Klara Woldenga sits at her kitchen table with the window closed to help quiet the sound from the piano placed steps from her Oak Bay Avenue home as part of its summer-long public art project.

Public piano problematic for Oak Bay Avenue resident

Offer of compromise left on the table

Klara Woldenga loves music. But she’s beginning to hate the sound of the piano, especially when it’s being played poorly outside her bedroom window at 11:30 p.m.

Woldenga and her boyfriend Jordan Peltier, live on Oak Bay Avenue, in an apartment directly behind Entrance park, just steps away from one of three pianos installed for two months as a public art project organized by the district and arts laureate Barbara Adams.

“I woke up to it. There was a film crew there, they had a professional playing it. It was pretty,” she said of the initial installation. But as the day wore on, more and more people played the piano, and most were not professionals. Some played for a few minutes, some for as long as an hour. Kids banged on the keys, and one mom used the instrument to give her daughter a piano lesson.

By the end of the week, Woldenga was looking up the district’s noise bylaw.

The bylaw states the playing of any musical instrument, whether in a private or public place in such a manner or with such volume liable to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of individuals or the public is prohibited. However, the bylaw does not apply to music in a public park or square in connection with any public meeting, public celebration or public gathering.

“I called the bylaw officer, who was very rude to me, and told me the city counts it as a celebration. But this is for two months, so I don’t see that as counting. If it lacks melody, rhythm or it’s off-tune, it’s not music,” she said.

The piano is supposed to be open from 10 a.m. to dusk, but the instrument is wrapped in tarp by a worker who gets there sometime between 9 and 10 p.m.

Woldenga herself went out to wrap the piano when one man was playing at 9:30 p.m. “Jordan has to get up at 5:30 in the morning and we couldn’t sleep.”

On the evening of July 10, the piano remained open until 10:30 p.m. when Woldenga wrapped the tarp around it. “(Someone) took the tarp off and played it at 11:30 at night,” she said.

Peltier is an electrician and spends much of the day away from the piano noise, but Woldenga, who graduated from the University of Victoria last spring, is an editor and artist who works from home.

As the discord continued, she contacted Chris Hyde-Lay, Oak Bay’s manager of parks.

“I am willing to compromise. I asked if they would close the piano at 5 p.m., or just move it to a different corner. He told me they are not willing to move it because they have got a lot of positive response from this piano – so basically, I have to deal with it.”

The piano can be heard clearly above the sound of traffic at the busy intersection. It even rises above construction across the street. All of Woldenga and Peltier’s living spaces have windows that overlook the park where the piano sits. Particularly with the warmer weather, all of the windows are wide open to allow air flow, except where Woldenga is working, as she has to leave the windows closed to concentrate.

“I feel bad because people are really enjoying it and I think it’s a really good idea, but they should have tried to put it in a non-residential area,” she said.

As traffic slows during the evening, the sound of the piano intensifies. “It echoes everywhere. I’m surprised they’re so reluctant to move it to another corner,” she said. “It’s a piano, not a mountain. They could pick it up.”

Hyde-Lay was on holiday this week and could not be reached for comment.

Ray Herman, Oak Bay’s director of parks and recreation, did not return calls to the Oak Bay News prior to press time.

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