It’s The Piano Season! Did you know?

Aug 15, 2023 | 1 comment

Colin Staub at a Push-Play Piano in Downtown Portland

The President of the Board of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation at the present time is Colin Staub.  He has been a part-time Oysterville resident for all of his 34 years.  He has worked in the oysters during the summers, spends as much time as possible at his family’s second home here in Oysterville, even bicycling now and again from his home in Portland,  and has performed at Vespers on numerous occasions — he is a mandolin player of some note.

Sometimes when he is in town he stops by to visit — an occurrence which I consider a great privilege.  And I must say, he never makes me feel two-and-a-half times his age (and then some) — not even when we occasionally get into the thorny subject of technology and the ORF website and other things I think I might have known about once but have given up that brain space to more immediate concerns.  Like how to keep my balance when walking over uneven terrain…

“The Old Rugged Cross”

For a few years now, when he’s in Oysterville, Colin has been playing the piano in the church — sometimes ragtime, but more recently, some of the hymns from the old Methodist hymnals we used to use for Vespers.   (Though he began on the violin as a young boy and now is teaching himself the piano, he still considers the mandolin his primary instrument.)   Yesterday, he wrote me this note: There are a dozen or so pianos set up in public places around Portland right now, and I’ve been making the rounds to play them all. I was playing “How Great Thou Art” and “The Old Rugged Cross,” the versions I learned in the Oysterville Church hymnal, downtown the other day, and a guy came up and started singing along. He was visiting from Atlanta and said he didn’t anticipate hearing gospel music in downtown Portland. The hymnals are coming in handy!

When I asked Colin more about those pianos, he wrote that they are put around town by a project called “Piano Push Play” Wow!
They get painted by local artists and placed in various places throughout the summer. It’s pretty cool and has been going on for 10 years or so. I’ve had numerous interesting encounters with people at the pianos, exchanged numbers, had impromptu duets, all sorts of things. Last year I emailed the founder about one particularly memorable conversation and she posted about it on their Instagram:

Piano at the Oysterville Church

There was one in particular that sticks in my mind, where I sat down to play a few boogie-woogie songs and noticed a woman sitting nearby who was crying and clearly not having a good day.  By the end of the first song I noticed she was tapping her feet, although still crying.  A couple songs later she came over to the piano and asked if I could teach her a couple chords, and we ended up having an impromptu piano lesson and talked about what she was going through.  She said it was the best unexpected thing to happen to her all day, and I thought it really illustrated the power of public music.

If you are in downtown Portland this summer, keep your eyes and ears open!  You may come across Colin playing some of those old-fashioned hymns he’s been learning at the Historic Oysterville Church!

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