The annual parade of 12 pianos is descending back to Golden Gate Park’s SF Botanical Garden, as Flower Piano strikes a major chord with all-day outdoor piano concerts from Friday through Tuesday, and even the robot muppet is performing this year.
Get keyed up for San Francisco’s always delightful annual outdoor piano festival Flower Piano, which returns for its eighth year, Friday through Tuesday at the SF Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. What started in 2015 as a two-week event in July, moved to the sunnier month of September in 2021, and now jams out as five full days of outdoor piano concertos from recognized local stars. It's a choose-your-own-adventure event where you can hop on a free piano and play yourself, or marvel at the talents of some middle-schooler or seasoned pro who can play the piano far better than you. As usual, the program is free for SF residents but does require registering for an advance ticket.
And this year’s special guest is Vanessa the piano-playing robot muppet, who will be “roaming throughout the garden” both Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Start times vary by day, with public performances starting at 10 a.m. Friday (it’s a children’s program from 10 a.m.-noon); 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday; and 12 noon on Tuesday. Each day’s performances wrap up at 6 p.m., except Monday’s program runs until 7 p.m., and Tuesday's wraps up at 5 p.m.
You’re certain to see a glorious performance surrounded by gorgeous outdoor ambiance no matter which piano you visit, but a few highlight, scheduled performers stand out. Friday has the festival’s founders Tom Jonesing at 12 noon, the SFJazz High School All Stars at 3 p.m., and the classical-goth sounds of Jill Tracy at 5 p.m.
Saturday features “Beatles karaoke” with BATS Improv musical director Joshua Raoul Brody (12 p.m.), a Radiohead Sing-a-long with Eric Chase (2 p.m.), and a two-hour set by the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra (4 p.m.). On Sunday, your options include star international pianist Van Anh - Nguyen (11 a.m.), lounge music legend Mr. Lucky (4 p.m.), and enduring local swing star Lavay Smith (5 p.m.).
The full five-day Flower Piano schedule is available online.
Tickets are free for San Francisco residents, but registration is required. Non-SF residents will pay $17 a day, with discounts for kids and seniors, and a $35 flat fee for families.
The program technically starts with Thursday night's ticketed event with Latin Grammy winner Pablo Estigarribia, but that’s sold out. There are also a few VIP-style ticketed events at the newly added Flower Piano Lounge.
Flower Piano 2023 is Friday, September 8 - Tuesday, September 12 in the San Francisco Botanical Garden of Golden Gate Park. Free for SF residents (though registration is required), $17 for non-residents, tickets and registration here.
Image: Jim Watkins via SF Botanical Garden