Purchasing a Piano Suited to Your Needs
There are many things for a church to consider when looking for a piano. The most obvious ones are quality and value, and those issues will be more fully addressed in subsequent articles.
For some churches, it's straightforward. They need a big grand piano for their existing chancel or stage in their existing building. But, for others, there are many other planning and logistical factors involved.
This was the case with Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. They are a growing congregation with nearly 800 members who are meeting for worship temporarily in the gymnasium of Logos School as they work toward starting construction on their own church building.
They needed a piano that was small enough to be stored in the gym when not in use, yet large enough to project sound to a vibrant congregation singing classical reformation hymns and psalms.
They, of course, also had an eye towards using the piano as they grow into their new church. If they narrowed their search to new pianos only, it would pose quite a challenge. Even the largest contemporary uprights wouldn't have the needed sound projection, and the bigger grand pianos just took up too much real estate, both in the gym and their future church building.
The answer was a fully restored 1890's Sohmer upright. The footprint is small, but the sound is equivalent to a larger grand piano.
"Our church was in need of a more sonorous piano as we currently worship in a gymnasium," said Dr. David Erb, music director for the church. "A grand piano was not an option, and most newer uprights are too thin-sounding. When Clint Hughes of Grand American Piano introduced me to his pianos, we quickly found our solution. The Sohmer upright has wonderfully met our space limitations and our need for a strong leading instrument."
The era from the 1890s to the 1930s was called the "golden era" of piano manufacturing. They were building pianos for very different reasons than they are building them for now. Back then, before radio, television, computers, and video games, everybody played the piano. The family memories were created in the parlor room around the parlor piano. It was a very discerning public back then, and if you built a bad piano, you were quickly out of business.
Contrast that with today. The vast majority of people who buy pianos today don't even play. They are looking for that status symbol piece of glossy black furniture to put in their great room. And since supply and demand drives business, the manufacturers are happy to accommodate that mindset. Most of the manufacturing money today is spent on the shiny black finishes, sacrificing what they have to (including sound) to fit that price point.
This is why a restored piano is the best-kept secret in the piano business. The fact that they are just as solid today as when they were built all those years ago is a testament to their longevity. Surprisingly, many churches have these "golden era" pianos already in their possession, but they are usually relegated to the fellowship hall or Sunday school classrooms, because they are in original condition.
Old scratched faded finishes, action parts that are worn out from decades of use, and tuning pins that don't hold tune anymore because of the immense pressure exerted on them by the strings. However, with the proper restoration, those "diamonds in the rough" can be brought back to life again. Chances are good that the old fellowship hall baby grand or upright piano is a better instrument than the new shiny black ones you find on the sanctuary chancels and stages.
"The Sohmer has been beautifully refinished on the outside and completely refurbished on the inside. It is just like a new piano," said Dr. Erb. "Clint Hughes not only does high-quality work that is respected in the professional world; he has a desire to use his skills to serve the church and the saints by providing them with beautiful, high-end pianos at an affordable price. He is most affable and easy to work with."
Christ Church is a congregation with a very high view of traditional worship and congregational participation, and the Sohmer seemed to fit like a glove.
Pastor Douglas Wilson concludes in grand sermonic fashion, "A good restored piano is like an aged wine. It has all the advantages that a new piano has, while at the same time carrying the rich texture that aging provides a good musical instrument. 'And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, "The old is good"' (Luke 5:39).
For more information on Grand American Piano, visit www.grandamericanpiano.com.