⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

December 5, 2010

A player piano.



A pneumatic phenomenon. A player piano. At our house. Oh my.

Xavier has certainly outdone himself this time. (It is difficult to keep doing that, but he seems to be on a roll). It was my thirtieth birthday present, but was just delivered 4 months subsequent. We wanted to wait until we had the proper place to receive it. And voilà.



The story of the player piano is pretty splendid. They were really popular late 19th-early 20th century. Like everything chichi and worthwhile, the 1920's were their heyday. Then came phonographs and radios and Black Tuesday and the end of player pianos. (Ours is a 1920-er). Today they need love and restoration to articulate once more.



Xavier did his research for this tour de force gift and found the player piano master of the current century in Boston. His name is Geoffrey. He restores these pianos with tenderness and know-how that very few know anymore. He showed up at our house on Saturday in his delivery truck. The piano was there in the bed, huddled and wrapped in blankets with another piano friend who had been reconstituted and was heading to someone else's house in New York City. Our front door is up a flight of stairs - a piano's worst nightmare. Luckily, Xavier's dad is here visiting at the moment, so we were four to make the grand effort. And up it went - heaved up the stairs threatening to tip the wrong way and squash us all (or at least 3 of us at once). One of Geoff's hands is handicapped, but it was like he had the strength and ability of two people when it came to moving pianos.



He clearly loves the pianos he restores. Once it was finally in the house and in position, he sat down at the piano, faced it - looked it over with a sort of triumphant smile. And then, ceremoniously and without speaking at all, he inserted a roll into the slot, fastened it and began to pump the pedals with the quick, feathery wings his feet had become. An entire waltz was achieved by some chimera hovering over the keys - they were on fire and we just stood there leaning closer and closer trying to believe what we were taking in. Have you seen a player piano play? The keys dancing like that?

When the waltz had finished, he rewound the roll, turned to us and described in detail the mechanism of forced air that makes the piano work. Geoffrey's words reinforced the notion that he exalts these things. And a player piano is the apparatus for him to sit down and play masterpieces.





















Video testimony forthcoming.

12 comments:

Marnie said...

Lucky lucky LUCKY!! We had one of these once, inherited in v. bad condition and it did not survive a house full of children. I miss it :( Enjoy yours :)

Lacey @ The Road is Life said...

thats wonderful! beautiful pics and great story--you will have so much fun w/ that!

Jill said...

Wow what a gift! When Xavier gives, he gives big! How do I get on his gift list?

Mike's grandma had a player piano. It was treasured and the kids loved it too. I can't wait for the video of yours. I'm glad you have a piano to play Emilie. You're good at it.

Maria Petrova said...

beautiful, and beautifully photographed!

Sarah said...

How exciting! I'm going to have to come visit you guys when I'm home...

Emilie said...

yes, please, sarah!

Maria Petrova said...

Just read the story — "chimera" is the perfect word for piano player magic! Can't wait to impress you all with my playing.

Rosie said...

Congratulations! What a beautiful gift! Now you can play when you want to escape a bit or have it play to you when you are too tired to play! I can't wait to hear a demonstration for real.

D1Warbler said...

What fun!

My mother had a player piano (given to her by her parents for her 6th birthday). Unfortunately, when she grew up, she had the player taken out and the piano stepped down. We all cried buckets when we found out that we might have had a gem like that! She eventually mourned her decision, too.

Luckily, you never had to go there!

Xavier Joly said...

Everybody is welcome!

Rosie, we want you to play this piano too!

Brad said...

Great post. I can't wait to hear the piano. It looks beautiful.

Anonymous said...

what is the contact information for this wonderful piano restoring man?!

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