A PIANO on Moretonhampsted high street has struck a chord with many locals after a newsagent owner put the instrument outside his shop last month. 

Originally a pyrotechnician from Cape Town, Larry Kuiper moved to Moretonhampsted more than 10 years ago. After turning his hand to a variety of jobs in the town, Larry took on the newsagents in 2013. 

‘When I took over the shop, I noticed the canopy around it,’ said Larry. 

‘I really felt that it lent itself to something outdoors. That’s when I had the idea of putting a piano outside.’ 

That idea was put into motion after the community club asked Larry to help remove their old piano to make way for a new one. Instead of going to the tip, the piano found its new home outside Moreton Newsagents.

Since then, the piano has been a runaway success. 

Piano music in the streets of Moretonhampstead. Bill Field tickling the ivories
MDA040723A_SP002 Photo: Steve Pope
(Steve Pope)

Larry said: ‘I love music, I don’t have a single day where I don’t have music of some sort to enjoy. Having the piano outside has been great in that respect. Even when the kids come along and just hearing them plonking on it does my heart good.’

Since then, the piano has been a runaway success, helping to unite the community after what has been a difficult few years. 

Larry said: ’Since Covid, there has been a massive lack of joy in the world. But the piano has given me hope. It’s changed the attitudes of some people. I thought that people would be against the instrument in the street, but they’ve actually been its vociferous protectors.  

‘It’s been a success for me, but my feeling of success has been across the board, I feel like it’s made the town more cohesive.

‘There’s a particular gentleman (pictured). He comes up every day to play the piano on his walker from half a mile away, he chats in the square and enjoys the town, then he heads home with his day fulfilled.’

But for Larry, the most heartwarming encounter so far was with a gentleman suffering from dementia: ‘His carer brought the gentleman down and asked if he could just bang on the keys.

Piano music in the streets of Moretonhampstead. Larry Kuiper 
MDA040723A_SP006 Photo: Steve Pope
Larry Kuiper has owned the newsagents since 2013 (Steve Pope)

‘He sat down and stared at me for what felt like ages. I said to him: “You know how to play the piano, sir. You’ve come here, you’re going to play the piano, please play the piano.” 

‘He turned himself in the seat, put his head down, and stared at the keys. His hands came up onto the keys and at the same time his feet went onto the pedals. At that point I knew that he knew how to play the piano and had forgotten. He proceeded to play the White Cliffs of Dover like he was in the Albert Hall. 

‘When he finished, he put his hands back in his lap and I could see that he had already forgotten how to play. It was all his muscle memory.

‘That, out of every other thing that’s happened since I put it there, has been the defining moment of joy.’

With the piano’s second life now secured outside Larry’s newsagents, its contribution to the community will continue. 

Larry added: ‘When I put it out there I hoped and prayed that it would be a success and was massively surprised and joyful when it did work like it did. I had no expectations of success, I did it and hoped for the best. For me, if one person played it, I would have achieved my objective.’