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Photo Courtesy of Frank Horvat
Frank Horvat.

Green Keys

Frank Horvat plays piano in the dark to raise awareness of environmental issues

Pianist Frank Horvat (BMus 1997) is exhausted, and understandably so. He’s one year into his Green Keys Tour, a free concert series with more than 60 dates throughout North America. Horvat plays pieces from his latest CD, A Little Dark Music, while raising awareness and funds for environmental causes. After playing his final Canadian concert at Hart House, Horvat began the U.S. leg of his tour during Earth Hour in late March.

The idea for Green Keys came from a 2009 Earth Hour party, where Horvat was hired to provide background music. As the lights faded at 8:30 p.m., people moved away from him to hear speeches by then-Toronto mayor David Miller and Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. Horvat hadn’t been instructed on whether to keep playing or not, and was left sitting alone at the piano. “I was looking out over the Toronto skyline, which was completely dark as well, and I started improvising different ideas,” he says. “And I realized that it was the first time in my life I had ever played music or piano in the dark.”

Horvat had a major musical epiphany: How does darkness make you feel, and how can music best complement this state? He spent the next three weeks composing an hour-long piece entitled “Earth Hour,” a tribute to everything the day stands for. Horvat wanted the piece to be exactly 60 minutes. “The symbolism for me, artistically, was very important.”

During his concerts, the audience is blanketed in complete darkness; an experience Horvat hopes that, in combination with his music, will inspire them to reflect on the environment. “The other senses are heightened because they don’t have the visual distraction of watching me, and they really focus more on the music, or focus on what’s happening within them,” he says.

For the Canadian portion of his tour, Horvat used mainly public transport to get from the east to west coast, taking only a few plane trips when absolutely necessary. “We’re carbon offsetting everything,” he says. In addition, 25 per cent of sales from Horvat’s CD are earmarked for the World Wildlife Fund.

To read more about Frank Horvat’s Green Keys Tour, visit

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