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The 55-acre expanse of the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is bound to be awash in color at any time, given the 8,000 varieties of plants, flowers and trees from around the world coming in and out of bloom over the course of a year. But beginning this weekend, from Friday through Tuesday, there will be a special and ephemeral budding of black-on-white, as in ebony and ivory, as the annual musical extravaganza known as Flower Piano again invites lovers of both music and nature to stroll the garden grounds — stopping to smell the flowers and tune in to some lovely strains of sound.
Scattered about among the various themed sections of the garden — the Conifer Lawn, the Southeast Asian Cloud Forest, the Redwood Grove, the Garden of Fragrance — are a dozen pianos, grands and baby grands all, standing ready to surprise and delight those who meander by. Those bold or gifted enough to play are invited to perch on the benches and give an impromptu performance on the spot.
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The unlikely brainchild of Dean Mermell and Mauro ffortissimo, the festival was first launched in 2013 as a come-one, come-all affair and is now sponsored by the cofounders’ Sunset Piano organization, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the Garden.
But over the years, the event has gradually grown to incorporate more and more professionals and semi-professionals engaged to entertain with a variety of music that spans the genres, from classical and folk to pop, jazz and blues.
Best of all, it’s one of the cheapest tickets in town. San Francisco residents are admitted free; everyone else pays only the price of admission to the Garden, which ranges from $3 to $25. Flower Piano takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day of the festival. Tickets and a full schedule of the planned performances are available at https://www.sfbg.org/flowerpiano.
Here are some highlights from the schedule:
Friday, noon to 1 p.m. in the Zellerbach Garden: The Tom Jonesing pop-rock duo plays what they’re calling “Pop Renovations, Remodeling and Demolition.”
Friday, 4 to 5 p.m. in the New Zealand Collection: Pianist Ian Scarfe plays works by Bach, Chopin, Liszt and Barber.
Saturday, 3 to 4 p.m. in the Celebration Garden: Allison Lovejoy and Kymry Esainko perform Saint-Saens’ evocative “The Carnival of the Animals” with a chamber orchestra featuring members of the Classical Revolution and Niki Ulehla’s puppets.
Saturday, 4 to 5 p.m. in the Fountain Plaza: Elektra Schmidt plays the first movement of the Beethoven Concerto No. 3 in C minor.
Sunday, 2 to 3 p.m. in the Zellerbach Garden: Hear the Kev Choice Trio play African American music from classical to hip-hop.
Sunday, 3 to 4 p.m. in the Great Meadow: Lavay Smith plays classic jazz, blues and early R&B.
Monday, 1 to 2 p.m. in the Great Meadow: Kevin Navarro and bass-baritone Joshua Hughes do hits from Broadway and grand opera.
Monday, 3 to 4 p.m. in the Zellerbach Garden: Pianist Eric Shifrin is calling his program “Swinging Standards, Bouncy Latin and Rumpa Chunka.”
Tuesday, noon to 1 p.m. in the Great Meadow: The Cottontails perform jazz from the ’20s and ’30s, swing from the ’40s and R&B from the ’50s and ’60s.
Tuesday, 3 to 4 p.m. in the Zellerbach Garden: Pianist Sandra Simich plays Debussy, Brahms, Chopin and Beethoven.
For an idea of what to expect at Flower Piano, check out this video compilation from last year’s festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mN2-gkibxM.