Gorgeous blooms and beautiful music are often found occupying the same territory, but has there ever been as inspired, all-encompassing and downright joyful a juxtaposition as the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s annual Flower Piano extravaganza?
Back in 2021 after a pandemic-enforced temporary halt to its five-year run, this ingenious collaboration between the Garden and the partnership duo Sunset Piano plunks down tuned pianos in 12 locations throughout the site’s 55 acres in Golden Gate Park and invites both amateurs wandering through and scheduled professionals to plop themselves down on the benches and play at will.
This year’s event takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sept. 21 and is free to San Francisco residents, with admission to everyone else priced at an affordable $3 to $13 per person (or $21 for entire families). There will be maps and printed schedules provided to those who want to hone in on particular events. But perhaps the greater attraction is the serendipity of setting foot on the many circuitous pathways through all that fragrant greenery and encountering an impromptu performance from a pint-size Paderewski or a white-haired Horowitz-in-the-making.
Scheduled performances from well-known Bay Area pianists and accompanying musicians, singers and ensembles guarantee that there will be preplanned music for every taste, from classical to romantic, punk to jazz, and rock to show tunes.
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The bulk of these gigs will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday in all 12 locations, kicking off with a promisingly tuneful party in the spacious Great Meadow billed as “Joshua Raoul Brody: Plays Beatles Songs and Accompanies YOU!” An ample sprinkling of other preset performances is also planned for Sunday; in the Celebration Garden just off the Great Meadow, featured artists include the Classical Revolution Trio playing “Chamber Music for the People” at 11 a.m. and the Cottontails kicking in with jazz, blues and R&B from the ’30s and ’40s at 3 p.m.
But many attendees will be tempted to tickle the ivories themselves, and they are invited to bring their sheet music or their preprogrammed memory banks and avail themselves of the instruments for free. Crowds do gather, and if past years prove predictive, they are supportive and enthusiastic.
For a complete schedule and more information about this year’s Flower Piano, including planned safety precautions, go to sfbg.org/flowerpiano.