In 2007 John Del Carlo and I began corresponding about his Ampico
project. His enthusiasm and vision were something I had never
experienced before from a collector.
John had been a piano roll collector and Ampico owner for many years,
but he had recently acquired a Mason & Hamlin RBB (7-foot) without its
Ampico mechanism. He felt that since he was bringing that piano back
to life as a player, originality didn't rule his decisions because
the originality was already gone. I agreed.
He and his astute restoration technician designed a system of a highly
modified Ampico coupled with a Stahnke LX electronic device and with
each system fully controlling the piano. He further employed scale and
bridge improvements on the Mason & Hamlin.
Once the Ampico became playable, John started posting YouTube videos.
We discussed microphones and other details to ensure his recordings
were good. There were many improvements, but the recordings kept
coming, and always, the piano was in perfect tune. It didn't take long,
but soon his recordings were among the best Ampico recordings on YouTube.
Our longest email exchanges occurred when John was in various hotel
rooms while doing opera work away from home. He discussed fantastic
and rare rolls that he found. One was perhaps never released and he
proceeded to recut that roll for a group who had subscribed. I plan
to publish a YouTube video of that fantastic performance (Liszt's
"Tarantella No. 3" played by Olga Steeb).
John posted on YouTube using the name AmpicoGPM. While the piano
appears to be perfect in every aspect, he never put the drawer front
on the "B" drawer fitted to the "A" piano.
Recently, I became aware that John wasn't posting anything; and now
this news, which is heavy on my heart. I just looked up his last
video, "Sorry For Me". Yes, I am. I miss you, John.