Sunday, March 21, 2021

I finally buy another piano

When we knew we were moving house back in September last year, I also knew I'd have to sell the Broadwood baby grand I'd had for about twelve years. This was tough, because I'd used it continually, and I was very fond of it, in spite of its upper register having a couple of notes that were very bright - brighter than their fellows - and the middle section of the keyboard requiring considerable strength to make it play well and evenly. 

In the end I bit the bullet and advertised it on Trade Me, after asking the two remaining piano companies in Dunedin if either of them were interested in buying it. The first said they had too much stock already, the second, Alexander Pianos, also said he had a lot in hand at the moment, but at least told me how much it would cost to shift it. 

And then he put a question on the Trade Me page and after a bit of back and forth, I sold it directly to him for NZ$2,500.  

Adrian Mann is a bit of a unassuming genius. Not only did he build, from scratch, the longest piano in the world - but he tunes pianos, repairs them, does them up, trades in them, shifts them round the region mostly on his own. Yesterday, I even discovered that he'd built the trailer he carries them in: a big metal box affair with all sorts of innovations he's installed himself. He made it so that it's slightly narrower than his car, which means that if he can get his car in a driveway he can get the trailer in too. 

The trailer has a flap at the back that folds down to form a platform which can be electrically lowered and raised as required. 

When he picked up my grand, he brought his muscle man with him. I was expecting someone who at least appeared to have muscles, but in fact the guy was skinny and taller than Adrian, and is another pianist, who teaches piano. Adrian himself is only about my height (five foot six, or roughly 167 centimetres), and appears to be slightly built. But he can shift a piano into your house - or out of it - on his own, on a trolley, as though he was just bringing in the groceries. 

After we moved I kept putting off getting another piano for no good reason, using my digital piano in the meantime. A good instrument in its way, but not as flexible as a piano in terms of how easily you can move round the keys. Still it's sustained me in the interim. Finally I decided I needed to get on and find another one, and so when I was down in Dunedin last weekend I went in to see Adrian and he showed me a couple of possibilities. 

The first was a Danemann piano. I liked it but it felt a bit blurry when I used the pedal. This may have been because when you used the pedal on the digital piano it had almost no resonance. The Danemann was very bright in the upper register which didn't feel quite comfortable. 

The second piano was a Welmar and it was much more my style. Don't know how to explain why that was the case. It played easily, had grunt, was still brightish up top but not overwhelmingly, and generally said to me, 'Look, mate, don't hang about thinking about this; just get on and buy me.' So I did. It cost me the same price as I'd got for the grand by the time $200 was added on for the shift to Oamaru. This is an hour and a half's drive, but Adrian said he'd bring my piano up next time he was coming in our direction with other jobs. I seem to remember that when the grand was shifted into our house twelve years or so ago, it cost $180, so with inflation, $200 is not a bad price, especially when you take into account the distance. 

It arrived yesterday afternoon, eight days after I'd bought it - which in itself was a nice surprise and a bonus. Adrian came on his own - he'd already dropped another piano off about twenty minutes out of Dunedin (a loan one, so presumably he'll have to pick it up again); and was going on from our place to do two tunings, and possibly pick up another piano, and then going over to Queenstown, which is about four hours away to tune another piano - urgently. A lot of work for one day!

He had the Welmar into our house in a matter of minutes, once he'd got it unhooked from its straps and such, and we mostly stood and watched him, only lending a hand when he was getting off the trolley. Even that was mostly done by him. (It took four guys to get the grand into our old house, and only one of them really seemed to know what he was doing!)

I had a good long play on the piano yesterday afternoon - mostly Mozart sonatas - and we got acquainted with each other. It always seems that pianos and their owners take a bit of time getting used to each other's quirks. 

I looked up how old the Welmar is this morning. It was built in London, and its individual number is 50122, which means it was made in 1950. It was therefore built just a couple of years before I started learning the piano, which makes it almost as old as I am, and possibly in better condition! 

*The longest piano sat in the Otago Museum for a couple of years, and was played by various pianists while it was there. 


Lydia said...

I hope you enjoy your new (to you) piano!

Mike Crowl said...

Thanks, Lydia! I've been playing it when time allows - we've had visitors over the last couple of days - and it's a delight just to be able more freely move around the keyboard. And be able to play more subtly.

LissaJ said...

Congrats on your new baby. I love that it has 'grunt'. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds fun. You have inspired me to play the piano we paid beaucoup $$ to move halfway across the country, but mostly just sits in the front room gathering dust.

Mike Crowl said...

Grunt means 'heft', weight, anything that indicates it won't give way when I crash and bang on it (as in Beethoven at times, or some of my own compositions). Glad I've inspired someone to play. That's good! Let me know how you get on...