PLAY ME I’M YOURS: MORE PIANO NEWS FROM NEW YORK

FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Music lovers played piano and sang along with strangers over an orchestra of horns, sirens and jackhammers — drawing applause from taxi cabs and sidewalk audiences — on the first day dozens of pianos were placed throughout the city as part of a public art project.

Amidst the rush of Times Square, on a traffic triangle in the East Village and in a park with the Statue Of Liberty in the background, players flocked to the 60 pianos.

“This is the first time I’ve ever touched a piano,” said Lynette Morris, a hospital maintenance worker from the Bronx. She had just sat down at one of the instruments in the East Village, situated at the top of the subway stairs.

“I can’t play but I’m going to try.”

Moments later, as construction trucks beeped and traffic roared by, a more experienced player got his chance on the bench. New Yorkers, who don’t stop for much, halted in their tracks to listen as he ran through classics like SCOTT JOPLIN’S THE ENTERTAINER (most famously heard in the film THE STING) and VINCE GUARALDI’S LINUS & LUCY, otherwise known as the PEANUTS theme.

During his final number, LET IT BE by THE BEATLES, a guy running a nearby coffee cart stuck his head out and belted out part of the chorus.

“It’s amazing how a piano, in the middle of total urban chaos, will make everyone stop to hear the notes,” said Dana Mozie, who was visiting from Washington, D.C.

The two week project, devised by British artist Luke Jerram, is making its first U.S. stop in New York.

The instruments are open for public play from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in most locations. Each has a tarp in case of rain and they all have their own caretaker to unlock the keyboard each morning.

A few glitches were reported as the project started Monday. One piano had to be removed from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx because several of its keys were damaged by eager children, organizers said.

Other instruments had a few keys that didn’t work and one spot in Brooklyn did not open at the promised time of 9 a.m., disappointing some would be players who arrived on time.

Luke Jerram has done the installation in several other sprawling metropolises since 2008, including London, Sydney and Sao Paulo. But New York City is the largest so far.

In Battery Park, Don Nathman, a retired music teacher from Oregon, sat down and played Elton John’s Rocket Man, his white sneakers pressing the pedals as a crowd gathered around him.

“I saw it and thought, ‘Hmm!‘” he said. “Any time there’s a piano I like to play.”

When he finished, the group broke into applause.

The piano stood along a tree lined pathway near the line for the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue Of Liberty.

Children in summer camp groups passed by and couldn’t resist dragging their hands over the keys. One after another, tourists stopped to play a few notes.

Eleven year old Nolan Bonnie, of Danville, California, sat down and played BEETHOVEN’S FUR ELISE, Bach’s Minuet In G and another tune he had learned in his 18 months of piano lessons.

“That’s about all I know,” he told the small crowd.

It was harder to hear the notes in the heart of Times Square, where Aaron George’s rendition of SCOTT JOPLIN’S MAPLE LEAF RAG was nearly drowned out by honking taxis and a fire truck siren.

“It’s a little noisy,” he commented. He plays the piano at weddings in Clarkston, Michigan.

“But this is great. People need to get more music in their lives.”

He read about the installation on line and came to New York City specifically to play one of the pianos.

“I wanted to come here because this audience is huge.”

Pedestrians and passengers in passing taxis applauded the performers in Times Square.

Gili Ely, an Israeli tourist, stood listening to the music.

“This is the perfect place for this,” he stated.

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