There are a lot of stories going around about how hard it is to place old pianos in good homes these days and they always make me a bit wistful. I am a big fan of what I call the ‘nineteenth century moment,’ which is when a piano (or any other acoustic instrument) is being put through its paces in the parlor. Or the basement. Or anywhere, it doesn’t matter. Last weekend we found a stray piano in a garage sale and I made it my mission to keep it out of the dump.
When we saw the “Garage Sale” sign on our block my wife, Gina (a piano player herself), didn’t want to go. She was afraid I might be tempted by, well, let’s call it junk, but I prevailed, certain that I could withstand any siren songs that said junk might warble. After all it was late (past noon) and the place was well picked over. Upon entering the house (the garage sale was not actually in the garage) I was immediately drawn to a small piano in the living room. It had more style than most spinets: gently curved legs, a two toned walnut finish and a matching bench. I thought it looked art deco-ish and guessed it was from the 1930s. (Subsequent research confirmed it was.)
We poked around the junk (for everything else was, in fact, junk) but I kept drifting back to the spinet. I asked the young attendent if it was for sale. He said it was. “How much?” I asked. “Make an offer,” he replied. So I did. It was a modest offer in the low three figures. In fact, it was the lowest three figure number in existance. He said he would take it. There was only one problem: we already have a piano and no room for another. I pulled out my phone to call my brother, who’s son is a piano student. This little spinet would fit nicely into their decor, I told Gina. I’m helpful that way. “But they already have a nice electronic keyboard,” my wife accurately pointed out. “I know, but acoustic pianos move actual air with strings that, you know, vibrate. Together!” My logic seemed ironclad, at least to me. There might have been an audible sigh at this but no physical blocking of my phone hand ensued, so I proceeded.
“Dan, I found a little piano that would be perfect for you guys. Cheap!” I extolled its attributes breathlessly, sent him some pics and brought him on board. Gina and I went home to fetch some Bach so that she could put the keyboard through its paces, which she did. The keyboard was declared to have a nice light action with no stuck keys; all it needed was a good tuning and some TLC from a piano technician.
I gave the young man a check and turned my attention to transport. Happily, I have a mini van and it was a mini piano so it really wasn’t too bad. I rented a piano dolly at U-Haul (very helpful), got my bro, my son and the aforementioned piano selling lad to help load our cargo and it was fairly smooth sailing after that. One more piano finds a forever home!