The sounds of tinkling harps, strumming guitars and chiming vibraphones harmonized with the giggles, squeals and shouts of children on a recent Saturday afternoon in Bicentennial Park.
No instruments were in sight, with the notes and melodies instead emanating from the towering swing set dominating the lawn in front of the Civic Center. The Musical Swings: An Exercise in Musical Cooperation, a touring interactive art installation, is swinging through downtown Oklahoma City until Oct. 13.
"I liked it because it was making all the pretty sounds," Everly Bush, 4, of Altus, told The Oklahoman after her aunt Amy Mikeman, of Midwest City, helped her down so another child could take a turn on the busy first Saturday for the swings' OKC stop.
Created by Daily tous les jours, a Montreal, Quebec-based art and design studio, The Musical Swings are orchestrating music and play in OKC as part of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation's 50th anniversary celebration.
"We felt like it was a moment to be marked and to do some special things in the community," said Kelley Barnes, the foundation's community engagement director. "The way it brings people together, the musical component to it, everything was just very happy and positive. We thought, what an interesting and unique thing to bring to the community."
Each of the 10 swings is color-coded to match a certain instrument: The green swings play the guitar, the yellow, the vibraphone, the red, the harp, and the blue, the piano.
"If you swing just alone, it creates notes, and once you start to synchronize with the person beside you, then you actually start to have a series of melodies that play," said Rebecca Taylor, a product and environment designer for Daily tous les jours, who traveled from Canada to Oklahoma to help with setup.
Daily tous les jours created its original Musical Swings in 2011, when the studio was tasked with building one its large-scale, interactive installations on a Montreal site between an orchestra house and a university science building. The goal was to create something relatable and multigenerational, she said, and most people have played on or at least are familiar with swing sets.
"We love to tap into those kind of emotional rituals that a lot of people can very easily relate to and just sort of tweak them in a way that makes them unique, makes them special. So, that's where the kind of musical component comes in," Taylor said.
The Musical Swings were so popular in Montreal that they continue to be offered twice a year, and in 2015, the studio received a grant to take a touring version on the road to cities like San Jose, California; Detroit; and West Palm Beach, Florida.
"What's amazing about the swings is they sort of have their own character in each city and each environment. When it was in Green Mountain Falls (Colorado) in the middle of this kind of very natural surrounding, it has a very different vibe than when we brought it to New York City and it was just surrounded by skyscrapers," Taylor said.
The Oklahoma City Community Foundation opted to bring The Musical Swings to OKC after President Nancy Anthony experienced them in Colorado, Barnes said.
"We thought a lot about where it would be placed, and we had lots of ideas. And we just coming back to Bicentennial Park," she said. "It really is stunning pitched against City Hall and the Civic Center."
While children have been delighted with the installation, Barnes said that the swings are tall and sturdy enough for adults to enjoy, too.
"Everyone smiles. It's fun to watch people because they really sit down and this big smile comes across their face," she said.
For Hastings Grant, 11, of Oklahoma City, the swings were a tuneful reward after spending the morning rehearsing with Canterbury Youth Voices and part of the afternoon reviewing museum etiquette at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
"For me, it was a surprise," the Heritage Hall student said. "It was fun. I liked the music."
The Musical Swings also were staffed by volunteers from Canterbury Voices, said Executive Director Pam Mowry. The Oklahoma City Community Foundation offered $1,000 grants to art organizations who provide volunteers to oversee the swings for a day.
Plus, since the organization offices nearby in the Arts District Parking Garage, Mowry said she is looking forward taking her staff for a quick swing sometime.
"We're kind of watching for vacancies over here so that we can come over," Mowry said with a laugh. "So far, we haven't been able to. It's been busy."
After getting into the swing of the new attraction during the steamy Saturday afternoon, Mikeman and Everly were planning to cool off with ice cream.
"We love to go to the children's park over in the Myriad Gardens, so we love that there are the swings just over here that we could come ride. It was perfect," Mikeman said. "It's beautiful, and the music's really pretty. And you get to make the music. How cool is that?"
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com