Like many of the best homegrown projects, Flower Piano gets a little bigger and slightly bolder each year. Now gearing up for its fourth season at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the twelve-day summer festival — a project in partnership with Sunset Piano — invites professional and amateur musicians alike to sit down at one of twelve outdoor pianos and have a play.
These impromptu performances make up the heart of the event, which kicks off on July 5, but an expanded series of evening recitals, dubbed “NightGarden Piano,” transform this year’s festivities into a music festival proper.
Three nights of concerts — July 12, 13, and 14 — feature half a dozen musical acts each. Among the scheduled performers are pianist and Bay Area-favorite Sarah Cahill in a program of Terry Riley and Meredith Monk, San Francisco-based a cappella men’s choir Conspiracy of Beards singing the songs of Leonard Cohen, and a host of other classical, jazz, and popular offerings. Tickets for these evenings, which operate outside regular Botanical Garden hours, are $45 each; guest have the rare opportunity to experience the lit gardens at night and stroll from performance to performance.
During the day, Flower Piano activities come included with the price of Botanical Garden admission, which is free for San Francisco residents. (Just be sure to bring a piece of mail or photo ID!) An added incentive: many of the musicians featured in the evening series will also present daytime performances. In one of the more orchestrated afternoon concerts, pianists Allison Lovejoy and Kymry Esainko will tackle a staple of the piano duo repertoire — Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals — as accompanied by musicians of the Classical Revolution Orchestra. And of course, taking your own turn at any one of the twelve pianos is always an option.
Flower Piano runs through July 16, and a comprehensive list of scheduled events and public offerings can be found on the Botanical Garden’s website.