Piano plays a key to downtown fun
Culture: 1936 Kiesler piano is drawing a lot of attention this summer
Wednesday, Aug 30, 2017 06:00 am
Music emanating from an 81-year-old Kriesler piano in downtown Okotoks is drawing a lot of attention this summer.
Whether it’s people plopping down on the seat to play a few tunes or professional pianists offering free entertainment during lunch hour once a month, the 1936 Kriesler has become a part of Okotoks’ downtown landscape.
“I’ve been walking to work in the summer time and every time I walk by there is someone on the piano,” said Andrea Spiers, RPAC specialist. “Yesterday on my way to work a lady had a song book and a group of people brought chairs to the piano. It’s really neat to see lots of people are playing it. It is being used and people are really enjoying it.”
The Town increased the hype around the piano with the introduction of Picnic at the Piano in 2015, which brings professional pianists to the Olde Towne Plaza the fourth Wednesday in May, June, July and August. The piano was donated by Art Gieck with the Calgary Piano House.
This year’s entertainers included Calgary jazz pianist Sheldon Zandboer, Okotoks-raised jazz singer/songwriter Ellen Doty, Calgary jazz pianist Andrea Petrity and Mount Royal University music professor Bruce Petherick.
“We are noticing people that are just walking by and then stop,” Spiers said. “You can hear it all over downtown, which is so neat. That draws people as well.”
Spiers has also noticed seniors from different homes in Okotoks attend events, as well as other citizens bringing chairs and a picnic to take in the full hour.
“It’s free and it’s outdoors,” she said. “There’s not a lot of outdoor concerts so I think people really enjoy that.”
Jenn Connelly has brought her family to the event three times this summer and last, and wishes she would have been able to attend more often, but it often conflicted with her work schedule.
“I like the atmosphere,” she said. “There’s people of all ages and everyone is enjoying themselves.”
Connelly will often bring a picnic lunch and let her youngsters dance to the music.
“They love it,” she said. “We pack a lunch, we meet friends, the kids dance and have a lot of fun. It’s okay that our kids are being a little crazy and dancing. It’s this relaxing, worry-free, fun event.”
Picnic at the Piano adds culture to the community, said Connelly.
“You hear music that you don’t hear every day,” she said. “Having someone play live music is really neat. I like that it’s piano and vocals. It’s a different experience.”
Having the piano available to the public to play on throughout the summer is an added bonus, she said.
“I see people playing it a lot when I get downtown,” she said. “It seems like it’s well used. It’s a good reason to get downtown.”
Although Picnic at the Piano is done for this season, children’s entertainer Natasha Sayer will perform at the piano during Alberta Culture Days Sept. 30.