The City of London Festival kicked off in fine, quirky style on Sunday June 26, 2011 with a tribute to Australian composer Percy Grainger on the festival's street pianos.
The brainchild of installation artist Luke Jerram, the pianos form part of an ongoing art work called “Play Me, I'm Yours” and are dotted about the Square Mile, London's financial district, for the duration of the festival.
Members of the public were the warm-up band, playing the pianos near St Paul's Cathedral with lots of enthusiasm and varying degrees of skill. Tunes included everything from Happy Birthday to Let It Be, with a few snatches of Ray Charles What'd I Say thrown in for good measure. A sizable crowd had gathered around the pianos in Paternoster Square by the time the musicians, students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Centre for Young Musicians, arrived. Their set, a mixture of Grainger compositions and their own work, drew much applause.
This is the third year that the brightly decorated pianos have graced the City of London Festival. Artist Luke Jerram's "Play Me, I'm Yours" has been a great success, staged in cities around the world since 2008.
“The pianos act as a blank canvas for everyone else's creativity. This is an opportunity for people to express themselves and connect with one other. You get strangers giving each other piano lessons,” Jerram told the BBC in 2010.
This year's festival has an antipodean theme, aiming to celebrate the arts of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Upcoming events include a concert by Australian guitarist John Williams and the English Chamber Orchestra at the Guildhall Old Library, the London Symphony Orchestra at St Paul's Cathedral and the Royal New Zealand Ballet at the Barbican, along with early morning didgeridoo playing on three of London's bridges. There will also be a chance to see a Maori war canoe and a fearsome display of the traditional Maori dance the Haka on July 1 2011.
The City of London Festival, which started in 1962, runs from 26 June to 26 June, with a number of associated free events continuing until 12 August.