In today’s world it is difficult to observe the number of pianos that are left on the curb for pick-up that will then be destroyed. Yes, there is a video online of a large furniture hauler hoisting a spinet piano into the back of a garbage truck which then crushes the instrument into pieces. There are also countless pianos listed on E-bay. From concert and baby grands, to spinets, uprights, old and new, electronic and more, they are for sale or offered for free if you come get them. Are pianos becoming a musical instrument of the past?
How painful it is to watch that beautiful piano be destroyed. Maybe that piano had been in a family for a generation or two. Maybe that piano was purchased by parents who saved for years to buy it for their children hoping they would learn to play. Maybe they practiced every day, maybe not willingly, but they practiced under the watchful eye of their parents. Maybe those children would love making music, major in piano in college and on and on it goes. Now the piano has gone into non-use, hasn’t been tuned, is taking up too much space and “let’s get rid of the piano” becomes a mission.
Before radio and television a piano was a center piece of a home. Children took lessons and if parents knew how to play, in the evenings people would gather around the piano for family sing-alongs or for an impromptu piano concert by someone. Imagine how a home filled with live music-making drew family, neighbors and friends together. It is a time of the past.
In the Branscombe household in Picton, Ontario resided twopianos…..two pianos! There was a large square piano and a much smaller rosewood piano. The rosewood piano was Gena Branscombe’s piano of choice where she practiced for hours after school each day. There was a romantic history to her favorite rosewood piano. The instrument had been brought to Canada from India by an English family. It had been shipped around the Cape of Good Hope. This was verified in a letter to Gena’s grandson, Roger.
Recently Roger told me he has the rosewood piano. In its present state it is not a piano but a desk. Along with the piano/desk, Roger shared with me the letter his grandmother wrote him explaining the history of her beloved rosewood piano.
In her September 1974 letter to Roger, Gena wrote:
It was a little piano (not a spinet) and was brought by an English family out from India, in a sailing ship, ‘round the Horn and bought by your great great grandfather, the Rev. Cyrus Richmond Allison for his young lady daughters to play upon. You’ll notice that the little holders where candles were placed, are still there. It was in my mother’s house when I was little and I regarded it as mine, tho’ mother also had a lovely old square piano (and later, a stylish, shiny upright.).
A treasured, loved piano nearly 200 years old is held dear to the Branscombe family descendants as a desk. Its history known. The music played upon it over 100 years ago only heard and remembered by the rosewood.