My dad sold his piano a week or two ago.
It was a seven-foot Mason & Hamlin, made next door in East Rochester, N.Y. And when I was growing up, its voice was almost as familiar in my house as the voices of my family members.
My dad, a semi-pro musician, would keep his chops in shape and wash off some of the mental grunge of corporate life by sitting down at the piano just about every night and playing for 15 or 20 minutes. Often it was stride-style, like Fats Waller; from time to time, if he was preparing for a gig, it might be something more formal.
The piano joined the household either a couple months before I did or a couple months after.
One of my dad’s old college friends has told me a story of coming to visit when I was a toddler, and seeing my dad playing me notes on the piano to try to ascertain whether I had perfect pitch. (Unfortunately, I don’t. Sorry, Dad.)
Now my folks are retired, and shedding possessions, and lightening their load, and thinking about maybe moving to a different house.
Plus, today’s digital keyboards can capably simulate the sounds of everything from a baby grand to a clavinet to a softly plucked jazz guitar. My dad has a good digital keyboard, and it’s less imperative now to have a big piano in the living room than it seemed 40 years ago.
So off it went, a week or two ago, trucked off to a new owner in Buffalo.
I would guesstimate that my dad has lived 60 of his 70 years in a home with an acoustic piano of some sort, with the exceptions being college and his first five or six years of marriage. So this is a minor but interesting milestone in Blumenau family history, this transaction.
I can’t think of a calendar entry from my grandfather’s calendars in which he surrenders anything of that level of significance. (Except possibly for his job, which would be an interesting post, but not here and now.)
So instead, I’ll link this to a calendar entry in which my great-grandma comes to the end of something musical that, I imagine, mattered a fair amount to her.
I’ve mentioned before that my great-grandma was a piano teacher. She taught my dad how to play. And she held a recital for her students every year at the house on Hope Street, followed by some low-key refreshments.
(A few of her former students have even made their way here to the blog, which is a marvelous thing.)
Anyway, the calendar entry above is the last calendar entry I have a picture of that mentions my great-grandma’s annual recital.
She would have been 82 years old in June of 1969, and probably about ready to stop teaching the basics of piano to the youth of Stamford.
I’m also fairly sure that her piano teaching ended sometime around 1970, when she went through a period of suffering spells of disorientation. (I’ve written about that before too.)
So, while her last recital could have been in 1970 or ’71, I’m going to presume for the purposes of this blog entry that the June 21, 1969, calendar entry represents another Blumenau family goodbye to the world of the piano. Not to the instrument, per se — her upright piano remained in the living room at Hope Street after she stopped teaching — but to a certain connection to the instrument.
My grandparents’ upright piano made the move with them from Stamford to Rochester in the mid-’80s. It was not of the same quality as the Mason & Hamlin, though, and I don’t know what became of it. I suspect it was disposed of without great ceremony, which was in keeping with its age and condition.
The Mason & Hamlin may be the last piano in the family for a while, as my brother and I have broken the keyboard tradition. (He took lessons for a while; I was never coordinated enough to manage 88 keys.)
I do have a couple of guitars lying around the house, though. As I write this, I find myself thinking about some future time when my hands are too gnarled to play them and I finally sell them off, bringing another generational shift to the Blumenau family’s long relationship with music.