Leave a piano in a room, and more often than not, it’ll be ignored. But put one in the open air, and it’s suddenly the center of attention; even the shyest of passersby cannot resist tickling those keys.
That’s one of the qualities that makes Flower Piano, an annual outdoor piano celebration held amid the bucolic trees, lawns and flowers of the San Francisco Botanical Garden in July, so special. Strewn across the garden’s 55 acres like postmodern sculptures, the event’s 12 pianos attract a diverse array of players.
At any given moment during opening hours, you might wander down a path and encounter an amateur pianist hammering out “Moonlight Sonata” or “Chopsticks” with faltering enthusiasm, or turn a corner and discover a professional musician setting a redwood grove alight with rippling strains of Rachmaninoff and Liszt.
While anyone who has a regular entrance ticket for the garden can play or listen to the live music, the celebration also includes some special curated performances featuring talented soloists, like Chuchito Valdés, Van-Anh Nguyen, Sarah Cahill, Jill Tracy, Tammy Hall and Rob Reich.
Dozens of local musical groups are also involved, including musicians from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the San Francisco Symphony, the Stanford University Ragtime Ensemble and the Awesöme Orchestra Collective, to name a few. There’s a new lunchtime concert program, the return of Flower Piano’s romantic and artfully-lit evening series, and plenty of participatory and family happenings too.