Spotlight on the Health Sciences Centre “Come Play With Me” Piano

Business & Arts NL unveiled its sixth #ComePlayWithMe piano at the Health Sciences Centre on Thursday morning. (L-R): Ian Sutherland, Business & Arts NL board member and Dean of School of Music at Memorial University; David Diamond, President and CEO of Eastern Health; Louise Markus, artist; Judy Sparkes-Giannou and Steve Sparkes, Clayton Hospitality Inc.

The healing power of music is one that cannot be denied. Now, patients, staff and visitors to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s can tickle the ivories and experience the comfort and joy that music brings.

On Thursday morning, Business & Arts NL officially unveiled its sixth #ComePlayWithMe public piano, located on the main floor of the facility in the atrium foyer. Painted in hues of sky blue, yellow, purple, green and red, local artist Louise Markus has channelled the beauty, warmth and comfort of a traditional Newfoundland quilt for the design, making it a perfect addition to the facility said David Diamond, President and Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Health. (More about Markus’ design and work in an upcoming post.)

“Why not bring music into a place where people of all ages come for so many different reasons – and some, as we know, can be very challenging,” he said.

Music, Diamond added, can instill within us a sense of comfort, connection and community, “even if just for a second, a patient gets lost in the music and forgets about the hardship ahead; or even if for just a second, it brings a smile to a visitor’s face; even if just for a second, an employee is reminded of their favourite childhood memory.”

David Diamond, President and CEO of Eastern Health, speaks to the crowd.

The latest piano is sponsored by Judy Sparkes-Giannou of Clayton Hospitality Inc., which operates the Comfort Inn Airport, St. John’s and the Comfort Inn Gander. Additional sponsors include Domestic Movers, who provided careful transportation of the instrument.

Sparkes-Giannou said she was initially inspired to place the piano at the hospital by a close friend who, while visiting the facility, suggested that music could help brighten the atmosphere and lighten the load of patients.

The piano’s sponsor, Judy Sparkes-Giannou of Clayton Hospitality Inc.

“The penny dropped for me very quickly…when I got back to the office that day, I quickly called Jennifer Young (Business & Arts NL) and I said, ‘Jennifer, I’d like to put a piano at the Health Sciences Centre. I think that music in a hospital environment would provide great solace to people coming and going and be the medicine for their mind’” Sparkes-Giannou recalled.

Artist Louise Markus, who painted the design.

The piano, Sparkes-Giannou said, is also a tribute to her late father Clayton Sparkes, who passed away at the Health Sciences Centre in 2003.

“We had a beautiful piano in our home as well…Dad would sit at the piano and he’d haul out a hymnbook and he would tinkle away and try to find the note.”

Growing up in a music-loving family, Sparkes-Giannou said, also helped add to her own appreciation for the art.

“We had speakers in every room in our home, and we would listen to The Sound of Music. My mother played that 8-track over and over and over and over again,” she laughed.

Bill Brennan delights the crowd with a few tunes.

In keeping with the sentiment of the unveiling, award-winning musician Bill Brennan (who has performed with the National Ballet and the Canadian Opera Company, and has backed up such greats as Cab Calloway, Placido Domingo and Dizzy Gillespie) was also on hand to perform “Edelweiss” and a few other tunes. The moving performance delighted the crowd and was the perfect way to welcome the piano to its new home. (To see some of Brennan’s performance, click here and here).

The #ComePlayWithMe public piano initiative strives to create moments of connection, creativity and beauty in our busy lives, while bringing the arts and business communities together. Other #ComePlayWithMe piano locations include the St. John’s International Airport, Deer Lake Airport, Atlantic Place, Memorial University Student Centre and Memorial University Battery.