admin On luglio - 8 - 2014

by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

If you happen to stroll in Washington Square Park on a Saturday and Sunday, you will most certainly run into a landmark of the City. I’m not talking of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s statue alone, but of a prodigious artist, pianist Colin Huggins. Come rain or come sunshine, every week-end he brings a baby grand piano in the park, from a nearby Manhattan mini storage, and entertains audiences with his music and his cheeky wit.

In this Exclusive Interview he unveils how it all began:

When did you first approach music?

I approached music when I was young. When I was a kid I really liked dancing around, and listening to music, I then started to get formal education in school, playing the clarinet, but I didn’t like that. I think I didn’t really learn music the way I wanted to, until I was 12 years old, when I started playing the guitar, because my brother was playing it. I worked really hard at that and got pretty good very quickly and then at 16 I decided I wanted to be a piano player instead, because I thought it was really romantic and beautiful.

--- Illustration by  Michael Blank ---

— Illustration by Michael Blank —

What genres do you embrace?

I first started learning everything: jazz and pop, and classical, but I was most attracted to classical. Jazz I prefer to dance to rather than playing it. I really value and respect how classical pianists, in the way they got so good in creating their art. I tried to experiment also with electronic music, I didn’t like it that much, but I got good at it and it was inspiring for other projects. The interesting thing about that is that you can create the entire composition on your computer. It’s an easier process because there isn’t human mistake, so you save time and money. But I still prefer acoustic instruments so much more.

How did your performances in the park begin?

I was in New York, I was working for ballet companies, such as the American Ballet Theatre and I didn’t like it that much, since I wanted to do things that felt more like a performance. The ballet dancers do appreciate you’re playing for them, but it’s not as when you play for a captive audience, that is really excited about a musician. It’s very different. So I worked out with my roommate for us to bring a piano with a truck, from where we were living, in Brooklyn, to a park. I’ve always liked street performers in New York, and I wanted to do something similar. I needed to come up with something really impressive and came up with the idea of having a grand piano out in the park. This was in the summer of 2007.

You were a trend setter: now other pianists around the world are bring their pianos out in the piazzas, the squares, in Milan, Rome, Istanbul, London, Madrid…

I definitely wasn’t the first, but I didn’t watch somebody else do it and feel I wanted to emulate them. I thought of it on my own and how I wanted to do it and then made it happen. But I do think I made it very popular, and now it’s become a thing all over the world. Nobody gives me any credit. It’s starting to get into the press worldwide.

Is there any memorable episode that happened to you while playing in the park?

I remember there was a deaf couple and they were doing their sign language and I walked over to them and grabbed their hands and put them on the inside of the piano, so they could feel the vibrations. That was a beautiful moment.

What composers inspire you?

All the big ones: Rachmaninov, Chopin, Bach, Prokofiev, Liszt. In the park I play lots of Rachmaninov and Chopin, they are the two I play most of, I also play Clair de Lune by Debussy and a few pieces by Beethoven.

Is there a particular piece that strikes a chord in you (forgive the wordplay!)?

Rachmaninov wrote a collection of pieces called “Études-Tableaux” and he wrote to collections of them. There is one in E flat Minor that is really amazing.

Do you compose?

I do. When I write songs I follow the Beatles’ model. I like to add lots of interesting instruments, especially acoustic ones. I might have songs that embrace accordion, trombone, base, piano and a percussion instrument. I like unusual eclectic ensembles. I now intend to write songs for other people. The way I’m writing the songs and the way I’m getting them out in the world is a very particular way. It’s not anything that anyone has done yet. What ever is created has to have longevity to it, and I figured out how to do that. This is a peak at an upcoming project…stay “tuned”!



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