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Piano des villes, pianos des champs (Piano of the cities, piano of the fields) was launched by a grouping of cultural organizations and merchant associations who managed to get funding from the local borough administration in order to follow through with their project of installing public pianos on the street for the summer. The Plateau/Mile End neighborhood of Montreal is known for its vast array of artistic activity, earning the official title of most creative neighborhood in Canada in a study conducted by Hill Strategies Research. Therefore, an annual public piano program fits right in on the colorful streets of the borough.

Public piano at the corner of Mont-Royal Est Avenue and Henri-Julien Street. Public piano at the corner of Mont-Royal Est Avenue and Henri-Julien Street.

Last year, two pianos were set on corners near busy streets for a few weeks. The idea proved successful so for the second year, two additional pianos were installed in the Plateau, as well as another in Old Montreal. The new season was inaugurated on June 4th and the pianos will be left out until the end of September. Each instrument is sponsored by a professional musician who has promised to come and give concerts several times over the course of the summer.

Public piano on Marie-Anne Est Street, at the corner of Saint-Denis Street. Public piano on Marie-Anne Est Street, at the corner of Saint-Denis Street.

Public pianos are a new trend that has been gaining much momentum in the last five years, reaching many parts of the world.  Recently, Untapped Cities reported about the 88 pianos that were scattered across New York City for a two week period by a non-profit charity organization called Sing for hope pianos. Also, British artist Luke Jerram’s Play me, I’m yours is an ever expanding artwork that has now spanned the globe, through which Jerram has installed more than 700 street pianos in 35 cities.

Public piano on Prince-Arthur street, near Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Public piano on Prince-Arthur street, near Saint-Laurent Boulevard.

Spontaneous jam sessions are usually banned on public streets in Montreal but with the pianos, they are encouraged. They bring liveliness and create a sense of sharing and community in areas where people often tend to pass hastily, rarely stopping to occupy a space that is just waiting to be used.

Novices and seasoned pianists alike are getting in on the fun. Here’s a video of Montreal singer Patrick Watson playing on one of the pianos last year.

 Music, public space, Summer

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