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Striking a Chord! Bostonians Embrace Pop-up Painted Pianos

Street Pianos: In this Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016 photo Scott Frazer, of Medford, Mass., plays a piano on the sidewalk in the Harvard Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Mass. A number of working pianos painted by local artists have been placed around Boston and Cambridge, each with a simple message to passersby: "Play Me, I'm Yours."

Bostonians are embracing the painted pianos that have popped up across the city and neighboring Cambridge in recent days.

Celebrity Series of Boston placed 60 upright pianos decorated by local artists late last week. Each instrument bears a simple message: "Play Me, I'm Yours."

And play residents and visitors have.

At historic Faneuil Hall's Quincy Market food hall on Tuesday, a group of high school students from Boston took turns singing and playing Adele's "Hello" and other pop tunes while the tourist-heavy, lunchtime crowd largely went about their day.

A few short blocks away, near a carousel along a grassy linear park, Somerville resident Zoë Madonna found a bit more solitude to play Joni Mitchell's "River" and later "Your Hand in Mine" by the Texas band Explosions in the Sky.

"It sounds pretty good," said the 23-year old accordionist for a local band playing contra dance music. "There are a few sticky keys and you can't really get a lot of sound out of it, but it's not as out of tune as it's going to be in a few days."

The pianos, which will be available until Oct. 10, are part of a public art project by British artist Luke Jerram that's been installed in 50 cities worldwide, including London, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Munich, New York and Los Angeles.

The installation last came to Boston in 2013, and more than 500,000 people used them that year, organizers said.

Gary Dunning, president of Celebrity Series Boston, hopes the installation helps spread the "joy of live performance" and shows people that "the arts are for everyone and that all people should have the opportunity to participate."

The pianos have been placed in all of Boston's 23 neighborhoods and around some of the region's most recognizable landmarks, from Harvard Square to the Boston Library and the gold-domed Massachusetts State House. At Fenway Park, a portrait of retiring Red Sox slugger David Ortiz graces a green-painted piano.

Locations for the pianos, as well as videos and photos people have shared from their performances are on the web at

Among the video clips is Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang doing a rendition of George Gershwin's Prelude No. 3 by the reflecting pool of the Christian Science church on Friday.

Members of the Boston Ballet also played music from their season opener- Le Corsaire-on Tuesday afternoon near the city's famed Common.

"Every time I see these things out, I'm amazed at the condition they're in," said Boston resident Cliff Sawyer, as he casually tapped out a melody on a piano in the busy retail district of Downtown Crossing. "Hate to say it, but some people just like to destroy stuff. It's just the way it is."