Strange Stories Surrounding “Street Pianos”

street piano

via NPR.com

Under the headline “Signs of Summer” in 1916, the New Castle, Del., Herald listed: lollipops, robins, bare feet and street pianos.

Yes, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, street pianos were everywhere. Their perky, plinky, preset music — playing the same songs over and over — filled the air in towns across America.

Often mounted on wheels or on a monopod, the wooden-cased street piano or barrel piano or barrel organ — the terms were sometimes used interchangeably — came in several sizes. Like a portable player piano, the street version was usually operated by a hand crank, and it played prefab popular tunes, such as polkas, quadrilles, waltzes and show songs.

“When the piano man arrives before your door there instantly gathers from the thin air a crowd of children, and when the music begins off they go, up and down the smooth pavement, dancing to the music,” a Washington bureau reporter of the Saint Paul, Minn., Globe wrote in the spring of 1892.

With its origins in Italy, the street piano’s salient feature — for better or worse — “was its loud tone to be heard above street sounds,” according to the 2004 book The Piano: An Encyclopedia. By tradition, many of the pianists, or organ grinders, as some of the players were known, were from Europe. Both men and women operated the instruments.

Some Americans hated the rinky-tinkiness and repetition of the street piano. “It is a dull crowd the organ grinder appeals to,” observed the Reading, Pa., Times in July 1898. In some hamlets — such as Allentown, Pa., and Brooklyn, N.Y. — organ grinders were fined or arrested because they refused to stop playing. The city of Somerville, Mass., declared “war on organ grinders,” the Fitchburg Sentinel stated in September 1893.

Other Americans loved the lilting, uplifting tunes, wafting through the breezes, and traditionally showed their appreciation with tips. Small children, companions or, most famously, leashed monkeys sometimes accompanied the grinders to collect the money after songs.

Strange stories also followed the street piano players:

In New Bern, N. C., for instance, the Spectator reported in 1838 that a strolling Italian musician had been hanging around for a couple of days “and was pretty well remunerated for the entertainment he afforded by playing on a portable barrel piano which he carried through town.” A few days after leaving New Bern, the story swept through the village that the musician had reportedly been murdered in Waynesboro, N.C., “and that his piano had been found in the woods, broken and useless.” Turns out the latter part of the tale was true, but not the former. A stage coach driver subsequently saw the man, staff in hand, some 30 miles north of Waynesboro.
On July 4, 1902, an Italian-American street pianist from Philadelphia was charged with murder for shooting three men in front of the Crystal Palace Hotel in Reading, Pa., the Harrisburg, Pa., Telegraph reported after the celebrated case was tried. The piano player — who entered a self-defense plea — was acquitted because witnesses said the three men had harassed and assaulted him first.
When an organ grinder arrived in Richmond, Va., in 1905, The Washington Post reported at the time, he was arrested for “owning” a “human monkey” — a man who had been disfigured in an industrial accident.
In the summer of 1907, a young New York City man named Charles McCarthy bumped against a young street pianist named Philomena Castino as she was entertaining a group of children. Castino attacked McCarthy, the New York Evening World noted, “with tigerish ferocity and after plunging a stiletto into his arm and breast fought with knife, teeth and nails against the policeman who sought to arrest her.”

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Jordan Kitt’s chosen to provide Yamaha Piano for Barry Manilow at DC’s “A Capital Fourth” Celebration

barry manilow 4th cr

Jordan Kitt’s Music was pleased to be selected as the provider of the Yamaha concert grand piano played by Barry Manilow at Washington D.C.’s “A Capital Fourth” Celebration on July 4th in the nation’s capital. As Washington DC’s most trusted home of new & used pianos since 1912, Jordan Kitt’s is the proud to be selected as the provider of Yamaha and Bosendorfer concert grands for international artists at some of the areas most respected venues, such as Strathmore, The Kennedy Center and many others.

Read more about the event here via the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Barry Manilow sang a medley of “Let Freedom Ring” to lead off a booming fireworks display on the National Mall.

Manilow’s performance put the nation’s capital in a patriotic mood, opening the Independence Day concert that preceded the fireworks display.

Manilow also sang “America the Beautiful” and “One Voice” with the National Symphony Orchestra. Nicole Scherzinger sang the national anthem, country singer Hunter Hayes sang his new hit single “21” and KC and the Sunshine Band got the crowd on their feet.

Security was tight with officers checking all bags. Visitors had to pass through metal detectors near the U.S. Capitol lawn.

Later, the National Symphony played the “1812 Overture” as cannons roared amid the explosion of fireworks near the National Mall.

full article here

11 year old performs original composition at national Yamaha piano concert

via the ocregister

Since she began studying piano at age 4, Rebecca Liu has performed on the piano many times for audiences.On Sunday, when the 11-year-old took to the stage at the National Junior Original Concert at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center, there was one big difference.Rebecca, one of 13 students selected to perform in the concert, was playing music she had composed.

Her original composition, called “My Magical Adventure,” encompasses three movements. The students who performed their original compositions Sunday were selected by Buena Park-based Yamaha of North America from among those who study at more than 60 Yamaha Music Education System sites across the country. Each student also attended a four-day series of workshops to complement their studies.

The Turtle Rock Elementary School student’s interest in music was inspired by her father, Sam Liu, who occasionally plays piano and violin at home. She has been working on “My Magical Adventure” for about two years, said her mother, Maggie Liang.

Rebecca, who will enter sixth grade in the fall, has studied piano two years with Su-Shing Chiu, who teaches at the Yamaha Music Center in Irvine, Liang said. Last year, Rebecca performed an earlier version of her competition in Chicago at the Music Teachers National Association Elementary Composition Contest, where she took first place.
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