Thursday, September 16, 2010

Imperial Upright Piano

This is a photo of our Imperial Upright piano made by the McPhail Company for the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago. Its exterior birdseye maple is beautiful, but it hides a serious inner problem. The piano does not sound healthy.

We had the piano technician come out the other day to look at the piano to give us a diagnosis and an estimate of what it would cost to restore it. I mean, we don't need the exterior restored,  'only' the pin block, the sound board, etc.

Some years back a different piano technician told us that we needed to lay the piano on its back and pour wood glue into the holes into which the pegs go. That seemed a little fishy to me at the time, for I figured that if we did that, the first time the piano went out of tune it would be all over! When I told the current piano technician that story, he just rolled his eyes and said he was glad we had had sense enough not to do that.

He also shook his head at the story of our 7' grand piano which has been sitting in Duluth, MN for fifteen years, waiting for a different piano technician to get around to working on it. Needless to say, we've simply given up on that one. Today it would cost between $15,000 and $17,000 to have it restored.

Restoring our Imperial Upright, on the other hand, would cost a mere $5,000. Even if I had an extra five thousand, I doubt that we would spend it on a piano.  There are windows that need to be replaced and a porch that needs building in order to divert water from the basement. And right now, I just want a good studio piano with good sound.

What we have is a beautiful piano that's useless. I can think of several spiritual analogies here, but...

...I think I'll go on Craig's List.


Denise said...

Wow, that is alot of money, will be praying in regards to this my friend.

Yenta Mary said...

It's impractical, but beautiful ... truly beautiful. Even if it can't be played, clearly it's contributing to the charm and warmth of your home, and that is priceless. Clearly there are other priorities -- I guess this one just needs to be viewed as a work of art!

Unknown said...

Sigh.... my piano is behind me and in great need of tuning. I just don't play it like I used to (before I got married, had kids and all that fun stuff). I've tried to sell it, but my heart just won't let go. I even played it today for the first time in a very long time. Thank goodness I was just playing for myself! YIKES! They are beautiful instruments though.....

J_on_tour said...

It's a big decision and expensive. I've got an upright piano that I haven't got time to play, for a host of reasons including extreme shifts at work and know what...... !! , even though it's my first instrument. My musical time has been taken up with playing Bass guitar in a church band where there was a need at the time, so in a sense... I also have a piano (although not beautiful )...thats ( hopefully only currently) useless !
Thought I would sign up also to your blog as it seems to be my most visited as a non follower up to now. (I'll subscribe to all the posts I comment on)

Valerie said...

Funny to read about the tech telling you to glue the pegs!

When I was a kid my parents found an antique piano and brought it home. I was thrilled to take piano lessons on it. But we found that at one point - some non musical person did glue a few of the tuning pegs into place. Bb right below middle C played like a train - always! 39 years later I can still hear it!

I remember the day they got rid of the piano (in my parents mind - it took too much space and was not very good for the developing ear of a child wanting to sing and play) - allowing it to be rolled down the street by my brother and his friends to someone's house. My dad cashed in his life insurance policy to buy a studio Baldwin which I continued my piano lessons on, and began to study voice as well. I ended up going to school for music and became a music teacher. That studio Baldwin now sits in my home - properly cared for all these years - and two of my sons play it regularly along with myself.

I have a wonderful knowledgeable technician - who tunes it 2x a year - and even had a string replaced - when we played a little too hard ( along with the drum set and guitar amps that now sit next to it). No glue for my piano!

partialemptynester said...

Oh, so sorry to hear that! It's absolutely stunning, regardless (yep, I can think of lots of spiritual applications there, too)...we were "given" (sorta) a gorgeous grand piano (that works). I might just have to blog a friend whose cousin chose the homeless life (seriously), gave up everything, except his piano and supposedly shows up every once in a the 10 years we've had the piano, we've never seen or heard from him...wild story, indeed!

Ma What's 4 dinner said...

I'm feeling a bit sad for the piano, I gotta admit. I always wanted to play though I'm not terribly musically inclined.

Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner


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