The idea is to encourage communities to hold events that celebrate the instrument, from gatherings at home to performances in concert halls. Since it began in 2016, this simple concept has resonated around the world, with events taking place from Moscow to Montreal; from Berlin to Brighton.
This year, more than 100 events were scheduled to take place. Since the pandemic broke out, a message on the Piano Day 2020 website advises people to cancel or livestream events and “stay safe, act responsibly, and enjoy the music”.
The Sydney Opera House will celebrate the day with a broadcasting event of interviews and performances recorded on location and, in the age of COVID, in artists’ homes. Hear the day’s founder, Nils, talk about the piano and what it means to him, alongside performances and interviews with pianists such as Britain’s Jon Hopkins, the Netherlands’ Joep Beving, Sydney-born New Yorker’ Andrea Lam, and New York’s Margaret Leng Tan, an experimental musician and toy piano virtuoso who will explain how to give a prepared piano performance.
Each year, the Opera House programs a diverse range of musical genres , and the piano plays an important role in almost all of them, including classical, opera, jazz, Latin, R&B, pop, rock and more. The venue has about 30 pianos onsite, in its venues, foyers and dressing and rehearsal rooms. Some lie dormant, sitting in a storage room below sea level, waiting to be wheeled into a lift and onto a stage, where dexterous fingers will awaken them from their slumber.
Before any piano is ready to be played, it must be tuned. Many factors can make a piano go out of tune – age, temperature, humidity, how the pianist plays – and with more than 200 strings, it’s a complicated job that calls for a specialist such as Terry Harper, who has been tuning the pianos of the Opera House for more than 30 years.
“It's actually a very difficult thing to master,” says Terry. “It's not something you can pick up in five minutes. Even after a one-year course, you're pretty basic at tuning pianos. It takes 10 years to learn how to set a piano in tune.”