September 13, 2018 | 8:52am |
Pianist Colin Huggins has a knack for bringing his listeners to tears.
It happens more often than not for the 40-year-old busker, famous for lugging his 800-pound piano a half-mile to Washington Square Park on weekends for the past 10 years.
In 2017, Huggins began letting spectators lie under the instrument so they could experience the music in a special way.
“When you get closer to a piano, you can actually feel the vibrations,” Huggins says. “So you’re not only hearing the sound, but you can feel it too. It makes it more of an intimate and powerful experience.”
He estimates that six out of 10 listeners who try it end up weeping. “When art of any kind is properly presented to people, they go deep inside themselves to particularly emotional places that they don’t often visit,” Huggins says. “The emotion can be a bit overwhelming, like having an emotional breakthrough with your therapist.”
Even actor and “SNL” regular Alec Baldwin was no match for the multisensory impact.
“He was taking a walk around the park after he had a hip surgery [in February],” Huggins recalls of the April encounter, captured in an Instagram snap. “He was clearly still on the mend, and I [invited] him to go underneath the piano. I did drag some tears out of his eyes, as well.”
Huggins is self-taught and has been playing since his teens. After an early stint as an accompanist for the Joffrey Ballet, he switched to full-time busking 10 years ago. The East Village resident says it’s his sole source of income now. He performs all day on Saturday and Sunday, as long as the weather won’t damage his piano.
“It’s definitely more rewarding,” he says of his career today compared with the ballet era. “And I make enough to pay my rent and have a modest living.”
He got the idea to let listeners stretch out beneath his baby grand from the movie “Impromptu,” about the composer Frédéric Chopin, whose on-screen love interest enjoyed music in a similar fashion. Huggins says even his piano technician lies under the piano to check the tuning.
Huggins’ first supine listener was a regular in the park; Huggins played “Clair de Lune,” the man’s favorite song. By the end, the fan was visibly moved.
“He had streaks of tears down his eyes,” Huggins says. “It made me think: You know, this is something that I should provide for everybody.”