Camden Opera House piano to undergo much-needed renovation
Camden — A piano donated by Mary Louise Curtis Bok to Camden Opera House in 1930 will get some needed attention thanks to a grant. The Camden Opera House has received a grant to fully restore both the inner workings and the cabinet of the 1927 Steinway Model l ebony baby grand piano. The grantor wished to remain anonymous.
Kerry Hadley, manager of the opera house, said there has been a goal to have the piano restored for quite some time and she is excited to see it finally happen.
“Having been lovingly played by everyone from accomplished concert pianists to local children many, many, many times over the years, the piano just was in major need of attention,” she said.
Upon receiving the grant, Dave Morrison, technical director at Camden Opera House, did extensive research online and spoke with local musicians to find just the right company to restore the historic instrument. After completing the research, the decision was made to go with Lindebald Piano Restorers in Pine Brook, N.J.
The restoration will include a new sound board, a rebronzed harp, a new pinblock, new strings and action and a hand rubbed lacquer refinished cabinet. Also included will be a new concert piano bench and damp-chaser climate control system.
“We repeatedly heard great things about Lindeblad, a family owned company of four generations who are master craftsmen from Europe,” Hadley said. “The moving company, Kunis, was part of the service we received from Lindeblad and is who they use to move pianos. They [Kunis] move pianos all over the eastern United States from Miami to Maine and also are a family business.”
Faced with the decision of whether or not to replace or restore the piano, Hadley said she and the opera house committee thought it would be nice to upgrade to a grand piano, but the historical significance and its ties to the community swayed them to have the baby grand restored.
“In some regards, we kept thinking wouldn’t it be nice to have a grand piano instead of a baby grand,” said Hadley. “But in the end it came down to the fact that this piano provides a beautiful sound in our ‘room’ and that we just could not ignore.”
She added, “The rich history and elegance of our building and the same with quality of name and workmanship that a Steinway holds. The connection to the Salzedo School of Music and the Bok family made it deeply important to us that we continue to embrace our tradition and history.”
The night before the movers came to dismantle the nearly 86-year-old piano, the ivory was tickled one last time before its journey. World renowned Arturo O’Farrell and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra performed at Camden Opera House and O’Farrell put the tired piano through its paces.
“Last night’s performance was remarkable,” Hadley said. “Arturo [O’Farrell] was the perfect ‘last person to play it’ prior to the renovation.”
Hadley said when she informed O’Farrell that he would be the last person to play the piano before the restoration, he replied “then it is OK to play it as hard as I want to” — and “he did just that,” she said.
She added restoration would not have been possible without the help of many people including Manuel Bagarro and Monica Kelly at Bay Chamber Concerts for their assistance in researching needs and options. Hadley also thanked Kate Bates and the Camden Opera House committee member who wrote the grant proposal. The newly restored piano will be unveiled Dec. 10 at the Downeast Singers Annual Holiday Concert.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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