POLITICS

Video of dishevelled man playing street piano gets nearly two million hits

10/30/2014 05:02 EDT | Updated 12/30/2014 05:59 EST
EDMONTON - All she knows is that his name is Ryan and he plays the piano like an angel.

Roslyn Polard was on her way home from a work meeting last week in downtown Edmonton when she heard beautiful music and turned to see a dishevelled man hunched over a battered street piano.

The melody carried her, smiling, across the street. Then she suddenly stopped.

"I thought, no, I've got to go back. I've got to listen to that ... it was absolutely beautiful."

The federal government worker approached the man, dressed in sweat pants and a dirty jacket, and who had a mop of dark hair. She said he was glad to meet her, happy to have an audience.

He played another song that he told her he'd written himself, then a few more. Polard pulled out her cellphone and pushed record.

"There were three other ladies who ended up stopping. They all had tears in their eyes," Polard said.

"I didn't know if my camera would capture that emotion, but clearly it did."

Polard posted the two-minute video on Facebook and, after much insistence, on YouTube, where it had attracted nearly two million hits by Thursday afternoon.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson highlighted the video on Twitter.

The YouTube version now has ads attached and is making money that Polard wants to give to the piano prodigy.

But she hasn't seen him since that amazing outdoor concert.

Some people have posted other videos of the same man playing piano. Some say they believe he has been homeless for years.

One woman who contacted Polard on Facebook described how she sat and talked with the man for an hour one day. Samantha McLeod said she learned that he lost his wife and daughter in a car accident and taught himself to play.

"He's a really nice guy," said McLeod. "Broken, but so nice."

Lance Beswick with Boyle Street Community Services, an Edmonton agency that aids the poor and homeless, said Ryan was a client but hasn't been helped since last year.

Polard doesn't know how much money the video has made so far, but she said she plans to save the cash and give it to the piano player if she should see him again.

She said she hopes the video teaches people a lesson about judging others.

"You just never know who's an artist or not," she said.

"I think that's the message. You just don't know people. And we all do that — we look at people and we think we do. And we really, really don't.

"Everybody has their story."