Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Piano history and moving pix

The quest for a local mover ended when a friend who tunes and repairs organs recommended J.E. Ladd & Son Transfer. They did a fabulous and efficient job, and we continue to be amused by their tag line: "We moved your antiques when they were new." They said the dolly they used dates back to the 1920s, so it's almost as old as the piano.

Here's what my mom wrote recently about the piano's history:
The year I was twelve, 1953, we moved to Chicago. Mitch and Wooz found a third floor walk-up apartment in Hyde Park. Jules and Zunia Henry lived on the first floor. Jules was an anthropologist based at Washington University in St. Louis, taking a sabbatical year at the University of Chicago--I knew that as a kid. Zunia was, as far as I knew, a nice lady who played the piano and gave lessons. Here's an interview from 1988--I had no idea! Their daughter, Joan, was my age and we became good friends for that year.

Mitch was always a spendthrift (made Woozy constantly crazy) and perpetually delusional about his kids being musical geniuses--remember poor Bob and the violin. He decided that all that was needed to bring out my natural gifts as a musical prodigy was a piano, and enlisted the help of Zunia to find a "suitable instrument." It was she who found the Mason & Hamlin at an estate sale in the fancy part of town. It cost Mitch $500 ($4,364 in 2014 dollars), a pretty good deal as I understand it now, but an outrageous expense (IMO) for a man with very limited income on behalf a child with no demonstrated aptitude or interest. I took piano lessons from Zunia, learned a bit about reading music, and enjoyed the experience. But the Henrys went back to St. Louis at the end of the academic year, and that was the end of the experiment.

I have an indelible memory of [the piano being moved into the apartment]. The movers brought it via the alley at the rear of the apartment building, rigged pulleys to the roof and side of the building and the piano, and lifted it from the ground up to the third floor. Outside. Nobody but the movers were allowed in the yard while this was going on. High drama for the whole neighborhood! It came in through the back porch. Yikes indeed.

The piano eventually moved to Urbana a generation later only because you were the singular grandchild who exhibited a passion for things musical. Excellent good luck, I'd say! Yay, Mitch!
Excellent luck indeed! Incidentally, my grandfather Mitch decided at some point that if his kids weren't going to be musicians, he still could be. He started taking cello lessons late in life from Leonore Glazer, a cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Once, when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra swung through Urbana, I asked her why orchestra musicians always wear black. As I remember it, she agreed with me that light blue would be a better color.) I still have some of Mitch's cello music, and my mom still has his cello case, which Woozy had painted with images representing inside family jokes.

But back to the piano:

On the dolly, getting ready to roll off the truck;


...through the front door

...and into the remarkably clean study.

It turns out 6'2" is way bigger in 3D-piano units than in a flat narrow strip of tape measure units.

Second leg took some extra nudging;

S told me, ca. 1992, that "a man needs a rubber mallet." Here's proof.

Awaiting leg #3...

Not pictured: rubber mallet.

Standing on its own three feet. Look at that pristine interior!

Adding the lid...

Lid pins in place.

Ta da! A thing of beauty.
A friend living afar wanted to hear what it sounds like, so I pulled out a piece we had played together 25 years ago (!). The recording is missing French Horn and violin, and the sound range on the flip cam isn't great, and the piano hasn't been tuned yet. Nonetheless, if you listen to the end, you'll hear the audience's enthusiastic response.

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