‘In the Key of Kingston’ brings public pianos to the community

Tourism Kingston’s “In the Key of Kingston” program will see public pianos pop up throughout the city, like this one at the Visitor Information Centre. Photo via Tourism Kingston

A new public art installation seeks to brighten up some popular Kingston locations with live music. “In the Key of Kingston” is a new project spearheaded by Tourism Kingston, and has seen the installation of three public pianos throughout the city, inviting members of the community to come together through shared musical experiences. The pianos, which were donated by the community, are free to play and open to everyone, regardless of ability. 

“This is a fun project that could have some real community engagement and smile achievement,” says Moira Demorest, Music Commissioner for Tourism Kingston. “It really warms up the environment.” 

An artist puts the finishing touches on a public piano located at the Visitor Information Centre. Photo via Tourism Kingston.

Organizers officially launched the program last week, with pianos installed at two downtown locations: Springer Market Square and the Visitor Information Centre. The instruments were painted by local artist Aaron Forsyth, owner of EronOne Art and Design. A third piano, located inside the Kingston YGK Airport, is expected to debut later this month. 

“We started off small by just [having] three pianos. I wanted to see [what] that felt like, how it worked in the environment, [and] how people were engaging with them,” Demorest says. She hopes the project will inspire similar public music installations throughout Kingston, “hopefully this will be a jumping-off point to find other neighbourhoods and other locations to put [them] in across the city.”

Considering the fact that colder temperatures are on the way, the plan is for the instruments to stay in place as long as the weather permits. “The pianos don’t love, snow, sleet, [and] all of those things… They’re somewhat protected where they are, so we’ll try our best to keep snow away and the rain at bay. Once the ice rink is installed in Market Square, we’ll have to relocate or find a forever home for that piano.” 

While the piano in Springer Market Square will require alternative arrangements during the winter months, the pianos at the Visitor Information Centre and the airport are likely to be permanent fixtures at both venues. “The piano at the Visitor Centre will pretty much stay for as long as it’s playable. And the idea for the airport one is to really keep it as long as people are engaged with it…. We’re [also] working with a fantastic piano tuner who will tweak the pianos a little bit to keep them moderately playable.”

The public piano project, which has found success in cities like Montreal, Toronto, and New York, is meant to provide a free and accessible place for citizens to connect through music, with the pianos open to anyone who is interested in playing them. 

Organizers are also working on some pop-up performances by up-and-coming musicians from throughout the region. Demorest shared that “some local emerging artists and a few emerging piano students [could] do some mini concerts for us.”

While an official lineup of performances is still in the works, Tourism Kingston will share updates once details are confirmed.

Members of the public are encouraged to share photos and videos of their experience with the public pianos on social media, using the hashtag #YGKeys. 

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