Last Saturday I was walking along a street in Edinburgh and I spied a sign that promised free music at the Pianodrome. Intrigued, I followed a gentleman into the stone buildings of the Old Royal High School. We went through a series of rooms stopping at an octagonal chamber which contained a set of stands built out of old pianos and arranged in the style of an amphitheatre. It had three working pianos built into the structure. This was the Pianodrome!
The purpose of the Pianodrome is the acoustic experience. A musical instrument, especially a piano, that is played in this room causes the entire structure to resonate. This sounds absolutely marvelous.
That Saturday, a friendly and tight-knit community of creatives and complete anarchists had gathered in the Pianodrome. Musicians covering many styles and levels of skill were roundly cheered on during an afternoon of stellar performances.
My favourite performance was an experimental piece performed by Will Pickvance, Tim Vincent-Smith and a cast of of other musicians. The challenge was to play for twenty minutes without straying into a recognisable tune. The musicians didn't just "play" their instruments, they were also playing with each other. There was a cat-and-mouse chase around the stands and a section of the performance where they were trying to find how close they could go to "Happy Birthday" without playing the song. At one stage Will's young son added a few notes to the mix, and these were deftly incorporated into the piece. The joy and chaos kept the audience laughing.
I was impressed by the sense of community and the dedication to the creative life that I witnessed at the Pianodrome, and indeed throughout Edinburgh during the festival season.