Real-life Stories about Pianos!

Real-life Stories about Pianos!

Tuesday, 13 February 2024 16:42

by Suzanne Moore, Wilkes County Librarian

The Traphill Branch Library's group, The Reading Trap, recently celebrated Thad Carhart's 74th birthday on February 16 by reading his memoir, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. In the book, Carhart talks about his discovery of the joy of pianos at a piano atelier in Paris, France.

Although he had taken lessons on the piano during his childhood, he had abandoned music as he grew older and busier. However, when his curiosity got the best of him, he knocked on the door of a piano shop and was welcomed in by the owner. There, he discovered a world of pianos in various stages of repair, and Luc, the shop's owner, shared with him details about how pianos work and how they are constructed. Carhart soon invested in a piano of his own and resumed lessons that he had abandoned for years. His memoir also contains stories from his childhood that relate to his present-day obsession with the piano. Luc introduced him to an eccentric (somewhat alcoholic) piano tuner and a talented piano teacher who patiently worked with him to regain a lost skill.

This book is very inspiring and motivated me to learn more about pianos. In my search for piano terminology and classical composers, AI picked up on my interest and showed ads for pianos in my Facebook feed. I saw a beautiful old piano listed for $25 and thought this low price had to be wrong. So, I started messaging the guy to inquire more about his listing. The piano was in Elizabethton, TN . . . a ‘short’ little trip over the mountains and around Watauga Lake. He assured me that the piano played well, and he was having to move so he needed to get rid of it. He wanted someone to come and haul it off. I thought about this for several days, contemplating how to get it. My friend Ralph offered to help since he had a truck and trailer. Then things got interesting . . . the only day I had free to pick it up was under a winter storm watch.

So, what do you do on a snowy day? Why not move a piano!!

We decided to take a chance and it was a beautiful ride with a few white-knuckle moments. Once we got to the place, we had to climb a narrow, winding, snow-packed road up a small mountain to the cabin to get to the piano. It took some engineering with straps and pulleys to get the piano off the deck and onto the trailer. The snow was blowing, and the wind was biting cold. After a good while of sliding and slipping, we were able to secure the very heavy upright piano and wrap it in blankets and tarps for the journey home. The scariest part of the trip was coming back down that driveway with the piano loaded. At one part the truck started sliding with a curve ahead and a big tree alongside. There was nothing to do but say “Jesus take the wheel!” Thankfully our quick prayer was answered, and we made it safely off that mountain . . . it was crazy!!

Finally got back late that afternoon. Ralph had to leave his trailer in my driveway until the next day when his nephew was freed up to help us move it into the house. A few of the ivory keys lost their caps but the sound was great. Inside the cabinet, we found a little toy soldier, an Army man in a crawling position. It was like he crawled right out of the piano!

I never thought I would have my own piano. We had one back when I was in school, and my parents paid for me to take a few lessons. However, I never fully mastered playing it. I only remember one song that I learned back then, which was "You Light Up My Life" by Debbie Boone. I can also pick out a few hymns. My dad used to play Boogie Woogie for us back then. I remember one time when I was playing this song, my little brother was dancing around the dining room and fell on a toy he had left on the floor, resulting in a few stitches on his noggin. Although I don't expect to be playing Jerry Lee Lewis, there are a few beautiful songs that Bob Dylan plays on the piano that I would like to learn.

Please note the following information: The Reading Trap will be discussing Passing Time in Ballymenone, a book by Henry Glassie, next month. The book focuses on Irish folklore, songs, farming, and the people who live in the rural community of Ballymenone. The group will meet at noon on March 14th at the Traphill Branch Library to discuss the book. Additionally, there will be a free screening of The Magical Legend of Leprechauns at Two Rivers Cinema on March 2nd at 1:00 pm.