So Much To Say! There is a lot going on at Duluth Fine Pianos. Not enough time to write. Only possible in sentence fragments. Anniversary Sale. 3 Years in Business! Soon, a move for the store, too! The opening of the Norshor Theater in Downtown Duluth! A piano and a gala, and another piano and another gala: LOON! Even a concert with the DSSO. Of course, there's also taxes, and life, but always meeting new people, and laying eyes and ears on new/old pianos. In between, practicing my piano tuning skills (such as they are) and now also doing some voicing! Chinese New Year Rebate coming to a close soon, new financing terms, so much to learn! Gray Cells overcoming Gray Market. And now the new, hot cabinet color for the Clavinova - Dark Walnut- is also gray! Go figure!
The time has come! The old piano was supposed to have been free! No one wants to play it. The key tops are chipped, or missing, the sound is like finger nails on a chalk board, the rings on the lid where the plant sat, or the coffee cup, can only be covered up by doilies or napkins. What happened to the great piece of furniture we thought we had? Should we invest in fixing it up? The tuner won't come any more. He says it is hopeless. What to do? Our kids should be playing piano!
The science is clear: Kids who are learning musical instruments do better in school. In fact, science says that their IQ goes up when they spend time learning to play (or sing) music. We are willing to invest in lessons. All our friends have their kids in band or chorus, or learning musical instruments. And here sits this old piano that no one will play.
It's no wonder! A nice piano sounds great, looks great, feels great, and gives rewards every day! Imagine giving your 16 year old daughter a 60 year old car to drive. "Let's see if she likes it first before we get her a good one." No, that won't do! She needs something safe, something that works. And, by the way, if you want to make points with her, it should look good, too!
Like cars, pianos don't get better with age. Like an old house, they will need more maintenance as they get older. They do well when they have steady environments, steady humidity. A really nice piano will last a lifetime, although after 20 or 30 years things like new hammers, or a regulation become necessary. Cheap pianos are just like cheap anything. They last a while, and then become more trouble than they are worth. And no one wants to play a piano with sticky keys, doesn't hold tune, and sounds like mud.
I know a solution! And it is one that you won't regret!
Our dog, Freddy, passed away today. He was born in March, 2001. We rescued him from an animal shelter in Germany where we lived at the time. He was only a few weeks old then, and he has since been a member of the family for 16.5 years. A ripe old age for a dog, but never-the-less his passing makes us sad.
How does my dog relate to pianos? Well, first of all, he was a musical dog. When we would sing, he would run under the piano and join in. Most of the time I was louder. Sometimes I would sing a soft song by Schubert, and he would tone down his howl to match. Very sensitive! I think he was his loudest and most joyful when Melissa, my daughter, would play double-stops on her violin. That really hit a nerve with Freddy.
Then, he seemed to want to make the piano his own. He did that the way male dogs do, and it was a constant cause of irritation for us! I guess those solid, black Yamaha grand piano legs were too much to resist!
I could write a lot more words about Freddy, but I will save them for myself and my family who knew him best. After a long, eventful life, there is a lot of reminiscing to do, lots of fun memories to share. We have no plans to replace him. He was one-of-a-kind after all! And life will be different for us without a pet, but we look forward to the challenge!
So, you've got this old piano, and it would be a shame to just dispose of it. It has been in the family for over one hundred years. "It just needs a little tuning."
Well, so often it needs a lot more than a little tuning, and when the final bill is disclosed, the situation changes.
However! There is still hope for the heirloom. This is just one very clever reinterpretation of how an old piano can be utilized. How cool is this! Suddenly my wish that "there should be a piano in every home" starts taking on a different meaning. I mean, don't we all need to sleep sometime?
My recommendation is to go ahead and get two. Matching generously sized single beds are a great idea, right? Remember, a piano is usually just under 5 feet wide (outside dimension).
I don't quite know where you can find one, but if you are clever, I be you can figure out how to make one yourself!
"Part villain and part victim, Rigoletto is one of the most complex characters in operatic literature. John Pierce powerfully evokes the character's shades and nuances dramatically while plumbing the musical depths of one of the greatest baritone roles in the Italian repertory.
Unfortunately, opening night, Pierce suffered an injury just before intermission. The announcer relayed this information at the beginning of the second half saying, however, that Pierce had decided to soldier on, despite his injury.
He performed the last half of the opera with crutches, masterfully managing to alter his staging without missing a beat and singing with the same thrilling fervor he had before." Sheryl Jensen, Duluth News Tribune, June 24th, 2017.
And now, back to pianos!
You may have seen neighbors walking around town mumbling in foreign languages, their heads bent to the side in concentration, sometime humming what seems like a familiar tune. Well, rehearsals for the upcoming performances of Rigoletto start tomorrow, which means a lot of preparation is going on by a lot of people! Including yours truly! I won't look completely like this clown here, but I will look very special, for sure! I have had a costume fitting, and they are tailoring some wonderful things for me and the others to wear.
