Sunset Piano

Mauro Ffortissimo is back in Half Moon Bay and taking part in a performance art project designed to draw people downtown. Review File Photo

When planning “Make It Main Street,” the monthly event designed to attract people to downtown Half Moon Bay, organizer Erin Tormey knew from the beginning that she wanted to do something with pianos.

A close friend of Mauro Ffortissimo, Tormey attended some of the famed local concerts on the coastal bluffs in 2013 after Ffortissimo dragged a baby grand piano out onto the cliffs.

“The whole point of Make It Main Street is to support performing artists and our creative communities whose livelihoods were obliterated by the pandemic, not just impacted, but eliminated entirely,” Tormey said. “The pianos downtown were one of the first things I thought of.”

In collaboration with what was coined the “Sunset Piano” project, Make It Main Street is introducing “Main Street Piano,” Aug. 5 through Aug. 8.

Main Street Piano will consist of three grand pianos and a garden piano sculpture to be installed in gardens, courtyards and public spaces on Main Street where there will be scheduled and spontaneous performances by Coastside pianists.

To kick it off on Thursday, Steve Abrams and Keith Proskin will be playing from 3 to 5 p.m. and Sammi Joy from 5 to 7 p.m. at 324 Main St. in Zaballa Square. From 4 to 6 p.m., Jam Kings will be playing at 429 Main St., in the Half Moon Bay Electric Co. driveway. Also from 4 to 6 p.m. Leah Walters will be playing at Sacrilege Brewery, 730 Main St.

Performances by Juilliard alum Lisa Spector, jazz pianist Abrams with bassist Heath Proskin, Esther Aeschbach, Stephanie Newsome, and Sammi Foti are also expected. An updated schedule with all performance times can be found at makeitmainstreethmb.org.

Over the last year countless recitals and performances were canceled, preventing local youth from being able to share their music. At the garden piano in Mac Dutra Plaza, music students are invited to come perform. A limited number of 10-minute performance slots is open for sign-ups.

“We’re hopeful that other musicians in the community will want to come down and just settle themselves in and play something beautiful for their neighbors,” Tormey said. “We’re hopeful that both our local community and people who visit the coast during those four days will feel delighted to just sit down and play a beautiful piano and delight themselves and people around them.”

One highlight of Thursday’s events will be a “Piano Liberation” at 720 Main St. Ffortissimo will play while simultaneously orchestrating the deconstruction of a 1920s upright piano. Ffortissimo will transform parts of the piano into sculptures and local luthier Fred Crowder will convert the lumber to build guitars over the course of the coming year.

Also during this month's Make It Main Street event, there will be two screenings of the film “Twelve Pianos” and a question-and-answer with the director and featured performers at the Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street. Directed by Dean Mermell, “Twelve Pianos” documents the original Sunset Piano and Ffortissimo’s journey and struggles with local authorities. Masks will be required of all attendees at the film screening and you must reserve a seat in advance on the Make It Main Street website.

“The creative community on the Coastside is a phenomenon unto itself,” Tormey said. “It’s honestly amazing how much talent there is and how much love there is in those talented people for this area and for this community.”

Emma Spaeth is a staff writer for the Half Moon Bay Review covering community, arts and sports. Emma grew up in Half Moon Bay before earning a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Oregon.

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