Come January, thanks to the San Diego Symphony, it’s going to be all pianos, all the time in San Diego. The orchestra is collaborating with a host of community partners in an ambitious, month-long Upright & Grand Festival.
With the assistance of its collaborators, the orchestra aims to show as many aspects of the piano as possible during the course of festival, which includes more than a dozen concerts plus community events.
“Pianos can be found in concert halls, night clubs, homes, schools, libraries and department stores,” said symphony CEO Martha Gilmer in a statement. “A pianist can play entire symphonies or a solo sonata. The piano can play the role of the orchestra in rehearsals of great opera and ballet scores, and it is a partner to instrumentalists and singers. The piano is both a solitary and partner instrument.”
Among the orchestra’s partners are the La Jolla Music Society, the Poway Center for the Performing Arts and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
The Music Society will bring Garrick Ohlsson (Jan. 14) to Sherwood Auditorium and Emanuel Ax (Jan. 20) to the Jacobs Music Center. The Poway Center will showcase the orchestra and pianist Jeremy Denk on Jan. 15 (he’ll also perform with the orchestra on Jan. 16-17 and with orchestra musicians in a chamber music concert on Jan. 19 at Jacobs Music Center). The California Center for the Arts, Escondido, will host a performance by Ben Folds and the orchestra on Feb. 5 (Folds will also perform in Jacobs Music Center Feb. 6).
In addition, Combat Arts; PATH — Connections Housing; Urban Discovery Academy; the New Children’s Museum and ARTS: A Reason to Survive will participate in a piano painting endeavor; as will artists Anna Stoa, Grace Gray Adams and Grace Matthews, Christie Beniston, and Sheena Dowling.
Once painted, the pianos will be placed in at least 10 public spaces including Horton Plaza, Liberty Station, the Courtyard at East Village, the New Children’s Museum and the California Center for the Arts as part of the “Play Me: Pianos in Public Spaces” element of the festival.
“Upright & Grand offers the public the opportunity to get involved by performing outdoors at any number of the ‘Play Me’ pianos in public spaces throughout San Diego,” said Tommy Phillips, the orchestra’s director of artistic planning, in a statement. “This collaborative component of Upright & Grand has both a celebratory and accessibility element as we bring the piano festival to the people via the Jacobs Music Center, Poway Center for the Performing Arts and California Center for the Arts, Escondido.”
In addition to nine programs at Jacobs Music Center, ranging from Marc-Andre Hamelin performing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the orchestra (Jan. 8-10) to a Jazz Piano Masters: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum and Bud Powell concert (Jan. 23) to Ben Folds performing his own piano concerto with the orchestra (Feb. 6), the symphony is offering a community day on Jan. 16 from noon to 5 p.m..
The Jan. 16 “Hands On: Play a Little, Learn a Lot” event will will present a range of keyboard-centric activities including free piano lessons, demonstrations (including a music app session with Apple Store representatives) and the chance to play a short piece on stage.
The community day ends with a “Monster Piano” performance on the Jacobs Music Center stage: 10 pianists will play on five pianos.
More information and tickets: sandiegosymphony.org or (619) 235-0804.