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Pianos in the Park pays tribute to Gord Downie Print-ready version

by Aedan Helmer
Ottawa Citizen
October 11, 2016

The people behind Pianos in the Park hope their latest creation will blaze the same trail as its namesake.

The first in the non-profit group's Canadian Music Legends series features a mural honouring Gord Downie, with the iconic singer depicted mid-wail, and the phrase "In Gord We Trust" stamped above the keys.

Nicholas Pope, founder of Pianos in the Park - which in four years has placed two dozen donated pianos in public spaces across the community for the people to enjoy - is now hoping to bring the music to the people, and bring the show on the road.

"It seemed fitting to make the very first piano in this series in honour of GD because of his contribution to the Canadian music world," Pope said. "We've seen quite a lot of interest from people in bringing this to their community, and we're going to take it to the people."

Pope's hope is that, like Downie himself, the piano "will become an iconic piece of Canadian music history."

Following a fundraiser Oct. 20 to 23 at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park, where pianists of all skill levels, ages and experience are invited to tickle the ivories for a donation (funds are split between Pianos in the Park and Downie's cancer research initiative through Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital), Pope plans to load the piano on a five-tonne truck and head cross-country.

Organizers were still hammering out tour details as the piano was unveiled Tuesday at Lansdowne in a pop-up concert featuring local pianoman Tyler Kealey christening the instrument while lifelong Tragically Hip fan Glen Badour belted out Hip hits Grace, too, New Orleans is Sinking (cheekily altered to "Rideau Street is sinking ...") and Ahead by a Century.

Pope is hoping the Gord Downie piano is just the first in a series. He's already reached out to other icons, including the estate of the late-great Glenn Gould, and several pop icons with connections to Ottawa: Paul Anka, Alanis Morissette and Bryan Adams.

He's also reached out to Joni Mitchell with a unique request: as an artist as well as a musician, she's been invited to create her own self-portrait piano.

Anyone interested in taking part in the fundraiser is encouraged to follow along with Pianos in the Park through their Facebook page.

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