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VIDEO: Musician brings sixth Oak Bay piano to life in Estevan Village

Musician unites community with pop hits in instrument’s inaugural public act
Pianist Jesse Thomas Brown warms the keys on a new public painted piano, as well as spectators’ hearts, in Estevan Village on July 22. Local resident Christina Johnson-Dean contributed the Gulbransen piano after bringing it to Victoria from her house in Berkeley, Calif. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)

Oak Bay’s new sixth painted piano along Estevan Avenue gives visitors and local residents a more social and urban environment to play some melodic majors and minors this summer.

Victoria pianist Jesse Thomas Brown took to the keys in a recent Friday pop-up show, dazzling diners at the nearby Village Restaurant for the instrument’s first public performance.

This Friday’s (Aug. 5) next pop-up concert features local musician Brooke Maxwell performing on the Turkey Head (Spewhung) piano from noon to 1:30 p.m.

District of Oak Bay acting arts and culture programmer Andrea Pass chose the Estevan Village location and worked with local artist Jennifer McIntyre, six women at Carlton House and several girls from the Neighbourhood Learning Centre to produce the paper mandalas that were pasted onto the piano.

Muriel Hanson, one of the Carlton residents whose mandala stemmed from the word ‘home,’ pointed out the Estevan painted piano is Oak Bay’s first not situated by the sea.

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Christina Johnson-Dean, selected from an overwhelmingly long list of potential donors, according to Pass, contributed her Gulbransen upright piano after years of having it in her household.

As Brown played, Johnson-Dean’s husband, Bob, stood admiring his proficiency on the keys. The couple met in Victoria but owned a house in Berkeley, Calif., where the piano previously sat. Eventually they brought Christina’s piano back with them to the Island.

“She complained bitterly that the dining room was too small,” Bob recalled. “Then she put the piano in there and it was (actually) too small.”

At that time, he joked, you needed a piano, an encyclopedia collection and fine silverware to appear “cultured.” Their piano was “kind of part of the family,” he added, and with only a couple dozen of this model left in the world, parting ways with such an instrument was hard.

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Carlton House wellness program manager Debby Macmurchie accompanied the six residents for lunch on the day in the village. Despite none of them previously doing something so artsy, they pulled the project off beautifully to make this an “everything piano,” she said. The group enjoyed their afternoon libations in the sun while listening to the nearby trill of Elton John’s Your Song and Crocodile Rock.


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