Guelph’s sidewalk piano attracting interest

The following article appeared in the July 17 edition of the Guelph Mercury:

merc piano

Lorri Medill lets her fingers make the music on a standup piano outside Thomas Video in downtown Guelph, where store owner Ian Findlay invites members of the public to play to their heart’s content while enjoying the summer heat.

People who say music speaks to them don’t often mean literally.

But that’s exactly the case with a white upright family piano entrepreneur and city Coun. Ian Findlay recently placed outside his Thomas Video store on Baker Street downtown.

With markers he’s provided, people have been scribbling autographs and graffiti all over the musical instrument that’s seen better days in its more than half century of existence but continues to offer sounds of note.

The comments include “random pianos on the street make for happy memories,” “music is my soul, heart and life,” and “home is behind/the road ahead/and there are many/paths to tread.”

There’s “Lisa loves Guelph” and “Heather rocked the piano,” as well as the incongruous “bodies are not for harvesting” message.

“Meredith” drew a Saturn image, perhaps hearing a ringing in her ears from the piano, slightly out of tune from a cracked harp, a part of the frame.

Despite this challenge, Lorri Medill of Rockwood was coaxing the ancient wood Tuesday afternoon, smiling as she drew melodic phrases from the instrument.

“Music . . . connects me to my heart,” the yoga enthusiast said between short pieces. She has keyboards at home and plays in a yoga chanting band or kirtan.

“It sets my spirit free,” she continued. “It’s beyond words.” It makes her feel, as they say, one with the universe.

“It’s like yoga for me,” Medill emphasized.

Findlay brought the piano on site outside his store as part of the Art In The Street cultural event Saturday in the city’s core, attracting musically inclined youth – and decided he liked it there. Originally of natural wood finish, it received coats of white paint quite some time ago.

“This is my old family piano. It’s got a little crack in the harp, so it won’t hold a tune. I can’t get it into key.” But it remains good enough to have some musical fun with.

“I said: You know what? I’m just going to keep it here all summer.” Perhaps to Labour Day or longer.

Players in these impromptu scenes tend to prefer to play classical pieces, while others gravitate to “jazz, rock, nursery rhymes,” said Findlay, who studied music in his youth and remains enthralled with the sweet sounds of the pianoforte, an instrument with a esteemed history dating back centuries.


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