Real Life

I played the piano in the Tasmanian sky

My music makes Tassie smile!
I hope my music inspires people
Jason Batey/Retreats Photography;
  • In 2016, Kevin Smith had his love for playing the piano reignited when he watched Jane Champion’s film, The Piano.
  • He couldn’t get the soundtrack song, Heart Asks Pleasure First, out of his head, so he bought a copy of the sheet music and started practising again.
  • In 2019, he started playing piano all over Tasmania, including Kingston Bridge, Hydro Tasmania and the Huon River.
  • Here, Kelvin Smith, 45, from Margate, Tas, shares his story

I closed my eyes and hummed the song Heart Asks Pleasure First, mimicking playing the piano with my fingers. It was 2016, and I’d just finished watching Jane Campion’s film, The Piano, which featured the song in its soundtrack.

I want to be able to play that, I thought.

I’d started piano lessons at 10, but by 15, I’d lost interest. The film had sparked it again.

I bought myself a copy of the song’s sheet music and practised on our home piano at every free moment.

“It’s about time you used that thing,” my wife, Kath, said, smiling.

We’d bought it 15 years before, hoping it would make me play again, but it never had.

My progress was slow. For weeks, I clumsily banged away on the keys, hoping to somehow make music, with little success.

“Dad, do you have to?” my son Hyland, 16, moaned.

My two other children, Hannah, 18, and Theo, 10, weren’t fans either.

But after six months and hours of practice, I finally mastered the song.

Afterwards, I started learning other pieces and even picked up a paid gig at a local hotel.

Then, in early 2019, my friend Tony, a piano removalist, set up a grand piano outside a property he owned, across the road from Kingston Beach and invited me round to use it.

With the sea breeze on my face as I played, I thought about how wonderful it would be to perform on the beach.

I asked Tony about logistics.

“I could help you do it safely,” he said. It was all I needed to hear.

The home piano was spoiled, so I got a new one for free after telling the lady selling it that I wanted to play it in beautiful locations across Tasmania.

Then, in December 2019, I set up on Kingston Beach.

I started playing, and a crowd formed. I’d been worried about the acoustics, but the music carried over the water beautifully.

People kept telling me I’d made their day. One lady even tried to hand me $50, but I politely declined.

“This is my gift to the people of Tassie,” I told her.

I have played in the most breathtaking places Credit: Jason Batey/Retreats Photography;

After two hours, I finished up, but I enjoyed myself so much I started performing outdoors twice a month.

I set up a Facebook page called A Piano Of Tasmania, where I shared my journey.

I’d also ask people where they’d like to see me play and used it as a guide. Some locations were government property and required authorisation, so took longer to organise.

Then, in March 2020, a lady from Hydro Tasmania called me.

“We’d like you to play on the Gordon Dam wall,” she said.

The breathtaking Gordon Dam where Kevin Smith played the piano
Gordon Dam Credit: Jason Batey/Retreats Photography

There were 250 steps to where they wanted me to perform, so she told me they’d arrange a helicopter.

“That’s so cool,” I replied.

After two months of paperwork and a wait for the right weather, I finally stood on the top of the dam as a drone was manoeuvred into place to record.

I watched nervously as the helicopter flew towards us, swinging side to side with the weight of the 210kg piano, which hung 40m underneath.

Please don’t fall, I prayed. Fortunately, all was well. The experience was unreal.

The piano dangled from the helicopter!
The piano hanging under the helicopter, at Gordon Dam Credit: Jason Batey/Retreats Photography

On another occasion, I played on the deck of a sailing ketch on the Huon River and, another time, on the balcony of the historic Hadley’s Hotel in Hobart. Then, in September 2022, the CEO of a construction company called me.

“We have a big crane that we’d like to hang you from,” he said. They’d acquired a working-at-heights licence so I could play my piano 30m above the ground on the Hobart waterfront at sunrise on the day of the Hobart Airport Marathon.

I played for five hours from dawn in front of hundreds of people.

As the sun peaked over the distant hills, it took my breath away.

It has been an adventure with over 70 locations in the last four years. And I’m sure there are more to come.

Kath and me with our kids Credit: Jason Batey/Retreats Photography

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