Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pianist on Display

So, I had a very bizarre gig this past weekend. Longwood Gardens is rebuilding their pipe organ, and some 180 attendees of the national organ builders conference in Philadelphia took buses down to see the progress of the re-build. (1) The Longwood organ actually has a concert grand piano built in... I don't profess to understand exactly how it works, but it is this amazing Weber grand that's actually never been played by a live human before... the hammers and the sustain etc are all operated mechanically, inside the organ.

Well, they wanted the organ builders to hear and see what a beautiful instrument this piano is, so they asked me to come play it for a little while, while the tour bus folks were coming through. Overall, this was very fun, except I must admit the entire experience was very bizarre. They didn't want them all touching and playing the piano, so they put the piano and me behind velvet rope stanchions... and while I played, every one of the 'tourists' was looking at the piano from all angles... very closely, I might add. It was so disconcerting to have all of these observers on the other side of the velvet rope looking at me and the piano like a museum display! To top it off, the piano was rebuilt to have the machine operate the sustain... and they had to rig up a special sustain pedal just for the display. Well, it happened that the special pedal was further back than a regular pedal, and my legs wouldn't reach it, unless I scrunched up my arms in order to stretch out my toes. LOL... here I was trying my best to play beautifully all scrunched up and with everyone gawking... not to mention my being a just a bit nervous because I knew so many in the crowd were talented pianists/organists.

It all turned out great, and I got a couple of compliments on the Satie Gnossienne that I played. It was really was a very neat honor to be one of the only people to play this amazing piano! It dripped and oozed mellow beauty in every note.

(1) From the Longwood website:
"An extensive restoration is underway to return the 1929 Aeolian Organ to its original condition. Craftsmen will rebuild the wind chests and mechanisms, clean and re-voice the 10,010 pipes, and fit the organ with a new console and computer player."

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