something fun to do when you visit here, too,” said Watson. “It’s a community piano.”
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