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The Fate of Half Moon Bay’s Beloved Baby Grand

The show must go on, but now only until Valentine’s Day.

Clair de Lune, by Paul Verlaine, 1869

Your soul is as a moonlit landscape fair,
Peopled with maskers delicate and dim,
That play on lutes and dance and have an air
Of being sad in their fantastic trim.
The while they celebrate in minor strain
Triumphant love, effective enterprise,
They have an air of knowing all is vain,—
And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise,
The melancholy moonlight, sweet and lone,
That makes to dream the birds upon the tree,
And in their polished basins of white stone
The fountains tall to sob with ecstasy

When artist Mauro Ffortissimo originally came up his plan to play an aging baby grand piano on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Half Moon Bay, the idea was to play it for the entire month of February and let the instrument succumb to the elements.

But when Half Moon Bay City officials told Ffortissimo last week to remove the piano because he lacks a permit to keep it on the grassy patch where the piano has sat since Feb. 1, the fate of Half Moon Bay’s beloved baby grand suddenly changed.

Now, Valentine’s Day will be the last day that Ffortissimo will play the piano on the bluffs at the end of Kelly Avenue. He’s planning to play something romantic, like “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy, he said.

“Clair de Lune,” meaning "moonlight" in French, is the third and most famous movement of Suite bergamasque. Its name comes from Paul Verlaine's poem of the same name.

On Friday when the romance is over and the code enforcers come, Ffortissimo said he and his friends will cart away the piano, moving it to the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club, which graciously volunteered to take it off his hands for the evening where members and their accompanied guests can attend. Then it will move onto a boat on Saturday for its last brush with the ocean air.

Ffortissimo will then play it one last time on Sunday at Enso art gallery and studio, eventually burning it in a field on his property.

And then after that? “I will take a much needed nap,” said Ffortissimo, who says he is “fried” and surprised by how much attention he's gotten for playing a warped, out of tune piano.

Over the past two weeks, hundreds of people have come out to see him play at sunset. Some nights he was even accompanied by other musicians. Many will be sad to see it go so soon, but then again, "part of the piece's charm," said Ffortissimo, "is that it's temporary."

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fay krivonos February 13, 2013 at 02:46 AM
Let every serious musician join this man on the coast. What a great way to teach our kids that music is serious - if you play everything from a ukulele to a violin, this is important, bring your kids. Arts are being cut from our schools. Bring your orchestras, your choirs, lets celebrate a man who thinks this is so important - lets give the grand a great goodbye, but not the death of music.
Karin Meiswinkel February 13, 2013 at 04:05 AM
George, Thank you for the insight and info on the CDP permit process and it's ramifications.It makes me sick; another out of control bureaucratic nightmare.It'a a real shame we have have to succumb to the extremes of this sort of thing. Yes, be grateful for momentary crumbs anymore. What a sad society we live in. Free enterprise is becoming a dead entity and not all the intent is for the good of the citizens whatsoever. Play on in your last days of glory Mauro and the Baby Grand. I have one in my house. I won't consider taking it out on the street for anyone's enjoyment that's for sure...:<
Karin Meiswinkel February 13, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Lady, What conjecture that is so not even relevant you blather on about...yes, I'm sure that's Mauro's intent, to dump a Baby Grand like an old refrigerator on the bluff. Many, many laws are a result of the bureaucrats and politicians furthering their positions and that of the "strings" that guide them and have nothing to do with reasoning or the good of the people. Look around at the state we live in, for heaven's sake. What a mess. Enough said....
Stacie Chan February 13, 2013 at 07:20 PM
Well said, Fay. Any way to romanticize or portray the importance of music is a must for our kids.
Jo March February 13, 2013 at 09:46 PM
So unnecessary to be rude. I was respectful in my response. Too bad you couldn't extend the same courtesy to me. Oh, well. Your attitude says a lot more about you than it does about me. Have fun in your bitterness.

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