Charlottetown’s Outdoor Pianos

There are two public outdoor pianos in Charlottetown.

One of them is at the foot of Queen Street, under the eaves of the Charlottetown Tide Station. It was placed there by Downtown Charlottetown as an Instagramable tourism trope, and it is almost completely inoperable.

The other is a City of Charlottetown micro-grant-funded piano under the gazebo at Confederation Landing Park that is a project of Arduino for Autism. Despite having braved two summers outdoors, it’s still remarkably sound and vaguely in-tune. It also has lights.

We knew about the lights, but had never seen them until the other night when we stopped by while walking Ethan through the park. I’d always assumed the lights were broken, or that there was a secret switch or key that needed to be activated to turn them on. As it happens, all we needed to do was to plug the piano in to the electric outlet right beside it and, presto, the lights sprang to life.

Oliver sat down and took the piano through its paces. This prompted a vigorous discussion as to whether the lights were primarily affected by the pitch of the notes or by the volume of the sound; we didn’t reach a definitive conclusion.

If you’re going to visit an outdoor piano in Charlottetown, I recommend this one over the touristic one: it works better, is more fun to play, prompts more thoughtful discussion and, in the end, has more soul.


Oliver B 's picture
Oliver B on August 19, 2018 - 18:34 Permalink

I can't tell either, but it occurs to me a third (second-and-a-half?) possibility is a pitch detector being befuddled by overtones and/or the vibrations of other parts of the piano besides the strings.