Friday, June 18, 2021

Tuning the Piano


Last Wednesday a ritual was carried out in my house for the first time in 4 years,... one that usually happens every 2 or 3 years.  In theory it's supposed to happen every year, but my history shows every two years to be a good, livable average.  The piano was due for tuning in 2019 and somehow I let it slip until the next year.  UH OH, we all know what happened then --- !!

A friend of mine asked to see more pictures of my piano.  Also, there's some model horse history further down.  Here y'go:  We'll start at the most stripped-down stage.  The surroundings are unnaturally bare here because part of tuning is getting all the stuff off.  Amazingly it took me only half an hour to clear the decks.

Almost everything here has a story.  The gold macrame trombone on the wall was made by my mother.  The bumper sticker on the side says "Don't Shoot!  I'm Just A Piano Player."  The blue polyester cape on the bench was swag from a Free-To-Breathe 5K race I entered (benefit lung cancer).  The padding under the cape is a sheepskin, my first sheepskin given to me by a friend who had moved to New Zealand.  (That was in 1976.  It is my only case of a long-lasting sheepskin.)   You would not believe how comfy to sit on is that slick polyester over the sheepskin...

The red cloth is a fleece-type fabric I've used for [model] harness backpads, viz, Olensky's 8-Horse-Hitch and others.  The black bench originally was openable, but my Dad glued its top shut sometime in the 70s and it has stayed that way ever since.

One of the more beautiful aspects of this 1909 piano is the wood carving on the front panel.  I am pretty sure it was done by hand.  Oak on one side, laurel on the other:  I am not quite sure what these stand for, other than a fuzzy idea of oak for strength and laurel for the arts.  The whole piano was painted fleck black in the 1940s.  We do not know what is underneath the black, if anything;  a few worn places reveal a most luscious wood-color.  I have chosen to keep the black as a protective layer.

This is a Harmon-Wellington upright, built in Denver.  1909 was the high-water mark for piano production in this country.  My mom purchased this piano in Denver in 1966, replacing a miserable red-colored spinet I can just barely remember (I was 6 at the time).  No one knows where it was or what happened to it from 1909 to 1966, other than it was in Denver and got painted.  That amount of time, 57 years, is only now approaching half its age: 112 this year.

Here's the serial number:  128467

The piano went with me when I moved east after my marriage.  I told my husband he had no choice:  It was my foundation, my rock and my soul.  He has put up with it very well, all things considered.  Thank all the saints he doesn't mind ragtime --!

 My tuner is Tom DeFerrari of State College and Clearfield.  He let me talk him into taking this picture right after he finished the job.

An interesting side note to the day was that the previous day I'd been in WalMart for the first time in 15 months,... and wore a mask.  Though I've been vaccinated since February I honestly was frightened:  "Vaxed but Afeared" could've been written on my forehead.  It has been a strange, vacillating experience coming out of pandemic.  Tom is the first stranger in our house without a mask in all this time.  Of course, he was vaccinated; it was the first thing he said when I called him up.  My story contains the weird behaviour of me sneakily slipping off the mask, hiding in the aisles of WalMart, for a few moments, then donning it again.  I started this pandemic with a soft cloth mask, and it looks like I'm ending with one...  In between, over the winter of terror, only a KN95 would do for shopping.  The choice to unmask or not is currently depending on the location (indoors or out), the signage (every business different), the presence of strangers and the knowledge of present company's vax state.  However, I'm sure I'll settle out eventually:  I can tell that the fear will go away in time.

Putting things back starts with my antique serape, given to me by my Grandma Bensema.  She undoubtedly got it in Mexico -- she lived in Tucson.  It is different from all my other serapes in both color and end-tying.  (I'll have to do a blog post on my 30+ serapes some time...)

First, all the stuff on the left hand side.  The trombone, the snow shovel, canes, and the unstrung bobber collection, cherry-picked during years of canoeing.  Oh and the cat litter bag, which is used for sidewalk grit during snow and ice.
Next, starting the stacks of music.  The basket of dried flowers is a memento of my hospitalization and cancer treatments in 2010.  The story here is that we still don't know who gave it to me.   We have our suspicions but he denies it -- !! 

Music, unlike books, has no place to go when I don't use it anymore.  I'm always astounded at how much music I have.
At a rough guess, there's probably three hundred pounds of paper on the piano.

Note that the flag stands are trombone mutes.

 Now for the most personal of all ornaments, the animals.  Chico the Spanish Fighting Bull is a natural counterpoint to the Charcoal Fighting Stallion.  Chico appeared sometime around the middle to late 80s.  But Thomas came into my life in the middle 60s, one of the four oldest models still in my possession.

His position in my collection is unique.  He is not a member of King's Herd.  He is not married and has no personality.  His tail is broken, his leg is broken, he's missing an ear, he's a fatneck and scratched to hell.  And yet he represents a continuous time trace all the way back to my earliest model horse memories.  He is King's brother and of royal blood.

I remember Mom getting him for me because I begged in the toy store (Crossroad's Three Wishes), and then (in the department store J.C. Penney's upstairs, in downtown Boulder in the 60s) I saw an ad for Thomas Organs on the store TV.  His name became Thomas Barton Jefferson.  I have no idea where the Barton came from, unless it was a shortening of my own last name, and it just flowed better with the uneven syllables.

Thomas became part of the piano about when I became its owner, circa 1980, and he's been there ever since.

Are we done yet?  Heavens no.  Where do you suppose I store all my packing materials, garnered from 30 years of collecting model horses?

What a great chance to clean the pile out a little, to consolidate and organize.  There is so much stuff that it's stored in two layers.

The doorway on the right opens to the tack room,...  more on that later.  :)

All things are temporary.  Now that I'm tuned, vaxed and freed,... I've got a case of tendonitis!, so the piano playing is kept at a low level.

But I'm healing.

1 comment:

  1. Such a beautiful piano - I loved reading about its history as well as the treasures that surround it.