Tickle The Ivories at Liverpool ONE

Tickle The Ivories launched this weekend with a bang.  Or should that be with a plinky plink plink? Either way, it’s a fantastic example of bringing music out into the open.

John Wishart tickling the ivories

Organised by the tireless girls at Open Culture, Tickle The Ivories sees five pianos placed around Liverpool ONE played by a host of musicians that include solo artists, large groups, school choirs and our very own Culture Champ, John Wishart.

I pootled over to Liverpool ONE on Sunday with my offspring, happy to be out in a bit of sunshine at last.  My friends Geoff and Emma Williams are hosting the Chotěboř Youth Orchestra, a group of 15 youngsters from the Czech Republic and they were playing at the Galleria, or outside the Odeon to you and me. Ranging in age from Ján, 19, to 10 year-old Magda the orchestra brought a wonderful, tea-at-The-Ritz feel to the Galleria that had shoppers stopping in their tracks to look on and smile wistfully.

The Chotebor Youth Orchestra

I asked Don and Dorothy, who’d just left the cinema with their grandchildren, what they thought and Don told me, “It’s wonderful! You don’t see this kind of thing often and it’s lovely to see it here.” Like a lot of others, they stayed for a while to listen to the beautiful strings accompanying the piano. Joef, one of the orchestra’s leaders, told me that the experience was a new one for the group.  Speaking far better English than I speak Czech, he told me that they were used to playing churches and concerts halls, so this was a whole new experience for them.  He was delighted to be playing in this big, loud, open environment and told me how much the group love coming to Liverpool. “We’re very glad to see Liverpool and we’re happy to be here,” he told me.  “Děkuji!” I said.  Thank you.  Which is the total sum of my knowledge of the Czech language.

As the orchestra was packing up we went down to see John Prince playing a lovely set at the Paradise Street piano.  No big crowds here, but John’s playing put a smile on the faces of everyone passing by.

While my son went to eye up some rather expensive Lego in the Lego shop, I watched in amazement as Dave Antrobus’s upbeat, Rat Pack style set was overtaken by a lively bunch of Italian students. Shoving Dave unceremoniously off his seat, one of the Italians, Andrea (always trouble, those Andreas) set about playing, quite brilliantly, a couple of Coldplay biggies followed by We Are The Champions and ending with a gorgeous Imagine.

Dave Antrobus gamely lets Italian student Andrea take over

Dave, who’s got some more TTI sets coming up, watched on good naturedly (is that a word?) while the Italians overwhelmed his piano.

What I really love about Tickle The Ivories is that it’s a great example of bringing the mountain to Mohamed.  While an Eastern European orchestra playing classical music might draw an appreciative, but niche, crowd to, say, The Philharmonic, plonking them smack bang in the city’s busiest shopping centre brings their breathtaking music out to everyone passing.  And they loved it.

One the way home we witnessed the marvellous sight of a man playing a Sinatra set on a tennis racquet in Lord Street.  Not part of TTI, but it tickled me anyway. So the next time you’re in town, make some time to check out the range of talent on show.

Tickle the Ivories
The Liverpool ONE Piano Festival

7th July – 16th September 2012

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