Nelson trio hope to bring piano playing to city streets

00:00, Jan 07 2014
Joe Rifici, left, Neville Claughton and Joe Gibbons
TICKLING THE IVORIES: Joe Rifici, left, Neville Claughton and Joe Gibbons are setting up a public piano in Nelson.

Nelson music aficionados Joe Gibbons, Joe Rifici, and Neville Claughton are in the process of setting up a "public piano" in central Nelson.

Mr Gibbons, the head of Nelson-based worldwide specialty stainless steel distribution firm Great Plains Stainless, was inspired after seeing a similar idea on a recent trip to Chile's Santiago.

"The two I saw were always in use. I've been playing piano for 10 years and I would have been embarrassed to play next to those guys," Mr Gibbons said.

"It was spectacular, and I'll be darned, I ended up spending 45 minutes watching them."

Santiago was not exactly the garden of Eden with eight million people, and it was amazing to see the pianos were not vandalised, he said.

It was a really interesting social phenomenon that the pianos were not being abused, he said.


Mr Gibbons said they were looking at a couple of preferred sites in the central city, and pending council approval the idea was a "done deal".

Both Starbucks and TSB Bank had agreed to have pianos outside their premises. Starbucks had even offered to wheel a piano in and outside, if necessary.

Mr Gibbons said people might be a little apprehensive to have a go on a piano, but soon enough they would.

People always had that secret desire to be a dancer, singer, or musician.

"Voila, now they can have that little chance."

Having pianos dotted around the city would also add to Nelson's tourism value, he said.

There was nothing like music to create a great ambience.

It was all about getting people involved, he said.

It was the community aspect that attracted each of the individuals to take up the project.

"No one is going to be pocketing a fist full of change with this."

Instead, they wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as possible, he said.

Nelson instrument repair and sales and service businessman Neville Claughton (Mr Music) had stepped forward to supply a couple of pianos.

Sourcing pianos would not be a problem, he said.

There were three types of pianos, those that looked amazing and sounded so, those that looked terrible but sounded amazing, and those that looked and sounded terrible, he said.

It was easy to find pianos that looked scruffy but sounded fantastic, he said. Just recently Mr Claughton managed to snap up a Christchurch piano for just $8, he said.

Mr Rifici said pianos were the most undervalued instrument at the moment.

Nelson had a great pool of piano players, he said.

As a teacher, he could vouch for the fact the city was full of all kinds of people who had taken piano lessons throughout their youth.

Mr Rifici has worked as a piano and keyboard performer since his teens. He teaches practical skills, improvisation and popular styles and works with professional musicians as well as beginners, especially those who would like to use the piano more freely.

The Nelson Mail