Tom White plays a street piano in downtown Salem. Photo by Chris Lehman
SALEM, Ore. – Oregon's capital city is echoing with the sounds of impromptu piano concerts this week. About a dozen brightly decorated street pianos are scattered about town. It's part of a worldwide phenomenon inspired by a British artist.
Tom White has tickled his share of ivory over the years. The occasional night club gig. Playing with friends. But nothing could prepare him for this.
"I was coming around the corner and suddenly I see that there's a baby grand on the corner, and I thought, whaaa…?"
White sounds like a pro. But most of the music you'll hear around Salem this week will probably sound more like Michael Condash, who hopped off his bike to bang out a ditty on a piano located halfway across a bridge that spans the Willamette River.
"I think it's really cool, honestly," Condash says. "Because you can just stop and have fun and enjoy yourself."
Other Northwest cities, including Everett, Washington, have also rolled out street pianos. But Salem is one of the first cities in the country to partner with the British artist Luke Jerram, who started the craze four years ago.
Jerram couldn't make it to Salem because he's helping launch the Toronto version this month. His assistant, Sally Reay came to Oregon to offer technical support. One thing she's not worried about? The weather. It's hot and sunny in Salem these days.
"We've had 50 pianos in London for the City of London Festival. And it's rained constantly for three weeks," Reay says. "So unfortunately not many of those pianos are going to be usable at the end of the project."
Michael Condash plays a tune on a piano located halfway across the Union Street pedestrian bridge in Salem. Photo by Chris Lehman
The pianos are all gently-used models, donated with the understanding that they might not survive a week outside. The Salem version of Street Pianos is a project of the Salem Chamber Orchestra.
On the Web:
Street Pianos website: http://www.streetpianos.com/
Information about Salem project: http://salemchamberorchestra.org/?page_id=2815
Tom White plays in Salem:
Pianos in Everett, Washington: http://www.ci.everett.wa.us/default.aspx?ID=1873
Pianos in Vancouver, Washington:
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