This is the story of how I came to gift my sister a baby grand piano.
First a little background story...
People often ask me how I got interested in playing the piano.
That's an easy one.
I grew up watching and listening to my dad and my sister play the piano. I wanted to be able to do that too.You Did What to the Family Piano?
At about eleven years old (circa 1962) I took our old upright piano apart to see what made it tick. My father was less than pleased, he essentially said "fix it". It took me a long time to get it back to ticking again, my introduction to becoming a piano tech? (but I digress) :-)
My sister is twelve years older, by the time I was about eleven or twelve she had moved out on her own. Life got in the way, her piano playing took a back seat to raising a family.
For a short time she had an old upright piano (I think I helped her get it), but that got left behind in a move way back when. So for many years she had no piano at all. Fast forward to 2010
when my sister turned 70 (that can't be, that would make me, oh never mind). I decided to surprise her with a digital piano, one with 88 notes and a weighted action.
At the time I was living in a modular home in Largo Florida (I had moved there to be near Kathy while we figured out our next steps). My sister has a condo in Pompano Beach and a place in Swampscott, MA. I invited her over to my place to celebrate her birthday. Kathy and I had decorated and we'd wrapped some small gifts for her.
In a corner of my living room something was covered with a blanket, my sister is not the curious snooping type, so she paid no attention to it.
We had a nice meal (thanks to Kathy) and some cake for desert. My sister then opened her presents and thanked us for giving her such a wonderful 70 birthday. My brother-in-law thanked us too.
And then I said to my sister "I have one more gift for you, it's over here".
We led her to the corner with the blanket and had her lift it off, revealing her brand new 88 note digital piano. You'd have thought I'd given her the moon!
She cried, she hugged us, she cried some more, she hugged some more.
Now she could play again, to her hearts content (side note, she plays very well, mostly classical) and play she did , every day, even composing some original music of her own.Fast Forward Again, this time to 2015.
By now Kathy and I have purchased a house together and moved to Maine (in February, from Florida, but that's another story). I've started to establish my piano tuning and repair business in the area.
As it happens, Kathy and I both enjoy poking around yard sales / garage sales / barn sales.
We were browsing at one in Freedom, NH when a woman named Bonnie asked if the car with the Piano Tuning sign was ours. One thing led to another and we ended up following her to her house where she had two baby grand pianos. The pianos were left by the previous owner, who at one time had as many as six in the house.
It turns out she doesn't play, neither does her husband Paul. But they'd like to get one of the pianos tuned so their grandchildren can play it, and so they can use it when they host a party (Kathy and I ended up performing at their Valentine's Day party, but again that's another story).We Have an Extra Baby Grand Piano
They asked me to look at both pianos, but they were leaning toward the Chickering because it has the prettier cabinet. After inspecting them both I told them they were fairly close mechanically. Someone had replaced the pins, strings, and hammers on both pianos not long ago. Neither had any real action work though. They chose the Chickering.
I asked it they would like me to help them sell the other one (a Lauter), provided it could be tuned.
As a test I tried tuning random notes, they held fine. I mentioned that I sometimes run into people who would like a piano but can't afford one. They said I could have the piano and find it a good home.
I mentioned I'd love to give my sister a real piano.And So I Took the Piano Home
I arranged to have my friend Larry Buck (E.J. Buck & Sons Pianos, Lowell, MA) bring his trailer up and help me move the piano from Freedom, NH to my garage in Parsonsfield, Maine.
The piano didn't look like much, years of grime and verdigris had turned it a dull black. (Here is the piano when I first met it)
Kathy looked at it and said "I think I can do something about this. I'm betting there is a pretty piano under all that". She started working on it, hand rubbing in the restorer, carefully removing the years of grime one small layer at a time. Some forty plus hours of hard work on Kathy's part, the last of which she worked on moments before leaving for the hospital to have the first of two complete knee replacements resulted in the piano you will see at the end of the collection of pictures below.It's Done and Delivered
Once Kathy had finished all her hard work (and I'd tweaked the action a bit and given it a tuning) it was time to deliver the piano to my sister's house in Swampscott, MA.
My sister rearranged her house just so she could create the proper music room for her new baby grand piano.
Once again I called upon our friend Larry Buck, and this time we loaded the piano up and brought it to its final home in Swampscott.The Piano is Home Now
The piano is where it belongs now, my sister is thrilled and plays it every day.
I can't thank Bonnie & Paul enough for their kind gift to me that gave Kathy and I the opportunity to bring a ray of sunshine and happiness to my sister and her family.
The following is a pictorial history of the journey (click the image if you'd like to see the full size version)
The Piano When I First Met It
(the Chickering is in the background)
Kathy Starts Working Her Magic
Kathy Carefully Scrubbing Away the Verdigris
She was right, there is a beautiful instrument in there!
You Can Really See The Difference Now!
Working on the Music Desk
And the Pedal Trap Work
(which means cleaning the brass too)
Coming Along Now
Getting a Leg Up
I'm Hand Making the Bracing Dowels for the Pedal Trap Work
Kathy Putting the Finishing Touches (literally, it's the poly coat going on last)
Just Before Leaving for the Hospital for a Full Knee Replacement
Our Neighbor (and bagpiper) Mike Greenham Stopped By to Say Hi at Just the Right Time
(we put him to work helping us load the piano)
Larry Buck and I Bring the Piano Into My Sister's Newly Created Music Room
Setting the Piano Up
The Finished Piano in its New Home
(note: my sister made the wall quilt and painted all the paintings in the room)
So now you know the story of how I came to give my sister a baby grand piano of her own.
I told her she has to live and play at least as long as *The Lady in Number 6 who played her piano every day
until she joined the big piano party in the sky, at age 110.
The End (for now)
*( the Lady in Number 6 is from a documentary I was involved in promoting about the then oldest living holocaust survivor and probably oldest living piano player at the time. more here on facebook https://www.facebook.com/theladyinnumbersix