Add the city of Merritt to the growing list of communities worldwide who are jumping on the street piano bandwagon so to speak.

Last Wednesday, a beautifully-decorated standup piano and bench were unveiled at Spirit Square in our city’s downtown core. The piano will remain there for all to see and play and listen to. It is prominently situated under the protective roof of the gazebo located at the busy corner of Voght Street and Granite Avenue.

“We were doing some reading up on the street piano movement (known as Play Me, I’m Yours) that is catching on around the globe,” said Const.
Tracy Dunsmore of Merritt’s Community Policing Office. “It is a wonderful way to spontaneously bring people together, almost at any time of the day or night.”

Dunsmore had a few conversations with people around town and in pretty short order a piano was offered up to help with the cause.

“It’s from an anonymous donor — a local person who would prefer to remain nameless,” is all Dunsmore would say.

Members of the Smart Step youth group were commissioned to give the venerable old piano a fresh coat of paint and a touch of pizzazz — as has become customary with the street pianos that now adorn villages, towns and cities on almost every continent.

It didn’t take long before the piano at Spirit Square began creating quite a buzz. In fact, within minutes of its installation last week, a variety of interested onlookers began gathering around — some giving the ivories a tickle or two, others content to just relax and listen. paino_web

Local music teacher Cecilia Dyck was one of the first to sit down and break out a tune or two — to the delight of passersby heading to the post office or out for a pleasant walk in Merritt’s downtown.

Later the same day, at dusk, an unnamed father and daughter sat down at the piano and played a soothing duet together.

“It’s our hope that the street piano catches everyone’s interest, and they make a point of stopping by to see what’s happening,” CPO coordinator Kelly Donaldson said. “So far, everyone who’s seen it has been quite intrigued.”

Asked about the possibility of vandalism or even theft, Donaldson said, “We have faith.”

A tarp that was being used to cover the piano overnight has gone missing, but Donaldson doesn’t believe that anyone took it deliberately.

“I think that it might have inadvertently been picked up by one of the other groups using Spirit Square when they were taking things down. I’m hoping that it’ll show up in a day or two.”

The piano bench has had to get a bit of touch of work done to it already, something Donaldson feels is inevitable when you’re inviting the world to come sit down and play.

“We don’t want there to be any hesitation,” she said. “People should just come and enjoy themselves.”

Street pianos – a worldwide movement bringing people together

Play Me, I’m Yours was first commissioned in 2008 by a group called Fierce Earth in Birmingham, England. Fifteen pianos were placed around the city for a period of three weeks. It is estimated that 140,000 people played or listened to the music on the pianos in that brief period of time.

News of the project quickly spread worldwide and street pianos began showing up in communities on almost every continent.

Located in public parks, bus shelters, train stations, markets and even on ferries, the pianos are available for any member of the public to play and enjoy.

Street pianos are designed to provoke people into engaging, activating and claiming ownership of their urban landscape. They have also enticed many hidden musicians out of the woodwork ­— people who simply don’t have regular access to a piano.