Meta Brown said:
>I would like to thank everyone who helped me get to the AMICA
>sponsored concert performance of a Duo-Art concert grand piano
>last weekend in Batavia, Illinois. Those of you who were not
>lucky enough to be there missed a nice mix of classical and
>popular music, and some good old stories of player piano history.
>My husband, who had to be coaxed into going to the concert, is
>now in love with reproducing pianos and wants to collect them.
I'm very glad to hear this news, because I was over from England to play
in the AMICA event and got asked to re-spool the rolls by hand, the Weber
having developed a reroll fault at the last moment ! There was one roll
(of "The Whip") that was on its last legs and kept trying to reroll
automatically halfway through. I picked it up with some foreboding and
as I feared, after a few twists it fell apart silently. Rex Lawson's
remark at this was, "Old American rolls kept in Britain have lasted a lot
better - maybe AMICA should lend us its entire stock for safe keeping
..." Always a joker, Rex.
Two of these grands are known for certain, demonstration instruments at
the New York and London Aeolian Halls. The British one was in store at
the roll factory at Hayes in 1942 and a stick of bombs damaged it and
blew a crater in the Great Western Railway main line alongside. It and
the building it had been in were used to fill the crater. The one at
Batavia has a non-original player action intended for a smaller piano,
which is all right for the space there, but I must say I doubt that it
can be juiced up enough to fill a big hall. Lovely bass, but the treble
maybe a little woolly. The folktale is that there were actually six of
these grands made, the untraced ones being in San Francisco, Berlin (the
Choralion Co), Rome and Geneva. Who made the special plates, I wonder ?
Turning to Darrell Clarke's post on pre-Temponamic hand-worked Duo-Arts,
I'm mystified by his remark:
>I would go even further and say that the very early version (at
>least in the uprights) was better still as it allowed the operator
>(would-be pianist) to control the theme and accompaniment with one
>hand and keeping an easily controlled relative accenting by using
>the fingers as the accompaniment is varied. The left hand controls
>all expression and the right hand is free to vary tempo etc.
This certainly doesn't apply to the electric Duo-Art Steinway XR
belonging to my hosts in Chicago, Margaret Bisberg and Richard van Metre.
I was fascinated by this instrument, because it has no fewer than five
hand controls only two of which can be reached at one time:
THEME (lever sliding to right = loud);
TREBLE/BASS (sliding to left, like Pianola controls, but with treble
subdue on top and having pop action);
ACCOMPANIMENT (sliding either way from central "mf" position which it
adopts on switch-on), and
TEMPO (as usual).
You work the soft and loud pedals like a pianist. I had a suspicion some
tubes might be misplaced because the THEME control produced a result
independent of any snakebites there might be on the roll and so
duplicated the function of the ACCOMPANIMENT control, but even without
that you'd need to work something with your teeth if you wanted full
This is perhaps an opportunity to say how very touched I was by the
kindness and friendliness of everyone in AMICA and indeed not in AMICA --
we had some super audiences. We hear a lot about dark and dangerous
Chicago in the UK but I found it (What's the word?) Old-fashioned --
straight. Like visiting Scotland or New Zealand. A deep pleasure,
anyway. Thanks to everyone, and compliments to Eric Bergstrom who had
rebuilt Jim Edwards's Themodist pushup so well.