Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pianos and piano people

Yesterday, after a quick rehearsal of the Milhaud that I'm playing with the chamber orchestra I'm in, my husband and I jumped in the car and drove up to Philadelphia for an afternoon and evening of playing pianos and talking about music and many other things with a group of people I've gotten to know from several piano-related internet forums. We gathered at the Cunningham Piano Company showroom in the Germantown neighborhood, which is full of historic sites and buildings dating to the 17th century.

The first event was a lecture by Indrek Laul, the president of the current incarnation of Estonia Pianos. Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned rehearsal combined with holiday traffic, we arrived just at the tail end of his talk, which I am sorry to have missed. I have met Laul a few times but have never heard him speak at length, or play the piano. We were at least in time for a sandwich lunch buffet generously provided by Rich Galassani, proprietor of Cunningham. After lunch, we watched an energetic presentation by pianist Hugh Sung, who has a lot of irons in the fire related to using new technologies for playing and teaching the piano (which you can read about at the link I've provided).

Rich gave us a tour of Cunningham's workshop, in a separate building, where they rebuild and repair pianos of all sorts. Both of the Cunningham buildings are old and interesting, with large rooms, high ceilings, and worn wood floors. This narrated slide show created by the Philadelphia Inquirer provides an accurate portrayal of what we saw yesterday:

Cunningham Pianos slide show

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with impromptu performances by the attendees, ranging from a full-fledged reading by Joe Kubera of a piece written in the 1990s (I didn't note down the name of the composer, but we all gathered around the piano and watched the score as he played, which was interesting) to scattered attempts by the rest of us to recall once-known pieces. All were met with friendly approval. Rich had asked me to bring my cello, but I decided against it after I weighed the logistics of hauling it around against the probably short time I would be playing it, adding in the element of not really having anything ready that would fit in with the piano-centric occasion.

These piano parties (I've been to about a half dozen of them since I've been involved with the online communities) are really a good way to get a taste of performing without having too much riding on it. It's especially fun at a place like Cunningham's, when there are multiple good pianos to choose from. Because of Laul's presentation, an Estonia 190 that is identical to the one we have in our house was impeccably tuned and set up in performance position, so that was the piano everyone played on. It was somehow gratifying to hear how good it sounded and how much everyone liked it. We also spread out and tested most of the other pianos on display, including several digitals (a digital harpsichord was interesting, though the keyboard was too short for playing Bach).

Home again, I feel re-inspired about playing music. I've been feeling discouraged lately. My practice log is showing me how little time I've been spending on the piano. I think I can do better, and I feel a renewed energy to try. 

1 comment:

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

So glad you got to go; wish I could have been there but it's so far away from the Pacific Northwet! It was a guitar night for me. And it's raining, again...