L.A. Chamber Orchestra Debuts Piano-Playing Celebration

Photo by Leslie Velez

Before sunrise Thursday, April 12, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Music Director Jeffrey Kahane came upon an upright piano standing fountain-side in downtown Los Angeles’s California Plaza.  Coated in blue paint and ornamented with circles designed by members of the Braille Institute of Los Angeles, the piano awaited its debut later that same day as one of 30 pianos  in the citywide music and art exhibition,”Play Me, I’m Yours.”

“I came out at 5:30 this morning,” Kahane said, “and the piano was already there.  There was absolutely nobody was around.  It was freezing.  I sat down and played a little Bach.  It was wonderful, very peaceful.”

“Play Me, I’m Yours” is a creation of British artist Luke Jerram.  Since 2008 it has toured the world and made over 500 pianos available for public playing in London, New York, Sydney, and a dozen other cities.  The pianos placed in Los Angeles community centers, along sidewalks, and on plazas and piers are part of a local celebration held by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in honor of Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th anniversary as music director of the ensemble.

And so it was fitting that Kahane was one of the first to play Cal Plaza’s piano in those quiet predawn hours.

By noon an upbeat crowd surrounded the piano, with the artists and musicians from The Braille Institute playing jazz standards on the keyboard and saxophone.  A countdown rang in the first “play-in” of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier,” Book 1.

Photo by Leslie Velez

Kahane, the featured guest, was present at some of the first concerts the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra ever played, 40 years ago.  He was a young piano student then, and when he became a professional musician, he played with the orchestra.  “Even then I didn’t ever think I would be, for many years, the music director, and here I am celebrating my 15th anniversary,” Kahane said in an interview.

“It’s such an incredible thrill for me to be part of this project, a gift form the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to the people  of Los Angeles.  There are these 30 beautiful works of art that they’ve placed all over the city, which are there for three weeks, 24 hours a day, for anyone who wants to play the piano to sit down and play, whether they’re four years old or 90 years old, whether they may have played all their lives or never touched a piano.”

Aware the the pianos bring a level of accessibility to music often unreached in many Los Angeles neighborhoods, Kahane wants “Play Me, I’m Yours,” to generate a lasting eagerness to explore music-making further.

Photo by Leslie Velez

“What I hope is that everybody who touches one of these pianos, who plays them, will be inspired to play more, and perhaps learn to play the piano, or at least to have the understanding that this is something that, there is room for everyone.  Music is not just for professional musicians, and its not just for people who can afford to buy tickets to expensive concerts.  It’s for everyone.”

More information on “Play Me, I’m Yours,” including where to find the 30 pianos scattered around town, is at Streetpianos.com.  Below view a video of Kahane’s “Play Me, I’m Yours” performance and a glimpse of visitors to the piano hosted by The Music Center.



  • Leslie Velez

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    LyricalLA Writers

    May 21 2012