We moved the piano in last week. I would call it a “new” piano, but it was actually built in the nineteenth century, over one hundred and twenty years ago now. It was a spur-of-the-moment purchase I made about nine years ago. A small Steinway upright, it was bought for a song (pun intended), but the real investment began immediately. A full day was spent traveling all the way up to just south of the Iowa state line and then back, with this unbelievably heavy piano-shaped-object bringing up the rear in a trailer. A small breakdown while flying through Kansas City, MO slowed us down and then we were home, tired and discouraged. We could already see that a lot more investment was to come, both in cash and sweat; that much was guaranteed.
It wasn’t a pretty thing, although what little we could see of the burl walnut wood gave promise that it could be. It didn’t sound nice at all, although its heritage reassured us that it had that potential also. But when it arrived in our town, you would have had to be a starry-eyed dreamer to imagine that this mass of blackened wood and rusty metal could ever again be a musical instrument, worthy to be called a piano.
Within weeks, new strings and tuning pins were purchased, waiting for the day when it would be ready to be restrung. The piano was completely disassembled, from the action all the way down to removal of all the case parts. You really wouldn’t have looked at the heap of wood and known that there was a fine musical instrument lying there, and for several years, it wasn’t anything approaching that. After the initial commotion of tearing down and stripping off old finish, our interest lagged, other projects called, and the Steinway languished in the old shop for a number of years.
Then earlier this year, the piano called again. I wasn’t up to answering the call (I thought it was really a wrong number), and was all for ditching the whole idea. But my brother-in-law is a dreamer, and an old hand at seeing the potential in all sorts of hopeless, once-beautiful-but-no-more projects. This visionary was anxious to make that pile of miscellaneous parts into a restored piece of art that could also make beautiful music again. Little by little, the piano took shape. Restringing, along with installing new tunings pins, was only the start. Rebuilding the action, a real challenge because he was working with century-old technology, then led to the next procedure of staining and finishing. Step by tedious step, the work progressed, until one day a few weeks ago, he called and said. “I think we’ve got a piano.”
The piano is still a work-in-progress. It needs a few more tunings before it will really stay in tune. There might even be a few of the action repairs that will need to be tweaked a bit. But this is a beautiful piece of century-old craftsmanship, now renewed and revitalized, and ready to play through the next century or two. I’m not intending to be around to play it that long, but there might be a grandchild or two who takes a shine to piano playing before it’s all said and done.
What a joy! To know that the sadly neglected and useless instrument is once again in it’s full glory, bringing forth beautiful music and inspiring the elation that comes unbidden from hearing the sweet melodies and beautiful chords, is nothing short of exhilarating. If I wasn’t sure that I would severely try your patience, I would sermonize a bit about how much that resembles us in our sorry state and the result of the “touch of the master’s hand”, but I’m pretty sure you have already comprehended that parallel.
For tonight, I’ll just say that I’m grateful for craftsmen in this world who never quit dreaming, for a God in heaven who never quits extending His grace to sinners, and for music that allows us to have a little of heaven right here on earth.
“Pianos are such noble instruments – they’re either upright or grand.”