You see a lot of strange and surprising things when walking around London but how often is one of them a piano, indeed a golden piano?
You see a lot of strange and surprising things when walking around London — but how often is one of them a piano, indeed a golden piano? However, the chances of that happening should you be walking through the City this summer are reasonably high: as part of the City of London Festival, which runs from 24 June to 27 July and is celebrating its golden jubilee this year, 50 golden pianos will be set up at various locations, giving passers-by the chance to stop and play, and even enjoy a lesson from music students at London’s conservatoires.
In a city where it is all too easy to become bogged down with material and financial concerns, the festival’s concerts will give people the chance to enjoy great art performed by talented musicians — and to escape the everyday.
The festival is a welcome reminder of the importance of breaking your routine now and then, and the elevating power that the greatest works of art can have. Instead of a rushed trip to Pret a Manger on their lunchbreaks, City workers can enjoy a piano lesson or take in a free concert; and after work, instead of enduring another chaotic commute home in a packed train, they can take in some Francis Bacon in the offices of Deutsche Bank or Berlioz in St Paul’s Cathedral.
As Ian Ritchie writes, the Festival was launched in 1962 partly to remind overheated Londoners, in the words of then Lord Mayor Sir Frederick Hoare, ‘that there are other things than those entirely material’. This is a lesson we can use more now than ever.
Fifty years later, its huge range of concerts and interactive events are a powerful way of focusing our minds on this truth. Given the economic rollercoaster of the past few years, and the black uncertainty that hangs over the City and its bankers, the festival will bring much needed joy and inspiration to the Square Mile.
So keep an eye out for those golden pianos (not that they’ll be hard to miss); they will provide colour in a landscape dominated by steel, glass and concrete. And, if you take five minutes to play a few notes or even venture a frolicsome Chopsticks, you’ll be reminded of the elevating power of a simple melody.