LOCKPORT – Throughout the summer, 13 pianos have been placed at various locations in downtown Lockport as part of a public art promotion.
That promotion ends today, with general agreement that “Sweet Harmony,” as it was called by the promoter, Ellen Martin, was a success.
“I think it’s been a cool thing, and I have to commend Ellen for her creativity and her imagination,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said.
“I received a lot of positive feedback about it. People took advantage of it and enjoyed it,” said Heather B. Peck, program manager for Lockport Main Street Inc.
The idea was to make used pianos into showcases of creativity by painting and decorating them in an assortment of styles, and leaving the uprights and spinets on the sidewalk for people to play as they saw fit.
“Everybody has their own stories about people coming by to play,” said Martin, owner of Sweet Sixteen Cafe and Sweet Ride Rentals. “Some are really talented.”
Otherwise, Martin said, listeners have been subjected to “a lot of ‘Chopsticks.’ ”
Bree Woodbridge, co-owner of McCollum Orchards, the only active fruit farm within the city limits, donated an old upright piano to be placed in a gazebo at Josie Carveth Packet Park on Market Street, near the Market Street Art Center and Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises.
The instrument, a one-time player piano, is estimated to be about 80 years old. Woodbridge said it was appropriate to place it in a park named after her husband Richard Woodbridge’s great-grandmother.
Like most of the other pianos, it was left exposed to the elements during what has been a rather wet summer.
“It weighs 400 pounds, so good luck moving it,” Bree Woodbridge said. “It was out in the barn, so it’s used to the weather … It’s in OK shape. It actually held its tune surprisingly well.”
Neither she nor Richard play the piano, but they did find some old sheet music from the 1920s that they left with the instrument in the park, including an obscure old song called “The First Kiss.” There were reports that some skilled pianist sight-read that song recently.
“I think it was a fun, positive part of the summer, and kudos to Ellen for thinking it up,” Bree Woodbridge said.
The piano outside City Hall was covered more often than not, as it was late in being painted. It was exposed more in the last couple of weeks.
Main Street businesswoman Julie Muscato had her piano painted in-house, using a black-and-white chevron design. Many pianos were decorated by artists from the Market Street Art Center.
“People walk by and start pecking away. Most of them are just having fun,” said the owner of Julie Muscato Interior Design on Main Street, who placed the piano outside her store.
Muscato said she made no effort to protect the donated piano from the rain.
“I had to put mine out so far toward the street, because I don’t have an overhang,” Muscato said. We decided we would just let it be.” Martin supplied tarpaulins for piano protection, but Muscato said her piano “would have just been covered up all weekend. … It did take a little more wear and tear than the others, but it still plays.”
Woodbridge placed a piece of Plexiglas above the keyboard of her piano to protect it from vandalism.
Martin, who had pianos outside both of her businesses, said the only report of intentional damage came from Old City Hall on Pine Street, where someone stole the black keys off the keyboard.
“I’m not sure why,” Martin said. “It was a disappointment. I’m a little surprised there wasn’t more [vandalism].”
Other pianos were at Lake Effect Ice Cream, the Lockport Cave ticket office, Market Street Art Center, Pallister House Florists, Sixteen West Salon, the YWCA, and the Lockport Public Library, the latter sponsored by Miller Pianos, whose owner, Tom Miller, did the tuning and collected most of the donated instruments used in “Sweet Harmony.”
A plan to place a piano at the Niagara County Courthouse fell through.
The piano promotion was timed to end today, the day of the annual Taste of Lockport in Ida Fritz Park, West and Park avenues.
About 20 local eateries will serve food from noon to 6 p.m., to the accompaniment of live music by Brother 2 Brother and The Moondogs.
Shamus Restaurant will be defending its titles won last year as the People’s Choice, along with best dessert and best appetizer, while Cammarata’s Restaurant will defend the crown for best entree.
Today also marks the completion of Martin’s Sweet Chalk promotion on the Canal Street sidewalk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Carolyn Schultz, a star chalk artist from Orlando, Fla., will be completing her sidewalk chalk edition of the Mona Lisa, and other local artists also will be working on their hands and knees.