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Friday Slide Show: Flower Piano Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

17 July 2015

We didn't expect to return to the Botanical Garden quite so soon but last weekend we couldn't resist. Twelve end-of-life pianos had been installed in various spots throughout the Garden and from noon until 2 p.m. they would all enjoy scheduled performances.

They're there for 12 days, though, in a Flower Piano art installation in which anyone can sit at the keyboard and tickle out a tune. The event runs through July 20 and tomorrow there's another set of scheduled performances from noon until 2 p.m.


This wild idea is the work of Mauro ffortissimo and Dean Mermell of Sunset Piano, which is "dedicated to bringing piano culture and music to a world that needs good things." Accurate Piano Movers had a hand in it as well. Well, both hands.

Mauro ffortissimo made news when he rolled an old grand piano onto the bluffs over Half Moon Bay under the cover of a thick fog on the first night of February 2013. He played the same Schumann Arabesque each night at sunset. After the final performance on Valentine's Day, he set the old piano on fire.

These old pianos in the Garden, remarkably in tune, won't be burned down. But they're on their last legs. And this is a particularly lovely way for them to bow out.


If you do the math you'll realize that visiting 12 performances in two hours will net you a maximum of 10 minutes per performance. Actually, it's even less than that because you have to walk from one venue to another. So you're going to hear about five minutes each if you try that.

You're better off checking the schedule and picking a handful to attend. We managed to visit four, staying for one or two pieces each before moving along.


Last Saturday we started near the Waterfowl Pond where Esther Aeschback from Half Moon Bay was playing Debussy, Schubert, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and Schumann on a baby grand below some exotic branches that sheltered us all from the sun.

We moved along to the Moon Viewing Garden where Serene was playing Ravel, Debussy, Gershwin, Chopin and Liszt on another baby grand set out on a Persian rug on the platform over the reflecting pond. Her performance of Debussy's Claire de Lune was enchantingly perfect.

Ramsey. Knocking 'em dead.

Then we found Eric Chase in the Redwood Grove playing Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. He did a little classical interpretation too that caught the audience by surprise. That was a tough venue because the benches in the cathedral-like setting were in direct sunlight. Chase and his baby grand were in the shade and there is a ring of benches in the shade as well. But you may have to wait your turn.

Our final stop was in the open California Native Garden Stone Circle where Suzanne Ramsey or Kitten on the Keys, as she calls herself, played everything from Nino Rota to 1920s pop tunes without wilting in the heat. She had a big happy crowd that was just crushed when 2 p.m. rolled around and she took her bows.

We visited a few other venues after 2 p.m. where we caught a few talented amateurs playing to small groups and even alone. You can do that yourself until July 20 when the pianos roll away forever.


If all that classical music suggests a concert hall experience, do what Serene did when a helicopter hovered over the Garden during one of the softer passages in the classical piece she was playing. Take a break and smile.

You're outdoors in the middle of the city. There are birds, helicopters, commercial airlines, ambulance sirens, buzzing insects, horns, car alarms, crying babies, barking dogs and guys with dSLRs whose shutters are music to their own ears.

But for a brief moment in the history of mankind there is also lovely piano music in the mix. And it's not to be missed.

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