The City of Edmonton had a terrific idea for a summer project. They placed pianos in public spaces around the city, an open invitation for anyone to sit down and play. Musicians of all ages and talents answered the call of #OpenPianoYEG and sat at the colourful pianos to try a tune.
The initiative went viral when Roslyn Polard recorded a song played by Ryan Arcand, a man who has called the streets home for three decades. One of the songs the self-taught pianist played was his own composition, a piece so hauntingly beautiful her video quickly went viral.
I couldn’t find the one she posted but did find others. This one is in from PirateCaptainO:
In this one by Gary Moos, Ryan softly sings John Lennon’s Imagine, his sweet voice leaning into the lyrics.
When videos of his playing went viral, CBC tracked him down and recorded him playing a Steinway grand piano. Hearing his music on the church piano was a dream come true for the street musician.
This is not, as Polard told CBC, a story with a happy ending. Arcand spent his childhood in foster care. One home had a piano. It was Arcand’s first exposure to a joy that has been with him ever since. He is now 43, though life has etched more years onto his slight frame. Addictions are more faithful companions to him than music.
Music is in Arcand’s soul. It cannot save him from a harsh life, but it can bring him solace on those fleeting occasions when he finds himself beside a beckoning piano, and his music pours into the keys.