The height of tourist season is upon Victoria, when scarcely an intersection along Government Street is without at least a few street performers.
But two particularly enticing public curiosities are helping the audience take centre stage for the second consecutive year, thanks to one motivated Victoria teenager.
Make Me Sing is an outdoor piano project spearheaded by Reynolds secondary graduate Alastair Kierulf, who imported the idea after playing a public piano in London, England.
“I wasn’t sure how it would go, reaching out to the public and asking them to play the piano in an open square,” Kierulf says, reflecting on last summer’s enthusiastic response from otherwise-dormant musicians.
“A lot of people can play the piano, but a lot of people don’t have access to a piano, and this project provides the opportunity to play, even if you just know a few notes.”
At any given time, one person might be tinkering with the keys while the next person could be mastering Chopin or Rachmaninov.
The pianos sit in Centennial Square at Government and Fisgard streets and at the corner of Government and Belleville streets, near the B.C. legislature. Both were donated by families at Kierulf’s church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian.
Kierulf recalls watching several homeless people take to the pianos to play beautiful pieces last year at CRD Square.
“One of the guys said to me, ‘I haven’t played a piano in three years, but this is so great,’” he says.
In the mornings, when Kierulf removes the rain covers from the pianos, he takes a few minutes to play mostly for joggers passing by.
“One thing I noticed, is even if I didn’t put the cover over in the night, somebody would do that. It was really great to see the public take on the pianos as their own and look after them.”
Similar projects are taking place in Vancouver, Toronto and other North American cities this year, and Kierulf plans to pass the project torch to other Reynolds students next summer.
Make Me Sing pianos will be available until July 14 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.