Keys for the City ready to boogie
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 07, 2013 06:00 am
Last Thursday, St. Albert Place’s brick plaza saw the unveiling of the three stunning upright pianos turned into works of art.
Abel Urbina, 85, a master pianist, once part of the Hollywood scene, forgot his arthritic fingers as he nimbly skipped over the perfectly tuned ivories playing old lounge favourites.
Standing tall and proud, the three old and scratched uprights had been tuned, painted, sculpted and sparkled. Like an old wrinkled woman that was botoxed, rouged, dyed and primped, they were rejuvenated and worthy of every admiring glance.
“The detailing is exquisite,” said Keys for the City co-coordinator Nancy Watt. “The artists have toiled long hours, but they always had time to chat with passersby.”
The three uprights causing such a stir are the genesis of Keys for the City, a project that turns performance pianos into visual wonders that are then placed in public venues for people to play.
“These are pieces of art enjoyed by the community for years to come. These pieces have turned out beyond what I thought they could be,” notes Peter Moloney, chair of StArts Fest.
Watt and Don Vaugeois, owner of Don’s Piano Warehouse who donated the pianos, hatched the idea over lunch on a snowy day last February. It was modeled after similar projects in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto.
Blowing in like a breath of fresh air, the venture immediately prompted an ongoing cultural buzz in the community.
Moloney even commented that the day before the piano unveiling, St. Albert Public Library director Peter Bailey tweeted a picture of the musical instruments.
“He’s already received 400 positive comments,” said Moloney.
The three artists to receive the commission were Dixie Orriss, Helen Rogers and Daniel Evans. Orriss, a student of the style of Vincent Van Gogh, painted six of the master’s works in Play It Again.
Rogers, also enamoured with the tortured artist, created Van Gogh’s Garden, a sparkly jewel, a mixed-media mosaic of sunflowers, ladybugs, dragonflies and hummingbirds.
And Evans, who spent roughly 128 hours creating Topos, built sculptures of St. Albert’s major sites: the grain elevators, the clock tower, the little white school house and sections of the curvilinear St. Albert Place.
Watts describes it as “amazing. If you look down the alleyways, there are even little things built to scale.”
Since the unveiling was the only time the pianos would be together, Watt invited acclaimed national composer-pianist Jan Randall and the much-lauded piano teacher Ina Dykstra to join her in playing two songs.
The pianos will be accessible to the public until Sunday, Sept. 29. Topos will be located on St. Albert Place plaza, Van Gogh’s Garden is placed at La Crema Caffé and Play It Again is featured at Arcadia Café and Bar.
Moloney also put in a few words for StArts Fest, a celebration of Alberta Culture Days. Lined up for the three-day fest running Sept. 27 to 29 is a series of events that include improvisation, poetry readings, a story slam, a film anthology and specially programmed children’s entertainment.
For up-to-date information visit www.startsfest.ca.