Live piano music for new art exhibition

The experience of a pianist playing background music at an artist reception of new works shows that people do listen. Live music does make a difference.

How do you attract people to come to a new exhibit of artworks?

  1. Announce it in the papers. Send out personal invitations. E-mail those on the mailing list. Tweet.
  2. Serious buyers would come if invited to the private viewing or artist reception.
  3. Others would come out of curiosity.
  4. Add champagne and hors d’oeuvres to entice people to stay, view the works, and chat with the artists.
  5. Add live music to encourage the flow of conversation and set the ambiance.

When we visited the NaPua Gallery in the Grand Wailea in mid-March 2011, I imagined live music at the next artist reception. When I accepted the invitation to play there, I imagined myself sitting at the Yamaha baby grand outside the main entrance, luring people to visit the gallery. I collected a variety of sheet music for that event, to play as background music.

  • Le Onde and other new age, modal music by the Italian composer Ludivico Einaudi
  • Piano arrangements by Dan Coates
  • Songs sung by Elton John (as he gave a concert on Maui not too long ago)
  • Classical pieces by Robert Schumann, Claude Debussy, and others

On the day before the event, I learned that the baby grand piano was not available. I had two choices: give up the gig or bring my own instrument.

It would have been easy to give up the gig, but I had already imagined myself playing the music I had selected for this event. Not only that, I also wanted to be an integral part of that event — to meet the artists, to see their works, and to participate in something so beautiful. Having had some of the most interesting conversations at private viewings of contemporary art in London and Amsterdam, I did not want to give up the opportunity to attend my first such event on Maui.

With little time to spare, I decided to ask two music lovers I had befriended recently. “May I borrow your clavinova?”

Help a friend in need, and you become a friend indeed.

Moving the 25-year old Yamaha Clavinova (pictured below) required first dismantling the keyboard from its stand, three people to lift the weighted keyboard, fitting the items into the car, unloading the items onto a trolley, wheeling it to an elevator, and reassembling the items on site. My friends had endless patience and no complaint about the interruption to their Saturday.

Live piano music at artist reception at the NaPua Gallery in the Grand Wailea
Live piano music at artist reception at the NaPua Gallery in the Grand Wailea, photo. W. Herrerra

On a tropical island where the salt in the air and humidity cause pianos to wear out sooner than usual, piano owners incur high maintenance costs. A local piano tuner told me that he spends most of his time repairing pianos. A good instrument is rare to come by. How then does a newcomer find a piano to practise on, let alone to perform?

As it turned out, the electric piano was not a poor substitute for the real thing. I played with the different settings and adjusted the volume. Unlike my concert performance earlier that day, the gallery performance was intended as background music. No one acknowledged me after each piece like the residents in the luxury retirement home that same afternoon. No one applauded. At times I felt invisible.

Just after 8 pm, I stopped. I joined the rest of the guests with a glass of champagne and a bite of the delicious crab cakes to meet the artists. I considered it a privilege to discuss the works with the creators. Once my music stopped, I started receiving feedback. People were listening after all.

Original acryllic miniatures, same size, different frames by Roxana Broadbent
Original acryllic miniatures, same size, different frames by Roxana Broadbent

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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