Noe Valley Voice April 2013

Other Voices

The Piano in Half Moon Bay

By Linda Ost

Dwight Ost of 28th Street played a jazz tribute to a baby grand piano that was seeing its last sunset as part of a performance art piece in early February.     Photo courtesy Linda Ost 

One day I opened the Chronicle to see a lovely image of a small band playing at the edge of the sea. The story told of a baby grand piano that had seen better days. Of being in a family home and having children play under it while music rang out from its harp. Of having times change and being moved and of the woman who owned it not being able to keep it any longer.

Thus, it came into the hands of a Half Moon Bay artist/musician named Mauro Ffortissimo. He had the idea of letting the piano have one last wonderful concert. The Sunset Concerts were imagined. Under cover of fog, Mauro and his friends placed the piano on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Each day at sunset they would play and record same piece and to chronicle the changes in the sound as the weather took its toll on the instrument. The rest of the time the piano was available to whoever wanted to play. As I read this story, I could see my husband, Dwight, playing this piano, and so we traveled down the coast to Half Moon Bay.

We were blessed with a lovely warm day. When we arrived, there were a few people standing around. Dwight sat down and played some jazz tunes and some of his own composing. Then a woman named Katarina played a beautiful song by Enya and another, which she also sang. When she was done, Dwight played some more and I sang a bit and some women who were sitting nearby joined in “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. It was so lovely, the sound of the ocean, birds, and the view of the sea. To be able to be with this lovely piano outside in such a setting was such a gift.

The piano had been installed a few days earlier on public grounds without a permit. Mauro was given until the next day to remove it or face fines. I happened to be standing next to the mayor of Half Moon Bay and asked him if there was something he could do so that it would not have to be removed so soon. He told me that since it was not in compliance, it must be removed. He is proposing that the permitting process for art installations be speeded up, and that the land on which we were standing, a former artillery emplacement, would be able to be used for such purposes.

As the sun was beginning to drop below the fog bank, lots of people gathered. Mauro and his friends performed the Sunset Concert. Lovely classical music—one piece by Tomaso Albinoni was memorable—some jazz, and finally a tango, the sheet music to which Mauro had carried with him on his travels for many years. It was tattered and taped in places, the song: Adios Noninos. A graceful woman, with long silver locks who is well into her second childhood danced for us to a piece by Brahms, and a man read a touching poem about love and loss to a jazz accompaniment. As I looked around at the smiling faces, I noticed a beautiful woman with the black ashes in the form of a cross on her forehead. I remembered it was Ash Wednesday. I turned to look again at the sunset and as the music finished, the orange orb dropped into the sea and it was done. As we all walked away we knew we had been blessed with this creative act, the serenity of the sea, and the community formed because of this piano.

A few days later, the piano was removed, a requiem concert was held, and it was ceremoniously burned. The piano is now a wonderful memory.


The Noe Valley Voice invites you to ­submit fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry for possible publication in Other Voices. Email or write Other Voices, Noe Valley Voice, P.O. Box 460249, San Francisco, CA 94146. Please include your name, address, and phone number, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you want items returned. We look forward to hearing from you.