The Saturday before Thanksgiving, I visited Rich Galassini at the Cunningham Pianos rebuilding facility in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. I was traveling east to visit family in NJ for the holiday, and was on my own for half a day in the Philly area – I shot Rich a note, and he graciously offered to give me a tour of the facility.
I was excited to see a place where pianos go to be reborn. Even though I’ve played piano for almost 50 years, I never really gave the instrument itself much thought. That changed, however, once I bought my current piano 5 years ago - since then, I’ve been fascinated by this marvel of engineering and human ingenuity, and the visits by my tech several times a year are master classes of learning for me. Visiting Rich’s rebuilding facility was a treat – it was wonderful to step into this historic artisan’s den and get a glimpse of what is involved in this work.
On to the visit. Rich had a window at 8:30 am before he had to run up to his King of Prussia showroom for an appointment – he greeted me in what looked like a vintage M&H biker jacket…had never seen one of those before! My hour-long tour was during a time when the facility was quiet – a few folks came into work while I was there, but I left before the day really got underway.
Rich was a wonderful host, welcoming me warmly and giving me his undivided attention while we walked through the facility. We swapped stories of our mutual music backgrounds, he shared how he got into the business, and we both enthused over our love of the Bosendorfer 225. He was also very complimentary of my piano (he knows his audience!) and we talked about the impact of my putting Isaac bass strings and hammers on it. His knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for this work was very self-evident! We wound our way through three floors of the shop – seeing a wide array of pianos in various stages of rebuild – from the early stages of a completely torn apart, very old C. Bechstein upright to a nearly finished Baldwin L. It was cool to see the racks of actions, the lids being prepped for finishing, the incredible variety of tools and forms (such as the soundboard crown press – which I’m sure isn’t the right name for it), and the room where they dry / age tone wood (the “wood sauna”, as Rich called it).
In addition to the pianos in varying stages of undress, there were rooms with rows and rows of grands on their sides- whether for storage or waiting to be worked on. In addition, a number of organs were also lined up – I had no idea they did that work as well.
Time was short and I was very out of practice, so I didn’t do much playing. What little playing I did ignited my interest in returning to one of his retail showrooms at another time - I loved playing a wonderful S&S D (voiced down for the home) as well as an M&H BB in the area with finished and new pianos. Despite my rustiness, it was evident that the sound and touch on both pianos were simply wonderful.
The hour was up too soon – I could’ve easily hung around spent hours getting lost playing lots of instruments, but Rich had to get to his appointment, and I needed to head to my son’s college to watch his cello ensemble concert. Thank you again, Rich
, for sharing your time and expertise with me. Your generosity of spirit is only matched by the quality that is evident in the work you and your team do. Next time I’m in the area with some free time, I’d like to stop by one of your retail shops - but I will make sure I’m in playing shape to be able to really give those pianos a whirl!
I wish I had taken more pictures, but here is a link to what I did take: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JvY6qs7BXFyvGZSU7