There’s good news just in case you’re walking down Ross St. in downtown Red Deer and get a sudden urge to play the piano. Now you can.
As far as a quick search can determine, Red Deer is the first city in Canada to have its own street piano.
Located at the Thai Garden Restaurant at 4916 Ross St., the piano is a gift to the City from Penhold resident Steve Woolrich.
Woolrich had heard about street pianos in other cities around the world and decided this was a good 50th birthday present to himself and the community.
“It’s an old piano with lots of character. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for the community, for everyone,” says Woolrich. “It’s a great location and we want to organize some events around it. It should become a good getting together place. Lots of people helped make this happen and we’re going to fix it up with some art.”
He bought the old piano, had it refurbished, and with help from downtown businessman Paul Harris, helped find a place for it in a small sheltered alcove at Thai Garden. It will be secured under the small overhang to protect it from sun and rain. The deck there needed replacement and Rage Exteriors donated time, labour and expertise, with materials donated by Co-op, to build a new foundation for the piano.
The piano was installed July 28 and Bethany Moreau, who works at the Red Deer Public Library, became the first person to publicly tickle the street ivories. Mayor Morris Flewwelling was the third up, but says he needs more practice before he can play in public. Half a dozen people played on it in the first 20 minutes after it was set up.
Paul Harris, who is co-owner of the nearby Sunworks gift shop and is involved with developing Red Deer’s downtown, says, “It’s great, I like it. I think it’s going to contribute to making a better downtown and get more people out on the street. It’s one more way of improving the downtown and come the fall a new street park in front of the piano will make it even better.”
The piano is there for anyone to play, and for anyone to enjoy listening to, anytime throughout the summer months. It will probably go into storage for the winter.
The first known street piano made its appearance in Sheffield, England a few years ago when it was left outside on the street temporarily because the owner couldn’t get it up the steps into his new house.
The owner and a friend attached a sign to the piano inviting passers by to play it. Many people did and it became a popular fixture in the community. It’s still going, although it was stolen once and replaced by a newer model. In fact, it was so popular, several people volunteered to provide a new piano.
Since then street pianos have popped up in several cities in England, including London, Birmingham and Bristol, and in other places around the world including Sao Paulo, Brazil and Sydney, Australia, putting Red Deer in good international company.