Travellers tickled by tinkling pianos

Passengers reacted so well to a test putting pianos in dozens of railway stations that SNCF has made them a permanent feature.

15 December 2016

Now the sound of the Tannoy is being joined by keen amateurs – and many professionals – at around 100 stations from Bayonne to Brest, Caen to Dunkirk, Calais to Cannes, and Monaco to Montpellier, plus the main-line Parisian stations.

The pianos are there for anyone who wishes to tinkle the ivories, and they come after a 2012 experiment at Paris Montparnasse.
Yamaha provided the instrument, and when it was seen that the piano was being played, and that as long as it was tuned regularly it remained in good condition, the scheme was expanded. A competition saw nearly 900 amateurs send in a video of themselves playing a station piano and 12-year-old Jean Cotro won with his interpretation of a Herbie Hancock jazz composition.

SNCF’s Claire Fournon said a million travellers backed the pianos and new ones were still being introduced at other stations, often with a mini-concert by a famous pianist.
“Musicians are happy to play in fantastic acoustics, with a new public, and it enriches the daily lives of passengers, giving them a chance to pass a convivial moment. Stations are no longer just a place to catch a train.”

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