Play Me, I'm Yours'
Countywide art installation of street pianos celebrating Jeffrey Kahane's 15th anniversary with LA Chamber Orchestra features three live performances in Pasadena
By Bliss Bowen 04/05/2012
If you spot a merrily decorated piano sitting by a walkway, don’t worry. Graffiti pranksters haven’t invaded Pasadena. Pianos will be prominently positioned at public spaces across the Southland, including One Colorado, Vroman’s courtyard and the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, as part of “Play Me, I’m Yours,” an art installation launching April 12 that will festively cap the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s season-long celebration of Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th anniversary conducting the orchestra.
The brainchild of UK artist Luke Jerram, “Play Me, I’m Yours” was first mounted in 2008 in Birmingham, UK, after Jerram noticed that people at a neighborhood launderette weren’t interacting. His simple concept: Change familiar environs with an artfully decorated piano and invite anyone to play, thereby changing the ways in which people communicate. Jerram has since staged his highly interactive project in 22 cities around the world, including Barcelona, Malta, Sao Paulo and Sydney.
LA is not known for being pedestrian-friendly, but hopes are that this installation will recharge local street life. LACO Executive Director Rachel Fine has a “vivid memory” of reading about Jerram’s installation when it first appeared in London. “Then I went to New York and followed all of the press again when it appeared there,” she recalls. “It invites people to actually sit down and play.
“There’s one wonderful video clip from Times Square with a Cuban pianist playing. First he plays traditional Cuban music, and then an audience starts to gather around the piano and he breaks into a Whitney Houston song. As soon as he starts that everyone starts singing; a spontaneous community chorus emerges. They all become part of the art and the installation.”
A pianist by training, Fine first approached Jerram about bringing “Play Me, I’m Yours” to LA more than a year ago. It has taken all this time to coordinate the myriad logistics involved with obtaining, placing and decorating 30 pianos. Jerram’s project suited LACO’s desire to honor Kahane, as well as the organization’s desire to be more accessible.
“Classical music often has a tendency to isolate itself,” Fine says. “A concert hall can be daunting for someone who hasn’t been in a traditional concert hall. … We’re a community resource and we’re there for everybody.”