French railway company SNCF recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its ‘Piano en gare’ initiative, a non-commercial scheme in which pianos are set up for passers-by to play for free in 62 stations around the country.
The Connexion visited Nice-Ville station this morning (July 6) to see if there were any performers, perhaps delayed by the strikes, and found a professional at work.
Pianist Mario Galli, 63, was putting on a 30-minute concert, filling the air with blues and rock classics while awaiting his train which was delayed for three hours.
Mr Galli amused onlookers by playing not only with his hands but also his knees and feet.
See our short clip of his performance below.
Mr Galli was supposed to take a train early in the morning to perform tonight (July 6) in Le-Plan-de-la-Tour (Var) alongside French-Canadian singer Fabienne Thibeault, who is known for having sung for the cyberpunk rock opera Starmania. He still hopes to make it on time, despite the delay.
Mr Galli is a professional concert pianist who began his career with the Vinitsky orchestra, performing for 25 years across Europe, Singapore, Israel and the US and playing with internationally renowned artists including Count Basie and Charles Aznavour.
“I play for the love of the instrument,” Mr Galli told The Connexion.
Nice-Ville train station got a foretaste of the songs he is planning to play tonight with tracks such as Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’, Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’, Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ and Richard Anthony’s ‘J’entends siffler le train’.
Mr Galli said he first played at a train station in Marseille, where the songs he performed were met by wonderstruck applause. “It felt like a thunderstorm,” he said.
While he has played the piano since the age of nine, his instrument of choice is the accordion, which he has been playing since the age of three. He made his first foray into conducting an orchestra at 14.
“I just want to make people happy,” he said.
Mr Galli cannot perform on all station pianos, he said, as the keyś are often too rigid or the instrument is out of tune.
Access to the piano’s strings is normally locked, meaning he cannot use the tuning lever he carries with him. Every piano is also chained to the ground to prevent thefts.
10 years of pianos in French train stations
The first piano installed in a French train station was in Paris’ Montparnasse station on July 1, 2012, and the initiative gained immediate popularity, with social media platforms being flooded with videos of musicians. This inspired shopping centres to follow suit.
SNCF marked the scheme’s 10-year anniversary on July 1 with concerts across 31 of its train stations, involving popular French pianists such as André Manoukian and Alexandre Tharaud.
The pianos are all Yamahas because of a partnership agreed with the Japanese instrument company in 2014.