Pianos al fresco: Monica Yunus

By Bilha Fish

The silence was deafening that morning. Even the birds held their chirping, waiting patiently for the sun to rise.


I couldn’t wait for light. Not today. Anxiousness overcame me with the wish to experience something new. This morning was going to be memorable.


I got up and dressed quickly, grabbed breakfast and headed south toward Battery Park. I was hoping to connect with Miss Liberty and her many inspiring stories of new beginnings.


It was early June, the sun twinkled through the tree brunches that were recently dressed up with abundance of leaves of different hues of tender green. The smell of wild flowers and fresh soil greeted me.


I thought I found what I wished for—just this glorious day would have been enough to fulfill my goal—when the sound of piano music filled the air. Since Miss Liberty pulls one’s eyes toward the sky, I first thought that I could have literarily experienced a heavenly noise.


I followed the music to 28 Liberty Plaza where, surrounded by skyscrapers, 12 pianos enjoyed a temporary home.


The painted pianos, if not for the people engrossed in playing them, could by their own right have been on view in a museum. My eyes shifted from a piano covered in an autumn scene of golds, oranges and greens, to another dressed regally in purple and gold, to one with an intricate paisley design in all the colors of the rainbow.


Nearby, a pianist on his way to work at a bank stopped to practice his Spring Sonata “al fresco,” while at the other end of the plaza a little girl accompanied by her mother played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” She was so little that her long jet-black hair seemed to blend right into the black piano accented with red roses and Picasso-like faces.


Twinkle, twinkle, little star


I pinched myself. I wanted to verify that my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. I wanted to experience a special day but this was too much!


Then I realized the pianos and the impromptu performances were part of “Sing for Hope,” a project conceived and produced by the young opera singer Monica Yunus, a Bangladeshi-American immigrant. Her goal is to give back to the community that welcomed her and to bring music to schools.


I got the special day I wished for. I only wish I had the talent to play one of the pianos myself.