In response to Herb Ziegler's question in the 08.01.12 MMD: I bought a
Marshall and Rose Ampico 6-foot grand from an antique shop in the UK
about four years ago. It was roped onto a trolley and stuck in the
middle of the shop, causing a very inelegant blockage!
The story was that it had been imported from the U.S. many years
previously by someone who had intended to restore it. But, for what-
ever reason, he lost interest. The machine had been thus stored for
many years, until it found its way to the antique shop to sell. I
bought it, and it was conveyed to my workshop (leaving a trail of
fragments of brittle rubber tubing along the way), where I set about
its restoration, still on its side of course. It was a very steep
learning curve for me, as I had never tackled an Ampico mechanism
before. A year of weekends, and the odd evening, later it was
Although I had been meticulous in my work, and took plenty of advice
from people around the globe who knew far more than I about these
instruments, I had absolutely no idea whether my restoration had been
successful or not. It was at that point that I decided to retire and
move to France. So, the piano was transferred onto a proper support
and trolley and ended up here in a garage, until I had a special room
built for my collection. Two months later the piano was trundled by
four of us over my uneven garden to the music room where, after many
years, the poor thing found itself the right way up again.
I ran my fingers over the keys and found to my absolute surprise that
the instrument was only the very slightest off tune, certainly play-
able, although rather quiet. On inspecting the piano action, I could
see that the hammers were striking only two strings, not three. Over
the years gravity had pulled the keys a little towards the bass end.
So, rather than wait for a few years to see if they might return, I
adjusted them to the correct position.
I inserted a roll, set the controls, and plugged into the electrical
outlet, with a hand on the switch in case something awful happened.
Music sprang forth, and I collapsed in tears of relief and joy. The
young thirty-year-old chap (French, of course) who had built the music
room and who, until that point had, I am sure, felt that this was just
another idiot "Anglais," also had a handkerchief out. When the roll
had finished, he just said quietly, "Incroyable!"
About twelve rolls later, he decided reluctantly that he had better go
home, as it was getting late. Next day, he was back with his brother,
his wife, and two children for a concert!
With great difficulty, I found a piano tuner eighteen months ago. The
instrument remains a joy to play, both by hand and mechanically. I
have no doubt that a Ampico professional could spend a couple of hours
to great benefit on this piano; but that isn't going to happen here in
France! I am content with its performance.
Perhaps I was just lucky, but I can not imagine that a few weeks on its
side will upset Herb's piano.
Regards to all,