Home Emotional music Floral pianos take over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

Floral pianos take over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

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This weekend, the San Francisco Botanical Garden will be filled with more than the sound of rustling leaves. Through Tuesday, the scenic preserve nestled on the south side of Golden Gate Park will host its annual Flower Piano event, in which a dozen pianos are scattered throughout the 55-acre space.

During an hour-long walk from Redwood Grove to the Garden of Fragrance, you’ll encounter everything from playful Fleetwood Mac covers to emotional renditions of “Fur Elise” — and probably a few kids hammering dissonant chords.

Spectators gather in the Redwood Grove at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens to listen to one of the “Flower Pianos,” Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.


Charles Russo/SFGATE
San Franciscan Grace Zheng plays a "Piano Flower" in the Great Meadow of the Golden Gate Park Botanical Gardens, Friday, September 16, 2022.

San Franciscan Grace Zheng plays a “Flower Piano” in the Great Meadow of the Golden Gate Park Botanical Gardens, Friday, September 16, 2022.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

Spectators gather in the Redwood Grove for an impromptu concert. The San Franciscan Grace Zheng plays the flowery piano in the Grand Pré. Credit: Carles Russo/SFGATE

“There’s every type of music imaginable,” said Stephanie Linder, CEO of Gardens of Golden Gate Park. “There are shows scheduled – San Francisco Symphony, SF Jazz, Community Music Center are all partnering with us and bringing great performers. And there’s a lot of unscheduled time, which is open play time.”

A collaboration between Sunset Piano and San Francisco Botanical Garden, the San Francisco event is now in its seventh year. The project began in 2013 in Half Moon Bay, with unauthorized pianos placed to overlook the coastline; it has since become official by partnering with the Recreation and Parks Department. The event costs approximately $300,000 to produce and is funded by family foundations, individuals, corporations and individuals.

The event is free for San Francisco residents, although donations are encouraged. Non-residents will pay normal entrance fees to the garden, which range from $3 to $13. The events will take place rain or shine, with precautions taken to protect the pianos in the probable event of rain.

Jazz Xian plays "For Elise" in the Ancient Plant Garden at Golden Gate Park on September 16, 2022.

Jazz Xian performs “Fur Elise” in Golden Gate Park’s Ancient Plant Garden on September 16, 2022.

Dan Kind

Although concerts are scheduled throughout the weekend, what makes the event so special are the spontaneous performances. Everyone is invited to step up to the piano to play a song, and you might stumble upon a 14-year-old shredding a rendition of “Great Balls of Fire.”

During opening hours on Friday, Roy Dahan, a piano teacher and gardener from San Jose, walked from piano to piano playing original compositions. He was also present last year and was delighted to share some of his music in such a natural setting.

“It should be 365 days a year, anywhere in the world, not just in a garden,” Dahan said.