Sunday, July 04, 2010

Me and Mamie O'Rourke

I serenaded my late grandmother on Grand Army Plaza today!

As part of British artist Luke Jerram's wonderful Play Me I'm Yours project, dozens of old pianos have been set up in public areas around the City - painted by artists, as artists painted fiberglass cows in the Moo York campaign - for anyone who's moved to play. A rickety old spinnet, painted like a map (a 4-lane road is painted along its top), sits just behind the arch at Grand Army Plaza, for anyone with nerve enough to play. As I passed by, after a Fourth of July picnic in Prospect Park, a lone jazz pianist was playing, so I hung around and had a go. I mean, how often do you get to tickle the ivories en plein air, as cars zoom by on either side? After a shambling version of "Wien, Wien, nur du allein," which I once played for some Japanese middle school girls learning etiquette in a Tokyo ballroom, I made my way to "Sidewalks of New York" - a piece the jazz pianist didn't know (he plays old school jazz, he told me, but doesn't know all the old tunes). It's a song I associate with my paternal grandmother, who played piano and loved New York (though I guess I'm not sure why I think that she loved that particular song), and it felt lovely to give it to the city (well, Brooklyn, but she lived here too for a time), remembering her.

Boys and girls together, Me and Mamie O'Rourke,
Tripped the light fantastic, On the sidewalks of New York.

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