Saturday, 16 November 2019

From Russia With Love

A couple of months back, Marion's cousin Tamsin was travelling in Tajikistan with her partner, Guido. They went to Khorog museum and found this piano:

This fascinating Soviet-style old-school museum exhibits crampons and the first Russian piano to arrive in Badakhshan (10 Russian soldiers spent two months carrying it over the mountains from Osh in 1913) along with portraits of Stalin and the basket of a collective farm's star potato-picker. The dilapidated collection is in need of a good dust but that rather adds to the charm. - Lonely Planet

It's an J. Becker. We initially assumed it was named after John J. Becker, an American composer, but a piano forum suggests otherwise:
The Piano Atlas indicates that Jacob Becker went to St. Petersburg in 1841 (from Germany by other sources) where he began what became the high end piano maker for the Czars and their retinue. This Russian maker whose name as J. Becker was known on the fallboards appearing in the best homes of Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as in both conservatories where the formidable Russian school of pianism began and was fostered. Becker was apparently a pretty good piano maker until the Soviet era. Their output was always pretty small. - David Burton, Piano World

Unfortunately, this one now appears to be used to store cleaning equipment...

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Drop That Bass

Wanted to share an incredible piece of artwork we've just acquired. 

Back in 2017, when we first took the strings off the Lirika, it was quite an emotional moment. It had taken Marion years to find a piano, so to take it apart with no guarantee of ever being able to put it back together was a bit of a momentous occasion. She didn't just want to throw the strings away. Instead, she had the idea of turning them into a treble clef - a work of art to display at future events. Her friend Ivy put her in contact with a local artist called Rukundo Nyawe, who took up the challenge. 

Our friend Emmy came to deliver it last week, and it's truly impressive. 

Rukundo used every piece of string we'd saved: bass, steel, even the little pig tails we'd trimmed from the tuning pin ends. No waste. And it looks utterly amazing hanging on the wall. A really fitting tribute to a beautiful piano that gave us our start at building one. 


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Rust Damage

This is a pretty devastating post to have to make. The piano has been stored at the workshop for many months now and was protected by waterproof sheeting, however on inspection a couple of weeks back, it turns out that water has affected around seven choruses in the midsection and one bass string. 

We have enough string to restring the midsection and a replacement bass, but it's really undone a lot of hard work and will take time to fix. An issue we'd really hoped to avoid. 

We're now making plans to return the piano to Marion's house where it can be protected from further damp and have the repair work done.

In other sad news, Désiré's workshop was broken into last week. Thankfully the thief was caught by police and nothing from the piano project seems to have gone missing, but it's set back work a little.

The wet season is a particularly difficult time for piano building in Rwanda.