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MMD > Archives > April 1999 > 1999.04.03 > 08Prev  Next

Pianola Playing in Public
By Roger Waring

It was interesting to read of Dan Wilson's and Bruce Clark's experi-
ences with playing in public.  Dan clearly obtained a lot of personal
satisfaction from his efforts, and most important, gained the co-
operation and support of the store owners.

Some of what Bruce wrote made depressing reading, and although I might
differ with him on public appreciation of piano music generally, I have
to agree with him when he advises care.  If you are going to leave the
instrument unattended for long periods, then it has to be secured, even
in a respectable joint such as a tea-room.

Children and drinks are probably the biggest menace (delightful though
the former may be).  A proper all-over waterproof cover will usually
deter most casual observers, and if the premises are locked when not in
use then this may be sufficient.

Here are two examples from personal experience.  First a good

At Hexham the cafe is secured when not open for trade.  I keep the
pianola covered between sessions and it is untouched when I come to it
each time.  The clientele is made up of locals (who respect the cafe
proprietors) and jazz enthusiasts (who respect the instrument).  I have
never had a problem with unwanted attention in this environment.

However, what Bruce says about playing too loud is valid.  It is easy
to get carried away, and you must respect the customers wishes for
quiet conversation.  You have to judge the mood, and look at what type
of people are currently around.

Now a bad experience.  I recently did a gig at my local pub with a
professional band, including a "live" pianist, and took along a very
nice Kemble player that I had overhauled.  It was just for one session,
and I took it in the previous night to give me some breathing space.
I tuned it and left it (uncovered) ready for the next day.  It was left
for less than 2 hours that evening, although it was on a staged area
and staff were around.

Next lunch time, prior to the evening gig, I dropped by around 1 PM
"just to make sure" that everything was OK.  Noticing that the lid was
up, I sat down and played a tune.  Aaaaaargh!  No E above middle C!
I opened the haft top and peered inside: one broken hammer.  You can
imagine my consternation -- a gig in less than 5 hours time and a
top-class pianist on my piano!

As is the way in these situations, you don't have time to panic, you
just have to get moving.  Take out player and piano actions and remove
the broken hammer.  A quick dash to the workshop, repair and glue the
hammer, dash back.  Install hammer and replace everything.  All before
3 PM.  Obviously someone had decided to see how hard they could hit a

Suppose it had broken during the gig, though?!  I didn't know whether
to be mad or grateful.  The funny thing is, that as I write I have just
sold this instrument to a lady in the West of Ireland who wants it for
a home for disabled children.  On the one hand I am genuinely delighted
that it will give considerable pleasure, but also slightly apprehensive
as to the treatment it will receive.  Perhaps I can negotiate an annual
holiday there in exchange for maintenance!

Roger Waring
The Pianola Workshop

(Message sent Sat 3 Apr 1999, 12:29:57 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Pianola, Playing, Public

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