Tuesday, June 23, 2009

That's More Like It.

I've been avoiding Leicester Square. It's an ideal location for me to eat my sandwich, en route between Charing Cross and Frith Street, but the normally peaceful spot has been been spoiled of late by a 'sound installation'.

My regular reader will know I'm no enemy to art, even of the most abstract kind. But this was too much - a disjointed soundtrack of dialogue and snatches of choral singing relayed through speakers, in a one-hour repeat loop. Not that I stayed longer than an hour on the day it was installed. As soon as I learned from a young woman clearing polystyrene cups from a table with a Starbucks logo that it would last ten days, I was off.

In contrast to next-door Trafalgar Square with its national monuments and celebration of Empire, there's something almost cosily parochial about Leicester Square, with its trees and benches, half-price ticket-booth and the statue of the 'bard' lounging on his plinth, surrounded by cinemas and pavement cafes.

Today, peace was restored and I sank gratefully onto a bench in the shade. Then I caught sight of the piano opposite. Oh no! It must be one of those automatic machines with a cylinder inside, an electronic hurdy-gurdy.

But it was silent, and carried a written invitation on a board above the keyboard: Play me, I'm Yours.

I think it's a publicity gimmick for West End musicals, because there was a book propped on it, the pages filled with the titles of show tunes.

As I read a novel and bit into my sandwich a young woman approached the instrument, sat down and gave an impromtu rendering of Für Elise. It was pleasant, and a whole lot better than the cacophonous din emitted by the loudspeakers for the past week or so.

With recitals of this quality, I hope the piano will remain. It'll be worth a detour on days when I don't even go to class.


Joanna said...

Leicester Square isn't the only location. Sing London have donated 30 pianos in different parts of Central London to get people playing and singing. Afterwards they will be donated to schools.

More details here:

Debralondon said...

such a great idea!

Sheila Cornelius said...

uriouser and curiouser!

Seems to be spoonsored by the Olympics committee, although I didn'think singing was an Olympic sport. Maybe it's something to do with the opening ceremony. Massed choirs of schoolchidren singing would be cheap as well as inclusive. You can see they'd need pianos in schools so they could practise.

Maybe it's a spirit-of-the-blitz type of operation, though, since adults seem to be involved. Forget the credit crunch and expenses scandals, pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and sing, sing, sing.