‘Ottawa’ Pianos in the Park Plans Gord Downie Tribute
If Nik Pope has his way, Ottawa’s next public piano will be a tribute to Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.
Pope, the man behind Pianos in the Park, wants Downie’s visage to be the first on a planned National Music Legend Series of pianos for the city.
“He is one of the most well known and charismatic musicians in Canadian history,” Pope said. “He’s a fan favourite in all genres and we thought it was fitting to pay tribute to him while he was alive rather than wait and do it posthumously.”
The Hip announced in May that Downie, 52, is suffering from inoperable brain cancer. The band will embark on one final tour that begins July 22 in Victoria and stops in Ottawa on Aug. 18, before ending with a nationally televised concert from their hometown of Kingston on Aug. 20.
Pianos in the Park has seven pianos around Ottawa — two in Carp, two in Kanata, one in Barrhaven with another soon to come, and one at Lansdowne Park. An eighth instrument, an electric piano that is to be powered by solar panels, will be placed in Claudette Cain Park in Riverside South by the end of the summer. In addition, two of its pianos are also on display — and in use by fans — at Bluesfest.
For the Downie tribute, Pope is looking for an upright piano — with plenty of space for paint — that’s in good working order. The organization hopes to raise the $1,850 “to complete the project in artistic fashion” and to cover the cost of repairs and maintenance. Pope hopes the second piano in the series would feature virtuoso Glenn Gould.
Pianos in the Park has been inundated with offers of instruments in the past, but many are found to be unsuitable, he said.
“What we’re finding is that the majority of people are looking to us as an alternative to the dump. A lot of the pianos we see are not functional. They don’t play or are in very difficult situations in the home where they basically have to be disassembled to be moved.”
The not-for-profit organization does minor repairs, paints the piano, retunes it and weatherproofs it. It works with a piano moving company to take the instrument away. Artist Jody Deguire paints them in different themes.
Pianos in the Park was inspired by British artist Luke Jerram, whose “Play Me, I’m Yours” project started by placing 15 street pianos in Birmingham, England in 2008. It now has more than 1,500 public pianos in 50 cities around the world.
Pope placed his first piano in a park in Carp in 2012 and remembers his feeling of doubt. Then, 10 minutes after the piano was unveiled, he watched an elderly couple come to it, sit down on the bench, and kiss.
“I was thinking, ‘This idea is crazy,’ but when I saw that happen it was just such a beautiful thing.”
If you have a piano to donate or want more information you can contact Pianos in the Park at 613-668-0547 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.