Imagine landing under the piano—sober.
That’s what Craig Addy invites people to do, so they can experience what he experienced as a kid, listening from under the piano to his mother play Schubert.
Believe me, it’s an entirely different way of listening.
There I am, nestled among gold and red silk pillows that put me in mind of Shahrazad. Then Addy begins to play—improvising in such a way as to suggest he might be reading my mind or body or life. That’s not the stated intent, but once the music starts, I’m carried back to my own piano lessons with Miss Brazil who I swear used to turn off her hearing aids and smile through my off-key banging. I think of summers in Taos, New Mexico and the American String Quartet. I remember events not associated directly with music, as if they now had a soundtrack. As I relax more deeply, I notice a wide range of emotion in me and in the music, as if it were call and response. There is an astonishing communion going on that is hard to explain.
Later, over a glass of tea, I try to describe my experience but cannot find the words.
“Extraordinary” is about as close as I can come.
When I ask Addy about how others respond, he says, “People are surprised at how different lying under a piano is compared to sitting next to a piano and listening. The vibrations envelope them, and they are in another world.” Experiences vary, but most people say that it’s relaxing and “keeps them present to the moment.” Some, he says, “who are more practiced at being attuned to their bodies, have found it healing.”
But how did Craig Addy begin doing this as a business?
About a year ago, he heard that Showcase Pianos on Broadway had an Italian piano called a Fazioli. Since he’d heard so much about it and wanted to play one, he went over and tried it out. Then another pianist began to play on it, and Craig followed an impulse to crawl underneath to listen.
“The experience of my early teens came flooding back. I could feel the vibrations of the music over my entire body. I thought this ‘hearing’ with my body curious and intriguing. So, not long after, I invited some friends to crawl under my piano, and I improvised for a few minutes. They went nuts over the experience and suggested I offer this to people as a service. And so, the business of Under the Piano was born.”
With music degrees from UBC and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, he could have gone in any of a number of different directions: classical performer, accompanist, arranger, composer—all of which he’s followed.
“There has been one constant throughout all this,” says Addy, “the practice of improvising. I started when I was a child and have never stopped. It was a private, even secret activity. My musical partner, Howard Meadows, caught wind of this and encouraged me to share. Since then, I have produced 2 CDs of Piano Improvisations.”
About 5 years ago, Addy teamed up with Meadows, a clarinetist, and created the Amicus Music Duo, which performs at concerts, parties, and weddings. That’s how Addy found out that he can improvise for hours on end without a break.
And it is improvise that Craig will do for you once you’re under his piano. He records what he plays and offers it to you for sale, so that once you’re back home, you can remember what it’s like to be under the piano.
For more information, visit: http://www.UnderThePiano.ca and http://www.amicusmusicduo.com
Photo of Craig Addy by Rachel Lando