The main reason for this posting is to explain why my showroom will be relaxing the regular hours for a couple of weeks. The performances are 6-22 and 6-24 at The Marshall Performing Arts Center (MPAC) at UMD. Premlinary rehearsals for the men's chorus and for some of the local soloists have taken place. Sets and costumes have been under construction. Lots of coordination is required for this amazing work to come to fruition, and many folks have been dedicating a lot of time and energy to bring fabulous professional opera to the Twin Ports. The first sing-through with Maestro Dirk Meyer conducting is tomorrow evening. I will get to meet the rest of the cast. It is getting exciting!!!!
As for piano business, call, leave a voice mail, or a text message, write an email. I will respond as soon as I can. I have already started scheduling service calls for the last week of June. Duluth Fine Pianos goes on!
After all, it seems almost too easy to turn an old piano into a bar. Just look on line! There are a million options. But this one seems to make sense. After all, the old beauty was sitting in the garage anyway, so why not gut it, and use the framework to hang the tools that otherwise lay around all over the place! This piano seems to have been built right around 1900. Look at the arms and the beading along the bottom of the key slip. Fun stuff! If you need advise on how to get your piano down to this point, let me know.
Otherwise, come visit me in the showroom during my hours of operation, and check out the new pianos here! They sound fabulous!
Rigoletto is an opera about a court jester with a hunchback in the court of the Duke of Mantua in the 1500s. Now, pianos did not exist in the 1500s, but were invented 100 years later. Still, this picture of a hunchback piano just seemed to be the right accompaniment to a posting about my upcoming endeavor.
By the way, this piano was built in 1904 by Conover for the St. Louis World's Fair, and is called a Giraffe Style piano. Look it up!
The Lyric Opera of the North (LOON) is Duluth's own professional opera company. They are producing Verdi's masterpiece this year, with performances on June 22nd and 24th at the Marshall Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth. And I have been asked to take on the daunting title role. (See www.loonopera.org)
I made my career singing dramatic tenor roles (Tristan, Otello, etc), and Rigoletto is considered a baritone role. Still, it is a high, dramatic baritone role- not so different from the music I have been singing for years. I studied it in college, and have sung bits and pieces of it over the years, before making the switch to tenor. It is one of the great roles in all of opera, so, being asked to do this part now is a great honor. The results will be on display in about 2 months.
As time permits, I will continue to report on this production, staged by Dorothy Danner, and conducted by our own Dirk Meyer, featuring Sarah Lawrence as Rigoletto's daughter, Gilda, who falls in love with the aforementioned Duke, disguised as a poor student, Gualtier Malde, sung by John Cudia.
Spring is a little earlier this year in Duluth. Shirt sleeves, sun, buds on trees, all things that have waited the last few years are appearing, just as are the robins. In that spirit, I will start posting pictures of creative things one can do with an old upright piano (aside from spending thousands to have it restored). I think this idea is particularly attractive.
For those of you who have read the subtitle to this blog, I am going to be making the transition a bit more difficult for myself very soon. Towards the end of June, Lyric Opera of the North is producing Verdi's masterpiece, Rigoletto. I agreed to perform the title role. More of that later, but for now, get the dates on your calendars! June 22nd and 24th at Marshall Performing Arts Center on the campus of UMDuluth. It should be great! (if I may say so myself).
In a very short time, there will be a performance of Bach's B Minor Mass here in Duluth. I call this a "desert-island-work" which means, if you can only take one recording with you when you are stranded on the desert island, which one would it be? Be careful, you don't ever want to get tired of it! This piece has so many facets, it is clear why it makes the list! To be performed at Weber Music Hall at UMD on April 22nd and 23rd.
And don't forget the UMD Opera Theater's upcoming performances of 2 one-act operas: Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, and Puccini's Suor Angelica. Weber Music Hall, April 27th and 28th on the campus of UMD. Stars of the future stretch their wings!
Another Halloween has come and gone. Sugar highs, survived. The fall colors are still there but fading fast. Today the weather in Duluth is fabulous! Way above normal temperatures. Soon I will get out and enjoy the last few rays of sun, but for the moment, I want to bask in the glory and try to understand how it feels not to be a loser anymore. My great-grandfather was a Cub fan. He was born in 1875, just five years after the Cubs organization began. He lived through the 1908 World Series and far beyond, but never was able to relive that experience. I'm sure he is smiling now!
So, for a short time only, I am having a "Cubs Win the World Series Sale." All the sounds in the piano showroom are FREE! In addition, I will give a $108.00 discount on all piano purchases, in addition to the already reduced sale prices! Come in, talk baseball, talk pianos, or whatever suits your fancy!